If the words “grant application” make you want to bang your head against the keyboard, take heart. You’re not alone! I’m right there with you, key imprints in my forehead as proof.
Having morphed from a scientist into a middle grade author, I assumed I’d left grant writing behind in the dust. Not true. Grant writing is everywhere! Starting a manuscript, finishing a work-in-progress, attending educational events, funding author visits, supplying libraries with books, sending your child to summer camp… you name it, there is probably a grant for it.
But really – why bother? Like any busy author, teacher, or librarian you already spend lots of time in front of the computer. Add parenting to the mix and, well – forget it.
Plus, writers deal with a lot of rejection already. Who needs it?
Well, as time consuming and frustrating as grant writing can be, for me it’s a bit like buying a lottery ticket. Someone is going to win that grant. And it won’t be me – unless I apply.
Thanks to this stubborn perseverance (the same quality that got me published in the first place) I am pleased to announce that I am this year’s recipient of the Martha Weston Grant! Which means that as you read this post, I will be attending the SCBWI annual summer conference in LA.
On the wings of this success (and at the risk of upping my future competition) I encourage you to give grant writing a try. Here are a couple of tips to increase your chance of success;
1. Apply, Apply, Apply…
… and then apply again. In addition to enhancing your grant writing skills, grant committees will start to recognize your name if you apply for the same award year after year and hopefully give you points for dedication and perseverance.
2. Pay attention to feedback
Use feedback from grant committees to decide whether to submit the exact same application next year (if they’d reached their quota your type of project), make improvements (if they point out something specific), or give it a future pass (if your idea does not fit their mandate.)
3. Who did get the grant?
And why? This will give you a better idea of what the committee is looking for and help you improve your application for next year (or make the decision to apply for something else.)
4. Details, details, details…
Like agents and publishers, grant committees read thousands of applications and they’re looking for an easy way to make the pile smaller. Font and word count matter, as do deadlines. Don’t have your application rejected because you missed the “received by” or “post-marked by” date.
5. What do they want?
Does the application come with a thick set of guidelines and a ten page form covered with blank boxes? If so, they are looking for very something very specific (and someone who can follow instructions.) Or do they just want you to send a letter of interest? If so, they are probably more flexible and may be looking for someone with creativity.
6. Specific and Professional
Whether you are filling out forms or writing a creative letter, grant committees want applications to be specific and professional. They are often looking for catch phrases, which you can find by looking at their mandate or examining the questions they ask. They are also looking for recipients who will follow through, which is why they want to see the outline of a step by step action plan and not a broad, vague, or overly general idea.
Because readers of this website are so diverse in terms of profession, area of expertise, and regional location, it is difficult to include a comprehensive list of where to find grants. But trust me – they are everywhere. If you look, you will find. Professional organizations often have grants (the Martha Weston Grant came to me through membership in the SCBWI.) Most states and provinces have grants to fund author visits. Governmental organizations have grants to support the arts.
Generally speaking, if a grant is well known it probably receives a lot of applications (ie. more competition!) If you are keeping up with what is happening in your genre of writing or in your region’s education system, you will come across smaller, lesser known grants, that are more likely to support the specific work or program you are doing, which will greatly increase your chances of success.
Yolanda Ridge is the author of Trouble in the Trees and Road Block, two middle grade novels about the irrepressible Bree who has fought a bylaw against tree-climbing and battled the development of a highway through her grandmother’s farmland but has never written a grant application (yet!)