Five tips for writing successful grant applications
You have an amazing idea for an arts project, you know who you want to be involved, and you know when, and where, you want it to happen. All you need now is the funding…
Applying for grant opportunities can be a daunting experience, especially when you come face-to-face with a long application asking for evidence, budgets, timelines, and support letters. Take a deep breath, you’ve got this.
Rebecca Nelson, Thomas Gorman and Minna Hilton participating in Blind Dates 2019.
It is always a good idea to have different project ideas bouncing about your head, so when a funding round opens you have a go-to idea that is perfect for that grant’s requirements. If you’re seeking funding for a specific project you will want to spend time doing your research to identify what grants you are eligible for.
Extend your timelines by planning the components of your project 12-18 months in advance. This will allow you to take advantage of multiple grant opportunities in the lead up to the project, increasing your chances of success.
Give yourself plenty of time to form your application. We recommend about four weeks in total, at least two weeks to write it, one week to secure letters of support, and one week to review and submit.
Double check everything
Before you even begin your application, read the guidelines at least twice. Your first read-through will help you understand if you are eligible and if that grant is appropriate for your project. Your second read-through should be more in-depth, taking note of any key criteria and directions required for the application process.
You may want to consider the application itself when doing your second read-through. Highlight any information in the guidelines that you can specifically address to help strengthen your application.
Double check everything you write in your application. Check your spelling and grammar, make sure the correct documents and letters of support have been uploaded, and ensure your budget balances to zero. It is also a great idea to have a second person proof-read your application. Four eyes are better than two when it comes to spotting mistakes, and they can tell you if something does not make sense!
Bonus tip: Get in contact with the nominated Project Officer who looks after the grant. They can help guide you with any questions you may have about the grant, guidelines, or application. Always make sure you request feedback on your drafts if it is an option!
Remember – someone is assessing this!
While you are writing your application, remember there is someone at the other end who will be reading it. Assessors will come from a huge variety of backgrounds and different practices, so they will not always have the same knowledge you do. You cannot assume they will understand industry terminology or know the key players.
They will also be assessing many applications, not just yours! Assessing just one application can take well over an hour, and your application could be number 20 in the pile. So, make it easy for them!
Write clearly and simply in your own words. Explain difficult to understand concepts and define tricky terminology. Be clear and concise about what your project is, and don’t add unnecessary information. Label all your support material, documentation, photos, and videos appropriately so the assessor can easily understand what they are looking at.
Make a strong case
Grant rounds are always competitive, so you need to make your application stand out from the rest and prove that you are a good investment. If you have read the guidelines twice, you should have a clear understanding of the assessment criteria and what is expected from you at the application stage.
Assessors may want to understand the impact of your project, the reach your project will have, any opportunities your project will provide for the community, the support, and partnerships you have for your project, and the quality and viability of your project activities.
Never assume the assessors will understand how your project addresses these criteria, provide back up for any statements you make. If possible, include statements directly from people who will benefit from your project.
For example, if you are claiming your project will increase youth employment, explain how you will be doing that. Be specific about the types of employment that will eventuate and provide proof wherever possible.
Pictures speak louder than words, so it is always a good idea to go visual. Provide images and short videos of past successful projects. Show you can deliver on your promises.
If you are unsuccessful, don’t be disheartened
A great idea is not a guarantee of success. It can sometimes take multiple applications until you are successful in securing funding. Don’t be disheartened, this happens to everyone. Take a moment to reflect, talk to your friends and coworkers, and plan to come back even stronger.
Always ask for feedback on why your application was unsuccessful and take the opportunity to learn how to improve your application for next time. Feedback will allow you to hone and refine your project idea so you can submit it to the next round or a different funding program.
Between funding round applications, work on increasing your profile. One of the ways you can do this is by sharing your stories with us for submission on the Regional Arts WA website, or nominating yourself for our Artist of the Month program.
Keep doing the amazing work you already do – document everything, meet new people, keep an eye out for new opportunities, and be visible.