You got a grant from the Arts Office? How do I get one of those? – Writing the application.
In the last blog we looked at choosing the right project to apply for, now onto the application form. Here are just some general tips for writing a successful application, it is not an exhaustive list but these tips generally apply across a range of grant application forms not just to an Arts Office grant scheme.
Read through and fill out all parts of the form
I know this seems simplistic but over the years I have seen so many grant applications where it is clear the applicant hasn’t read the form or hasn’t filled the form out fully. In this situation I ask myself ‘If they can’t fill out the application form properly, how can I be sure they will deliver the project properly’
The application form itself can often give you information as to the type of projects that the Arts Office are looking to fund, so read through them. Grant application forms are generally quite broad to allow for a wide range of applications; so, if you don’t fill out all of the sections on the form or if you adapt the form to suit yourself, you are asking the assessors to judge your application by a different standard to the others applications that have been submitted. In my experience, given the limited funds available, these are generally the applications that get ruled out quite quickly during an assessment process.
Don’t presume the assessors know anything about your work
Quite often, grants can be assessed by arts professionals from other local authority areas and may never have heard of your group or organisation so it is important to include that information in the application form. If you have run successful arts projects in the past,make sure to mention that in the application form and with your support material, this shows to the assessors that you have experience in developing and delivering arts projects. If you think it’s relevant to the application put it in, having too much information is better than too little.
Be clear about what you are applying for and have realistic aims, objectives and budgets.
Identifying an artist and developing an artistically challenging arts project before you fill out the form will really help you here. Be clear about why you want the funding, who it will benefit and how it will benefit them. If the project aims to have a finished product at the end, state that, if it is more of an exploratory process driven project, state that! Generally a wide range of projects with different aims and objectives get funded so just be clear about what you want to do. Your budget should also be clearly labelled and thought out, from artist fees, materials, insurance and everything in between. The assessors do this for a living so are pretty good at budgeting projects so if you over or underestimate the costs they will probably be able to see that.
Provide good support material, but don’t rely on it.
Good support material can be the key to making your application stand out above the others. Good support material will help the assessors visualise your project and who it will benefit and if you have images / music / video from previous projects make sure to include them, this also shows the assessors that you are able to deliver on projects and will use the grant funding well. But remember it is there to support your written application, not cover up holes in it.
Make it difficult for the panel to say no!
After reading your application you want the assessors to think ‘We have to fund this!’ as opposed to ‘Should we fund this?’ With this in mind I always recommend to people to have somebody whose opinion you trust look over your application. I don’t mean a friend who will just give you a pat on the back, I mean someone who will interrogate you application, who will ask questions about your aims and objectives, poke holes in your budget and generally be a bit of nuisance. If their questions help you clarify and write a better application then great, and if you do receive a grant don’t forget to buy them a bun!
Eoghan Doyle is a creative professional who has worked in Arts in a variety of roles for the more than 15 years. Initially training as an actor, director and youth theatre practitioner his current role as Assistant County Arts Officer for Kildare County Council has allowed him to develop a wide array of skills in many areas of the arts, notably his work developing the Platform4 Audio and Digital Media Studio, a creative space for filmmakers, artists and musicians. He has also set up the award winning Kildare Young Filmmakers group and developed a youth arts strategy on behalf of Kildare County Council.