Grant Writing Tips

Plan Ahead

Who, What, Where, When, and Why? The best grant applications are for projects that are planned well ahead of the grant deadline with clear timelines, objectives, and outcomes. In that same vein, you should be clear on how you will evaluate the success of your project before it happens – don’t let evaluation be an after-thought! You will be required to report it.

What to highlight…

  • Community involvement in the planning process.
  • How the project reaches the entire community.
  • The quality of the arts experience.
  • How the grant will be paying for arts related expenses.
  • How you have looked for other sources of funding as well. 25% match – higher is better.
  • How this grant will make the project bigger, better, more accessible, etc.
  • Add value to your project by considering charging at least a minimal ticket price.

What not to ask for and what not to say…

  • Do not ask for food expenses (other than for artists who are traveling). Stay away from reception expenses if possible.
  • Do not refer to the arts activity as “entertainment.”
  • Do not approach the activity as a fund-raiser or talk about “proceeds” going to another cause.
  • Do not ask for more funding for non-arts related expenses than arts related expenses – festival example.
  • Do not ask for funds to support expenses already incurred (plan ahead).
  • Don’t inflate your budget! It will be noticed right away!

Check for the most common mistakes made on submitted grant applications:

  • Incompleteness. Make sure everything is filled out and all required support materials are included. Read through the application checklist and allow time to gather all the materials. Rules change from year to year, so always read through the guidelines and application form before submitting a grant request.
  • Application not signed.
  • Budget Page Errors: Double check your math! Round dollar amounts to the nearest $10.
  • Starting Date: The project start date cannot be before the review of your grant. Earliest start dates for each round are listed in the grant guidelines.
  • Lack of specifics – artists, dates, times, etc.
  • Lack of Resumes or Bio Materials. Rule of thumb: If someone is getting paid with the grant funds, we need to see a resume or bio.
  •  Project narrative not reconciling with budget items.
  •  Audience numbers not matching ticket sales.

What happens after I submit my grant?

Once received at the SMAHC Office, our staff reviews the grant applications for completeness and eligibility requirements.

The applications are then copied and sent to our grant review panelists for review. Each panel member reviews the applications and assigns them a ranking based on our three prescribed criteria of 1) Artistic merit of the project or activity; 2) Need for the project or activity in the community; and 3) Ability of the applicant to carry out the project.

The panel then meets to discuss each application and a final numerical ranking is assigned to each application. Funds are granted to the projects which receive the highest rankings and then down the line until all available funds are disbursed. Note that geographic distribution and number of applications from one applicant are also considered in the distribution of funds.

How Not to Get A Grant: Top 10 Grantwriting Mistakes

For more great grantwriting advice, check out this list from El Pomar: A Foundation for Colorado.


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