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  • Finding funding for creative projects, part two: Ace the grant application
Finding funding for creative projects, part two: Ace the grant application
Written by
Summer Wood
April 2012
Written by
Summer Wood
April 2012

You’ve look deeply into your soul and determined your passion, your project, your commitment, and your readiness. (That was yesterday, in part one.) You’ve settled on a grant possibility that’s just right for you. Now what?

Examine the grant carefully.  WHAT DO THEY WANT? Become an expert on this. Read everything on the website; check out past recipients; make sure you understand the guidelines. Are you eligible? Is there a fee? The most frequent mistake is to ignore their rules. They really do seem to care about that stuff. Who knew?

Pay attention to deadlines.  Chart your calendar.  Plan ahead.  Break the process down into smaller objectives:  do you need references? Tax forms?  Give yourself plenty of time. Don’t wait for the last day. (I am trying to learn to take my own advice. This one is particularly difficult.)

Cultivate allies. You may need letters of references. In that case, be sure to be specific in your request, and give people an adequate length of time to respond. Be appreciative of any help others give you, and help others as you can. Be in it for the long haul.

Update and customize your resume. Make sure it’s formatted  appropriately for your field. Do they ask for a resume or for a CV? Don’t be shy about recording your accomplishments, and do proofread carefully for style and accuracy. A good-looking resume beats a head shot any day. Even with cleavage.

Formulate a budget. Do you need help with this? Ask a friend who’s good with financials. Don’t undercut yourself—you’ll betray your inexperience if you don’t account for reasonable expenses—but do be resourceful. Some grantors may request or require that you find outside sources help fund your project.

Tackle the application with confidence. Below are a few tips that will help you do that.

  • Answer the questions creatively, but stay within the confines of the form they provide.  Don’t step out of that form.  It undercuts your seriousness.
  • Write great sentences.  Use strong and exciting language, great first lines, and tell a story if you can.  Ask someone to read and critique for you.  Be impeccable. Know what they’re looking for, and let them know you know it.
  • Remember: real people, good people, are reading your answers. Treat them that way. Show them a good time, and be appreciative of the gift of their effort, concern, and money.
  • Use good hygiene. Don’t let your writing crawl up the side of the page. Don’t smudge the pages. Make sure your printer has sufficient ink. Use the font and size they request. Don’t be cute: no stickers, no baked goods, no pictures of your dog. (Well, maybe pictures of your dog.) NO! NO PICTURES OF YOUR DOG!

These people want to give you money.  Help them do it!

What’s the main thing? APPLY. You can’t win if you don’t try. (Thanks, Jennifer Simpson, for the reminder!)

A few more general ideas?

  • Plan strategically. A Room of Her Own Foundation requires that award recipients develop a “creative project plan.” It’s a good idea for anyone wanting to accomplish an ambitious creative project.
  • Find a coach or mentor. This might be a peer with whom you trade advice sessions. Commit out loud to someone who will ask you about your progress and applaud your success.
  • Do one thing every day to further your project aims. Value persistence, consistency, and affirmation by putting your butt in the chair.
  • Apply for a whole bunch of grants to counter your (natural) fear of rejection.  Consider residencies, contests, etc. Get good at failing. It makes success that much more sweet.
  • Give back. Need I say more?

Good luck!!!


SUMMER WOOD is grateful to have received grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, A Room of Her Own Foundation, and other philanthropic organizations. Her second novel, Raising Wrecker, was written with the help of the $50,000 Literary Gift of Freedom from AROHO, and is due out in paperback from Bloomsbury in September. Learn more about her atwww.summerwoodwrites.com

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  • Hope A. Perlman

    Thank you so much for posting. I'd never heard of AROHO. Now I'm going to apply!  

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    Congratulations on your win and your novel. I saw your work on the AROHO site. Wonderful!

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  • maggie brooke

    thank you for this. i have a grant application sitting on my desk.EXCELSIOR!

  • Gerry Wilson

    Such good advice, Summer! I wish I'd read this (and the previous post) a couple of months ago, before I wrote my first grant application. I'll file it away for future reference.

  • Susan Breen

    This is very inspiring. You make the process seem a little less daunting. Thanks!

  • Summer Wood

    Thanks so much, Clene! Wishing you all the best in your own pursuit of grants -- or whatever your next step is in your writing life.