Grant Writing for Artists


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"Grant Writing for Artists" by Ellen Lake from ( is a four hour workshop at presented at The Society for Photographic Education West Regional Conference at Humboldt State University, October 2013. Lake is an Oakland based media artist and Kala Art Institute's Grants Manager, combines lessons learned from her own art practice and experience in the arts administration to bring you the latest in funding trends. Ellen received her MFA from Mills College in 2002. She is the recipient of Bay Area Video Coalition's 2005/2006 Mediamaker Award, 2009 Sarah Jacobson Award, and 2012 Experimental Media Arts Lab residency award at Stanford University. She can be reached at

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Grant Writing for Artists

  1. 1. Strategies for successful grant writing Ellen Lake, Grant writing workshop, On the Brink, Photography as Witness, SPE West, Oct. 2013
  2. 2. Agenda •  Check-in, Introductions, and Goals •  9:15 to 10: Grant writing strategies presentation •  10 – 10:15: Break •  10:15 – 11: Writer’s workshop •  11 – 11:15: Break •  11:15 – Noon: Case studies
  3. 3. Introductions 3
  4. 4. Seeking Funding? Where to start? •  Assessment - what exactly do you want funds for and are you actually ready to proceed with the project? •  Preparation - Have you done your research to support your request? •  Funding sources - Who might fund your request?
  5. 5. Grant Opportunities for Artists Are often: • Project focused • Community-based • Collaborative • Have an educational component • Are funded through a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization or require a fiscal sponsor
  6. 6. Do your homework Just researching grants here…
  7. 7. Research •  Carefully review the grant website/info. •  Analyze the work of the artists who have previously been awarded grants via the website. •  Is there a general “fit” with your work in regards to media, content and general career level of selected artists?
  8. 8. Before Writing the Proposal Round One: LOI, RFP - Some funders will first request a Letter of Inquiry or Letter of Intent (LOI) or a Request for Proposal (RFP) before accepting a full grant proposal.
  9. 9. Letter of Inquiry The LOI is one to three pages and is basically an abstract of your proposal and includes: •  Acknowledgement of funder’s area of interest. •  Brief introduction to who you are and your artistic/professional qualifications. •  If you are collaborating with an organization the LOI will need to include a brief description of the organization and its mission. •  A brief description of your project (if applicable:how you and the organization are collaborating) •  Are you addressing a need? Summarize what the need is and how you your project will affect that need. •  Your constituency or community to be served. •  Total project budget, and the exact amount of this budget you are requesting and what the funds will be used for, and other sources of funding. •  Contact information.
  10. 10. Sample of LOI Request: Creative Work Fund The Letter of Inquiry, no longer than three pages, should include: • Project description including information about how you will collaborate • Amount requested and summary budget (budget should be part of the three-page letter, not an additional page) • Description of the organization
  11. 11. Fiscal Sponsorship Some foundations require that the funds for an artist go through a non-profit organization. In this case the artist and their project must have a fiscal sponsor (a non-profit). The fiscal sponsor usually charges an administrative fee of 5 to 10% of funds that pass through their organization. ____________ The Purpose of Fiscal Sponsorship Fiscal sponsorship has evolved as an effective and efficient mode of starting new nonprofits, seeding social movements and delivering public services. Fiscal sponsorship means a nonprofit organization – a fiscal sponsor – assumes legal and financial responsibility for the activities of groups or individuals engaged in work that furthers the fiscal sponsor’s mission and their own respective purposes. --NNFS National Network of Fiscal Sponsors
  12. 12. Grant Proposals for Individual Artists Each grant has its own specific criteria, and essentially includes: •  Project description for which funding is being sought •  The goals of the project •  The audience or community to be served •  The project objectives •  The expected outcomes •  The particular activities to achieve outcomes and who will implement the activities •  Timeline •  Evaluation methods •  Budget that is directly linked to the described project •  An artist’s statement (when requested) •  Images and/or documentation of work
  13. 13. Sample Proposal Format 1.Introductory Project Summary: Introduces the name, goal, objective, activities, participants and timeline in a concise and compelling paragraph. Is often in the form of a request for funding naming the funder and the amount requested. 2. Goals and objectives: Goals - Broad statement(s) of your intention and desired outcome. Objectives - The specific aims or measurable results of your project. 3. Statement of Need: The statement of need presents information and facts to support the need for your project. It states why you are capable of addressing this need and how this need is related to the goals and objectives of your project. It defines your intended community/constituency who will benefit from your project and justifies why it is important to address this need at this time. 4. Proposal Narrative: This is the core of the proposal – it reinforces the goals, objectives and the desired outcomes of the project. It describes the activities of the project and who will participate in and implement these activities. It includes a timeline and may reference the method of evaluation. 5. Outcome of Project: What will change as a result of realizing your objectives? Focus on the benefits of your project for your intended audience or community.
  14. 14. Sample Proposal Format 6.  Evaluation Methodology: Your evaluation methodology needs to be described in your proposal and should be appropriate to your desired outcomes. Basic evaluation methods: Qualitative - personal opinions, informational interviews, observational and experiential. Quantitative - defines a number or rating (such as improved tests scores for children or increased audiences). 7. Budget Narrative Brief description of the exact use of the requested grant funds. Funders will often want to know what percent of the total project budget is being requested and who and where else you are seeking funding to support your project. 8. Conclusion Brief paragraph restating request amount, project and encouraging support from the funder and thanking them for consideration of your request.
  15. 15. Budget Income: 1. Earned revenue: ticket sales, product 2. Donated revenue: grants, individual donations, corporate sponsorships With grants include committed, pending and include the amount being requested as part of the budget Expenses: 1. Artist salary (rate per hour) 2. Other personnel (rate per hour; percent of time) 3. Materials (itemize) 4. Documentation (describe) 5. Printed materials (describe) 6. Travel & Lodging (if applicable) 7. Insurance 8. Administrative (if collaborating with an organization) @ 10 - 15% of total project expenses.
  16. 16. Additional Enclosures • Artist Statement • Work Samples: Images (PowerPoint, pdf, jpgs, DVD) or writing samples or video • Resume/Vitae • Publicity, reviews of work • Letters of reference • Application form (supplied by funder) • Personal financial statement In collaboration with a non-profit organization, possible enclosures: • Federal ID 501(c ) (3) letter • Annual budget/Audited Financial Statement • Board of Directors list
  17. 17. To break it down in a different way Stages of grant writing: Intrigue, Eagerness, Excitement; then mind-numbing agony/compliance/ lost in spreadsheet weeds; then Competitiveness and Obsession, revising until you can't possibly revise anymore; then Resignation and Submittal as Life After App becomes not just more desirable, but more pertinent and much, much more likely. much, much more likely. --Christine Wong Yap
  18. 18. What exactly is out there? 18
  19. 19. Artadia •  Regional applications come up about every third year. Check for schedule •  The Bay Area is one of the 6 partnering cities •  The Artadia Awards web-based application includes profile, CV, artist statement, and 8 images. Kota Ezawa Allison Smith
  20. 20. Artadia •  2013 Awardees from San Francisco, CA •  The two recipients of the $15,000 awards are: D-L Alvarez (James D. Phelan Awardee) and Lucy Raven (Supported by the Wattis Foundation). •  The two recipients of the $3,000 awards are: Liam Everett (San Francisco Council Awardee) and Alicia McCarthy. Lucy Raven D-L Alvarez
  21. 21. Center for Cultural Innovation •  Supports knowledge sharing, networking, and financial independence for artists •  Investing in Artists Grants Programs •  Check for deadlines. •  Grants rotate between performing and media arts and visual arts, crafts, and literary arts Taro Hattori, 2010 awardee, Investing in Artists - Equipment and Tools | Visual, Crafts & Literary Arts
  22. 22. For photographers •  Alexia Foundation, •  The Center for Documentary Studies, •  One Life, •  Blue Earth, photography that makes a difference, •  Aaron Siskind Foundation, •  Houston Center for Photography, 2014_juried_fellowship_call_for_entries_123.asp
  23. 23. For photographers •  Photocrati Fund Grant, competition-deadline-extended-until-april-4/ •  International Center for Photography, competitions •  Dickerman Prints, opportunities/ •  Light Work,
  24. 24. To crowd source or not to crowd source? 24
  25. 25. HatchFund At Hatchfund, - you can discover the best artists in America and, by supporting their projects, help them transform their creative visions into reality. Find and fund the next amazing work of art—and the next. Hatchfund Community makes use of the latest social networking tools and micro-funding technologies to help transform artists' creative ideas into reality.
  26. 26. Kick Starter Kick Starter is the world's largest funding platform for creative projects: Project creators set a funding goal and deadline. If people like a project, they can pledge money to make it happen. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing — projects must reach their funding goals to receive any money. 44% of projects have been successfully funded to date You create incentives and rewards for backers at different levels
  27. 27. Kick Starter Staff pick: Leaving Home: an Alternative View of the Outer Hebrides by John Maher & Ian Paterson,
  28. 28. Kick Starter The Photographers: John Maher and Ian Paterson have at least two major things in common: they're both self taught photographers, and both share the same passion for the people of the Outer Hebrides and the homes they lived in.
  29. 29. Indiegogo No Matter What Country You Are From You Can Raise Money On Indiegogo! Indiegogo is free to join. There is a fee on any money that is raised, which is 4% of the money you raise if you meet your goal or 9% if you do not meet your goal. No application process. Anyone can join + create a campaign. Most contributions are not tax-deductible. Campaigns may offer tax deductions on contributions only if they are marked with a “Verified Nonprofit Campaign” badge.
  30. 30. Indiegogo Photography projects: Switcheroo by Hana Pesut, Vancouver Raised $8,640 USD 66% of goal to create a photobook.
  31. 31. A few important tips whether you are crowdsourcing, grant writing, or applying to a residency program 31
  32. 32. 3 C’s of Pitching your Project •  Clear •  Concise •  Compelling
  33. 33. Images are really worth more than a thousand words – it’s true! •  Never forget - the artwork is ultimately the most important aspect. •  Highest quality images are essential. •  Strong visuals create a lasting impression with review panels. •  Know how to size your digital images to the required format. •  Be sure your digital images open properly and are submitted in the requested format.
  34. 34. Work sample tips Showing two views of an artwork can help to clarify dimensionality and scale for the jurors Images by 2008 Kala Fellow Chris Turbuck
  35. 35. Work sample tips The presentation becomes clear and effective with the help of a good detail image Images by 2008 Kala Fellow Nichole Maury
  36. 36. Work sample tips Multiple views make video insert clear to panel Images by 2010 Kala Fellow Elisheva Biernoff
  37. 37. Work sample tips Installation views can establish relationship between various images that have been submitted for review Images by 2009 Kala Fellow Chris Duncan
  38. 38. Some not so good strategies 38
  39. 39. Not recommended •  Uninformed? “I plan to come to Kala to work on my exciting new glass-blowing project!”(Kala focuses on printmaking and digital media) •  Look at my amazing array of technical skills! Presenting ten inconsistent images created with ten completely unrelated processes. •  Who cares? Putting more effort into the application packaging than the actual artwork doesn’t get you anywhere.
  40. 40. Still yet, more mistakes to avoid Don’t leave your application preparation until the last minute. Allow enough time to strategize, write, review and even rethink.
  41. 41. Still yet, more mistakes to avoid Proof is in the pudding? Proof-read your application. Better yet, have a friend serve as a sounding board for your grant application and proof your materials.
  42. 42. Still yet, more mistakes to avoid Want to alienate professional contacts? Ask for a written reference the day before the application deadline or forget to tell them you’ve added their name as a reference at all.
  43. 43. Nobody likes a stalker •  Don’t call the organization to check in on the jurying process. •  After the selections have been announced, don’t necessarily call the organization for feed-back on your application. Most likely you were one of three- hundred applicants. Some funders are OK with giving feedback. Email funder for policy. •  Worse yet, if you find out who the juror was - please don’t attempt to contact that person for feed-back.
  44. 44. If you don’t get the award Everyone gets discouraged, but don’t give up.
  45. 45. Type: JPG Date: Jul 20, 2006 Camera: Nikon E3700 Settings: 1/250s, f/2.8, ISO 50 Focal length: 5mm (35mm for 35mm film) Flash usage: No flash Exposure bias: 0 EV • Search by image • Image details: • More image info ess image info Images may be subject to copyright. You will never catch a fish without going fishing.
  46. 46. Keep on keepin’ on You might not know who was on the review panel. Maybe you weren’t selected this time, but a curator or arts administrator might remember you next time.
  47. 47. Keep on keepin’ on I know folks who recently received the coveted Pollock-Krasner award after applying TEN times and the Guggenheim after applying for decades!
  48. 48. Lessons Learned Keep good records. Retain files of your grant applications for future reference.
  49. 49. Lessons Learned Applications - its an endless process. Make a committed effort to improve with each application you make.
  50. 50. Lessons Learned Find a balance - do your best, but you can’t control the outcome. Don’t set yourself up for emotionally debilitating disappointments that will paralyze your future efforts.
  51. 51. Have Fun + Good Luck
  52. 52. Break time