Tips on writing a grant proposal

Grants are cash support given for arts projects, programs and organizations by government agencies, foundations, corporations, individuals and private arts organizations. You most often need to fill out an application and submit it to the grant-making organization for consideration. If you are looking for funding for a particular art project or organization, here are a few tips and resources to help guide you.

Basic tips:

  • Think about your project or organization in the future. Start with the end in mind. Look at your project or organization's big picture. Who are you? What are your strengths and priorities?
  • Create a plan not just a proposal.
  • Do your homework. Research prospective funders. Search locally first. Target funding sources that have interest in your organization, program or project.
  • Make sure the priorities of the foundation, corporation or government agency you're applying to are the best match for your work or organization. Go to their website. See who they've funded in the past. Review their eligibility requirements. Make sure you or your organization fits who they fund.
  • Quality writing counts. A clear, concise, well-written proposal makes a difference. If you don't have much experience writing grants, or don't feel confident in your writing skills, find someone who does to review your grant before you submit it. Always proof your application.
  • Get help if you need it. Take a grant-writing workshop.
  • Get face-to-face time. Meet with the program officer for the grant you are applying to. Many funders have staff available to help answer questions or review draft proposals. Making a personal connection with funders before submitting an application can be invaluable in putting together the strongest application possible.

Tips for Individual Artists

  • Have a well-written artist statement (half-page version, one-page version and a two-page version). Do not overuse "art speak" terms/language. Write for an audience who has never interacted with/seen your work. Keep it simple, clear and straight-forward. The committee reviewing your proposal needs to understand the proposal the first time they read it.
  • Have good documentation/support materials of your work. Photographs and video documentation need to be done well. Save articles and reviews of your work. Project your images to make sure they project well. Check the viewing order of the visual support materials you are submitting carefully. Make sure the order makes visual sense to viewers. For example, if you are submitting a diptych, submit an image of the entire diptych first, followed by the details of the piece.
  • Have two copies of the grant guidelines/form on hand (or make copies). Use one of the forms as your working document. Follow the directions/guidelines closely.
  • Start the grant well ahead of the deadline and have someone proofread your proposal.
  • Do not send extra materials that aren't asked for.
  • Do not make lots of calls to the organization about the grant. Be organized with all your questions. They should be asked in one or two phone calls.
  • For the budget, factor in your labor time as well as the cost of your materials. Make a list of things you'll need and their price. When you look for in-kind donations you will have a better idea of what you need.
  • Organize a group of artists to research grant opportunities. It will take you much less time to research grants with more people looking and you can proofread each other's grant proposals.

Additional resources for grant writing tips and information are:

Artist Trust
Puget Sound Grantwriters Association
Non-Profit Guides