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Shelly Breaux (December)
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September 17, 2018

Taking Advantage of Grants & Fellowships

From Chapin Schnick

The elusive grant. Free money that allows you to complete a passion project, often with the only stipulation of an update or two, and a final report. For most of us, though, it gets sticky with the daunting, time-consuming project proposal, and finding opportunities to apply for in the first place.  

Here are some of my tips and tricks from successful grant writing over the past ten+ years:

Know your passion project, inside and out. Proposals often require the grantee to express their plans in several different ways: a summary of the project, your goals and objectives, your proposed budget for the gifted funds, who the recipients of programs or services are, and how it will affect them, the project’s overall community impact, and indicators for success. I recommend developing a short summary from the get go to share aloud with friends, family, and colleagues. The more you talk about your project throughout your proposal writing process, the more chances you will have to workshop the wording of your proposal as you explain your goals.

Develop an outline that includes due dates, and stick to them. Nothing is worse than putting off a daunting grant application to the last minute and filling it out in the wee hours of the day it’s due. This lack of planning will not allow you to look at and revise it with fresh eyes in the coming days, or give you the time and opportunity to share with your trusted colleagues. The moment you have made the decision to apply for a grant, I suggest working backward from the due date to break the application into sections and having them “due” to yourself every few days. I start a couple of months out, with the plan of allowing the last two weeks for final edits and critique from friends, family, and colleagues.

Smith Fine Arts Academy colleagues with our 2016 CFMC Impact GrantSmith Fine Arts Academy colleagues with our 2016 CFMC Impact Grant

Copy and paste the application into a word processor. Please do not fall into the trap of completing an application in an online grant system. Completing it in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, or something similar, gives you the benefits of the software, like spell check and word counts, but it also makes it easier to save and attach when sending to your editors.

Ask for an edit/ critique from trusted colleagues. In the past, I have sent proposals to my fellow teachers and administrators, former cooperating teachers and collegiate mentors, my parents, and even friends in similar fields. The worst that could happen is your connection is too busy to give critical feedback, but will often at least read it and give a general response which gives valuable additional perspective.

Don’t be afraid to contact the granters. In the majority of my grant applications, a line about contacting so-and-so if you have questions was present, along with their email and phone number.  Reach out to them! These are the people that know this grant application inside and out, and possibly even wrote the criteria and questions, themselves. In my experience, these grant representatives were more than happy to answer my questions, and a couple even read, and gave me feedback, on my application draft! (So don’t forget to attach your in-process proposal when asking your question/s.)

Schnick being awarded the Inaugural Indiana Arts Commission InstaGrantSchnick being awarded the Inaugural Indiana Arts Commission InstaGrant

Read it aloud before submitting. It is always amazing to me how our brains can completely skip words when we are typing. Reading it aloud will help to fill in any of those missteps and provides you with yet another perspective in reviewing.

After submitting…

Follow up. Don’t forget to thank your editors/reviewers for their help, and be sure to follow up with them to give them an update on whether you received the grant, or not, and next steps. They want to know!

You got the grant?! Congratulations! This is an exciting time, that could easily become stressful… all of your planning and effort mean you actually get to complete your project! (“Oh my, so now I have to deliver?”) Take detailed notes of your processes along the way, including numbers, when possible. Sometimes the final report and accompanying budget following a grant’s implementation can be just as (if not more) overwhelming than the proposal/ application, itself. Reviewing the final report ahead of time, so you are aware of expectations and potential deliverables, will set you up for success as you take notes, and reflect on the process, along the way.

You didn’t get the grant?!  Don’t worry! The grants I didn’t get have actually made me a better proposal writer, as it has required me to be more discerning about how to describe my goals and objectives. Also, you don’t have to let all of that hard work and preparation go to waste! There are plenty of opportunities out there where you can take that same project idea and rework it to fit a new set of application questions. (If you do get the grant, though, be really careful about using a similar plan for a different grant proposal, as it is unethical. You will want to change your goals and objectives, accordingly, to match the new project.)

Schnick's 2013 Franklin Community Schools Education Foundation grantSchnick's 2013 Franklin Community Schools Education Foundation grant

Resources for finding grant opportunities:

  • Your district or county education foundation
  • City arts councils or other arts-invested organizations
  • The Community Foundation representing your county
  • Local businesses supporting education initiatives
  • State Art Education Associations
  • Your state’s Arts Commission/ government
  • Ask your colleagues!


- CS

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