It’s been a long time since my last post, but I am excited to start getting caught up on the summer experience here on the Falcon Feeder! You can check out my blog at www.tawilkes.wordpress.com for the entire summer’s weekly articles. I’ll be leaving New York City soon, but I can’t express how grateful I am for the help I have gotten along the way from my family, friends, and school! I hope that these postings can give back some of help and support to you as well, and can answer questions or concerns that people might be having about what it’s like to not only live in New York City, but to pursue a perspective career in the creative arts.
So, from that note, what’s better than having money to fulfill your plans? Having someone who’s willing to support you by giving you money to fulfill your plans. And I’m not talking about parents or relatives, but perfectly unknown strangers that are willing to be won over by your daring deeds and high hopes. The catch is that you need to learn how to write an effective grant.
First off, review some of your grammar! Having an English expert (shout out to my father and my creative writing roommate) read over your essay specifically for grammar and punctuation was very beneficial to my writing process. This may seem like a miniscule detail, but improper grammar is an easy end to tie up and can take away from your message if used incorrectly. Learning the difference between ‘then’ and ‘than’, as well as the use of prepositions can also really help fill in those elementary gaps that you may have spent doodling in English class (guilty).
Different grant applications vary, so make sure that if you have any questions that you cannot figure out than don’t be afraid to ask. This is not an excuse for skipping out on your initial research; try to avoid asking questions before looking over the application, or in the FAQ if provided. Your question may have already been answered, and there’s nothing worse then showing anyone in the grant process that you can’t research your own grant. For anyone interested in the Stuart R. Givens Memorial Fellowship Grant, they have excellent information online, from previous awarded essays to FAQ’s.
By researching past recipients you can get a feel for what the committee may or may not be more willing to support, as well as what kind of format your grant should be in. Knowing who is on the committee and what their backgrounds are can also aid in knowing how much you need to explain, especially if you are proposing an idea the committee is not familiar with. It was actually very beneficial to my own research to know that the committee was from such a diverse background; I only had one graphic design teacher on the committee, and so with my proposal I had to cross all my t’s and really become confident in my idea.
No matter what step of the process you are on, do not give up or start feeling discouraged. Remember that those who are on grant committees or those who even started the grant want to hear from you. They are encouraging you to share your ideas and they are sincerely interested (even if they are tired after having heard numerous proposals). The committee wants to hear from you! Your passion has become an interest, and as long as you are excited about it then maybe the committee will see that excitement too.
Worst case scenario in applying for a grant, is that you do not receive the grant. But while you didn’t earn the money or opportunity, you have gained from the experience of trying and are already a step ahead in the next grant that you apply for.
Megan Lucy, the Secretary to the College of Arts and Sciences at Bowling Green State University, in the Office of Curriculum, Faculty Advancement, and Graduate Studies and Research, was a great help in my process for grant writing. After I was announced as a recipient, we met to edit my essays because my essay, as well as all of the recipients for the Stuart R. Givens Memorial Fellowship Grant, would serve as an example for future applicants. If you would like to see the final essays, they are posted up here! Because I felt the experience was a great learning process, I asked Megan and she was kind enough to allow me to share some of her grant writing advice here as well!
Writing for grant applications is both very similar to writing papers for classes, and somewhat different. It is similar in that clearly stating your ideas in a way that is easy to understand and free of errors is of the utmost importance. Just as you could not expect a good grade from a poorly edited paper, you cannot expect to receive funding for a poorly written and edited grant application.Grant writing is different from writing papers for classes because your audience is different. When you write a paper for class, you are writing for your professor, who is an expert in the subject, and familiar with your work. You can assume that your professor knows enough about your topic that you can use technical vocabulary and even leave out some detail that is “common knowledge” in the field. You could, for instance, say that Jacques Louis David was a Neoclassical artist, knowing that your professor does not need an explanation of what Neoclassicism is. When you write a grant application, you cannot assume the same things about your audience. Many grants fund a wide range of activities from visual arts, to music and theatre. The committee reviewing your proposal may be made up of representatives from an eclectic mix of fields, and some may not have the background knowledge you do about your topic. Additionally, the committee reviewing your proposal is not as familiar with your project as you are. Your closeness to the project you have created can keep you from seeing where your proposal is confusing. You may understand why it is important to visit a specific museum, but forget to articulate that in your proposal in a way that communicates to the reader why that museum is important to your project.One of the best ways to address issues both of minimizing errors in your writing, and ensuring that your writing is understandable to your audience is to have someone unfamiliar with your project read your proposal. Another set of eyes can help you to identify mistakes in spelling, grammar, and math (Yes, math- all grant applications have a budget section. Never turn a proposal in without checking your math). Someone unfamiliar with your project can also help you to identify areas where your writing is confusing to non-artists.