Applying for a grant can be a daunting task and may seem insurmountable at times. The following tips are offered as a checklist to address some of the common issues that have come up in many of the 800+ proposals I've had the pleasure of reading during my five years working with applicants to NEFA's National Dance Project. So, when deciding whether or not to apply for one of the National Dance Project's funding opportunities--and to other grant programs as well--here are some pointers to keep in mind:
- Research and familiarize yourself with the program.
Our programs are reviewed and updated on a regular basis with the goal of serving the needs of the field as they shift. This means that funding criteria, priorities, and even the application process can change from year to year. Read the current application guidelines, especially eligibility and funding criteria, carefully. Surf the website and look at projects and artists that have received support in previous cycles. Ask yourself if your proposal meets the eligibility criteria and aligns with the mission of the organization and program goals.
- Manage your time.
Start a calendar of deadlines for grants that you plan to apply for and then begin working on them at least six weeks before the deadline.
- Identify and begin to organize the information.
Some of the information you need to gather may include the “business” aspects of applying for grants, such as EIN and DUNS numbers, or finding and working with a fiscal sponsor, all of which take time. Other information needed may include letters of recommendation from peers or partners; reach out to those contacts immediately. You may need to include a resume, artist biography, or artist statement. Look at what you have and update if necessary to make sure the information is current and relevant to the grant program.
- Review the narrative questions.
This is your opportunity to make your case to the panel and tell them about your work. Remember to address the criteria clearly. Attend to format, spell check, and word count - narratives get cut off if they go over the character limit. This is a good reason to answer the question sooner in a paragraph rather than later. Panelists have many applications to evaluate, and making them search through an application to find an answer or understand how your application meets the funding criteria will not strengthen your case. On the other hand, even though the panelist(s) may be familiar with your work, you must still articulate and respond fully to the questions. Use at least one other set of eyes to review your application. Ask: Does it make sense? Is it compelling to a reader? Does it answer the narrative prompts completely?
- Select your work samples.
Cue: Darkness, a lone figure wearing dark clothing moves slowly on the floor in silence. Now, imagine you are a panelist in a room for eight hours watching dozens of work samples! Engage the panelists who are reviewing your material by showing them where you are going with your ideas and look for some feedback about the selection before you submit it. Avoid dimly lit work samples that do not show any movement. Follow the work sample guidelines and test your work sample to make sure the format (link, DVD, etc,) works. Double check everything!
- Finally: Don’t wait until the last minute to submit!
At 10PM on the evening of the deadline, the staff won’t be able to help if you forgot how to log on or if you’ve made a mistake. The staff members at NDP are very happy to answer questions and want you to submit the strongest proposal that you can. If you have questions with regard to the application process, eligibility, or need to confirm if supplemental materials have arrived, please - send us an email or pick up the phone before the deadline.
Hopefully, these tips will help make your next grant application go smoothly. I can’t wait to read it!