Best Practices for Grant Seekers

As we begin accepting online Letters of Inquiry for grants in Emerging Fields, Literature and Performing Arts, we thought we’d offer some research and application tips for grant seekers. These are universal pointers, not necessarily specific to our own grant application. So whether you plan to apply for a Creative Capital grant or not, we wish you luck out there!
Don’t wait until the last minute. It is not worth the stress of having no time for reflection or revision.
Do your research. When considering a potential funder, take a look at their previously funded projects. Can you picture yourself in that community of ideas and creative expression? What is the range of diversities represented (career level and trajectory, sub-disciplines, subject matter, etc.)? Has there been a shift in the kinds of work or artists supported? Do all this while bearing in mind that the past is not necessarily an indicator of the future, though it does offer important clues.
Read the guidelines and application instructions. The guidelines are your cheat sheet extraordinaire. The granting organization always tells you what’s most important to them through their guidelines so pay attention and look for key words such as “emerging,” “innovation” and so on.

Answer the questions asked. Hone in on the key words in each question and make sure your answer addresses what’s been asked. Remember, you are never in the room to answer follow up questions or offer clarification so get it all in there the first time.
Be clear & concise. In a project description, the first sentence should simply describe the project. For example: “This project is an evening-length dance piece in an immersive multimedia environment.” For the greater text, remember that this is not a trip to the principal’s office so your individual voice and passion should shine through. Be clear and concise, and avoid jargon whenever possible. You want the evaluators to understand what you’re proposing and feel as passionate as you do about supporting the project to completion.
Budgets should be true. Do not tailor the budget to a particular funder’s award cap. Instead, your budget should reflect the reality of how much a project costs from research & development to premiere, including artist fees, rehearsal costs, travel, publicity, web design, etc.
Choose work samples carefully. Work samples should support, reinforce and enhance all other submitted materials. Unless otherwise instructed, submit samples from previously finished work. When submitting video samples, leave out the long intro credits and drop reviewers right into the middle of the action. This is not a time for the slow build up. Submit more than one sample whenever permitted; it give reviewers more chances to fall in love with your work. However, as a whole your samples should look like work from one artist, with a general aesthetic or philosophical through-line that connects them all. Avoid submitting images or videos with technical issues (e.g. too dark, muddy sound, etc.). Use accompanying descriptive text to build a bridge between what the reviewer is seeing and what you hope to create with the proposed work.
Have a friend read over your finished application. Choose someone who supports you, but doesn’t know very much about this particular project. They’ll often offer great insight and catch the little typos that your eyes just skim over after the 10th read.
If in doubt, ask the funder. All grant offices know that no matter how supposedly clear their guidelines, questions will still arise. Please do not hesitate to contact them using their preferred contact method (e.g. email only, if that is instructed).
Learn more about applying for a grant from Creative Capital

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