Grant Writing Notes

I have written hundreds of grant applications, mainly in the arts and creative industries research. This brief post is the beginning of a series to demystify the process and support folks who are starting out. **

To begin, you position your ideas in the frame of the grant provider’s agenda. When you apply for a grant, you enter into a contract to do some things that fulfil the funder’s purpose in providing funds. While this seems obvious, and while it may be ‘public money’, for example, what you do with that money needs to closely resemble the purpose of the grant and your proposal.

Basics: Before you start writing, read the guidelines and check you and the project are eligibleThe guidelines provide great questions that the panel bases its selection of the best fit applicants on. Check before you hit “submit” that you have done everything that is required. Seems obvious? Well, believe it or not, a significant number of applications for philanthropic funding in Australia, for example, are ineligible. Don’t be that person.

First lesson in writing: Say what it is. Be clear about what you are doing. Leave doubt out.

Developing your position: Start with answering these questions: “why this?” “why now?” and “why you?” Explain in the first paragraph “This project creates  play about….” or “This project provides xx for xx artists to do xxxx in year x+y”.  Focus on the facts. Who does it involve? What do they bring? What need are you answering? 

How:  Be certain of yourself and use words that assume you have the money and you are doing the project. Use short sentences and common language. Leave your fears and doubts at the door while you work on your grant, so that when you write, you avoid words like “may, can, could and should”. 

AVOID: confusing words, aggressive language when discussing an issue, big expressive superlatives, and giant numbers that your can’t substantiate.
Avoid lots of boastful sentences “I this” or “we that”. Break these up with the impact sentence about what that activity actually achieved.
Avoid simplistic verbs and repetitive sentence structures eg “x is …” Instead, use structures like “The project empowers .. to do … ” or “Outcomes for this stage of the project include..”
Avoid the passive form, eg “The evaluation will be completed at the end of phase 3.” Instead, make it active, saying who will do it: “Project volunteers evaluate the project using survey at the event.”
Avoid repeating the same content in different sections of the application; and avoid lists like this one. Long dot point lists never get read and have little impact.

Avoid filling up the content if you haven’t reached the word or character limit. Be concise. Less is actually more (time for the reader to read other great content you have written). Remember, they get to read maybe 100 to 200 of these things. You need to shine.


**Caveat: I’m not providing this information on behalf of any authority, and take no responsibility for any misinformation interpreted from the content I publish. These are my own opinions, not those of any of my employers.

By Ann McLean

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