We’ve put together this guide on how to apply for an art grant to help you navigate the process — from researching funding sources to choosing work samples and writing your application. Plus a few things to keep in mind along the way.
There’s no one-size-fits-all template when it comes to grant applications. Every grant opportunity is different — with different eligibility criteria, different goals and areas of focus. And that means every application is different, too.
That being said, this guide aims to help you prepare for the application process by providing some tips and insight into general concerns and best practices. If you have a new exciting project in mind but are in search of a way to finance it, here’s our guide on how to apply for an art grant.
1. Define your project
What is your project and what are your goals? Before you even begin to look into funding options, these are questions that should be addressed. It is important to have a clear sense of what it is you are aiming to do. This will be helpful in terms of selecting an appropriate grant to apply for, as well as for writing a clear and impactful application.
What are you seeking funding for?
Be specific and have clear objectives in mind. You are applying for funding after all, so you will likely need to explain precisely what the funding is for and what purpose or goal your project aims to fulfill. Do you need a grant for research-related travel? Or for production costs such as materials, collaborator fees, and/or venue rentals?
What is the budget?
And while you’re in the process of planning and setting clear goals, you should also put together your project budget. This means you will have to do some research and get quotes in order to provide an accurate estimate of costs. You shouldn’t simply take a guess when it comes to the costs associated with your project and the amount of funding required to realize it. Keep in mind that you also need to pay yourself for your work! Your artist fee should be included in the budget. And don’t forget to account for any anticipated income — e.g., you should include funding that is being provided by or raised via another source.
2. Look for funding sources that are a good fit
Each funding opportunity/grant may focus on a different research area, discipline, location, etc., or may require that applicants meet certain criteria. So do some research, and learn about different funding opportunities and the organizations behind them.
Look for grants that you are eligible for, of course. But also look into the type of projects the organization has supported in the past. It is important to get an understanding of what they usually award grants for and whether it’s in line with your work. You don’t want to waste your time working on an application if your project is way outside of the organization’s area of interest or you don’t meet all of their requirements. This should help you to narrow down the options and focus your efforts.
To find grant and funding opportunities, you can check websites where new art opportunities are regularly posted, like ArtConnect and New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), for example. The website of your local government’s cultural funding programs or art council is also a good place to look. And some universities offer grant opportunities, as well.
2. Manage your time
Once you’ve done the research and selected one or more grants that you are interested in applying for and are a good fit, make yourself a schedule so that you can better manage your time. Don’t start working on an application at the last minute. This will not only cause you a lot of stress, but is also unlikely to lead to a quality application and positive result.
Review all sections of the application (or applications) and consider how much time you will need to complete it. Make a note of deadlines and allow yourself a realistic time frame to write your application, prepare work samples, review and submit your application. And always aim to finish and submit your application before the deadline.
Applications are increasingly carried out in a digital format — whether via email or online submission forms. You might be confronted with unexpected technical issues that prevent you from meeting the deadline if you wait until the last minute. So be sure to take this into account when working on your application. Keep in mind that if you are required to submit via a specific platform, you may have to register and create an account first. This is something you should organize well in advance.
Submitting by post
Alternatively, if your application needs to be submitted by post, you’ll need to account for time to print your documents and gather visual material on a USB or disc in an organized way. And make sure it’s all ready to go, presented neatly and professionally, and post marked before the deadline.
3. Read the application instructions
CAREFULLY. This can’t be stressed enough. When it comes to how to apply for an art grant, this may seem obvious. But it is very important to read all instructions carefully and thoroughly before preparing and submitting your application. Pay close attention to and follow all instructions — from the number of work samples to include to how and where to submit. Make sure you only provide the information and documents requested and in the required format and file type. You don’t want your application to be rejected due to something as simple and avoidable as not following the guidelines.
If you have any doubts or questions about the application, reach out to the organization and ask! It is fine to ask questions if something is unclear or necessary information seems to be missing. But this also doesn’t mean that you should get in touch with a list of questions without first having done the work of reading through everything yourself. The organization’s staff are likely busy. And you will also want to be professional and considerate in your communication and the relationships you build.
So, check the FAQs, read through all guidelines. And after you’ve done your due diligence, if you feel like you are still missing vital information, then it’s certainly a good idea to get in touch and ask. You don’t want to just take a guess and risk submitting your application incorrectly. Your time, and the time of your application reviewers, is valuable.
Something else to note on this topic is that it also isn’t advisable to get in touch with the organization to seek advice or feedback on your work or ask whether you should apply. This is something you will have to determine for yourself!
4. Prepare high-quality work samples
Your work samples/images may very well be the first thing jurors look at. So you’ll want to get their attention and make them interested in learning more about you and your work.
When choosing work samples, focus on works you believe to be exemplary of your practice. Think about how you can best show your level of experience, technical skills, conceptual strength, and range. You will likely have to include examples of past works, especially if the project you are proposing is new. These works should signal towards the new directions you are going in your practice.
And make sure your images look professional. This plays a key role in your overall presentation. Images should be well lit, clear, and accurate portrayals of your work.
5. Write your application
Grant applications differ in terms of the information that is required and the format it takes. You might be prompted to answer a set of prepared questions in the application form, for instance. Or perhaps you’ll be asked to submit a general artist statement and/or project proposal. In any case, it’s important to stick to the word or character limits provided. Many jurors prefer statements and/proposals to be kept brief, as they usually have a lot of applications to go through. Make sure to include all of the important details necessary for application reviewers to understand and envision your project. While also keeping it concise and clear. That means, use language that’s specific and direct, and avoid long run-on sentences.
When writing about your project
Many grant organizations will want to know and be able to understand the impact that your proposed work will have — whether on your professional career, the field or community in which you’re working, etc. The research you carried out earlier in the process of finding funding sources might also be helpful here. Because you should be able to explain how your project is relevant to the organization, if necessary. How does it fit in with its vision and aims?
When writing your application, consider the central themes of the project. What questions is it seeking to raise or address? How will your work be carried out? What are the expected outcomes? Be concrete. And outline and organize your thoughts beforehand.
When preparing your CV
Once again, when preparing your artist CV a good rule of thumb is that less is more. Try to keep it to about one page. And focus on your most recent experiences and accomplishments — generally, within the last five years. You may have significant highlights in your career that occurred at an earlier date, of course. In which case, those can be included, too. Keep in mind that jurors may have hundreds of applications to review. So you want to be able to quickly and effectively give a sense of your career thus far. Think about what you want to highlight, what’s relevant to include, and how your CV can best reflect and convey the impact of your experience, skills, and achievements.
6. Get feedback
Once you’ve written your application, gathered your supporting documents and work samples, and updated your CV, ask someone — or a couple of different people — to look over it.
There are also other ways to hone your skills in this area and make sure you’re equipped to present a strong application. One possible way to get professional advice and put what you’ve learned into practice, might be to attend a grant writing workshop. Berlin Art Grant Clinic, for example, runs a workshop series, where participants learn the ins and outs and gain hands-on experience in art grant writing. And they are also given the chance to get feedback on an in-process or previously submitted application.
But taking a course or participating in a workshop might not be possible for everyone — given time and budget limitations. Such workshops often charge a fee, though it may be possible to find free options as well. Or, maybe you know someone who has been through the grant application process before and has some pointers to offer. This can be extremely helpful — especially if you are able to talk to someone who has applied for and received the same grant that you are applying for. If possible, try to find out about their experience of the application process. They may have some invaluable insights to share.
And of course, before clicking ‘submit’, always review your application. Double check that everything is complete, in the correct format, and free of typos.
It takes time and effort to put a grant application together. So don’t try to apply for every grant opportunity that comes across your screen. Be selective when it comes to choosing which grants to apply for, so that you can focus on preparing a solid application for an opportunity that is well suited to you and your goals.
And, it may be hard, but try not to get too discouraged if your application isn’t successful the first time around. Learn from the experience, see where you might be able to improve your application, and try again! Many grant programs will tell you that awardees applied multiple times before receiving the grant.