Grant and application writing FAQ
Hi there! Welcome to the page I created to talk about my activity as a grant writer. Throughout my career in the cultural sector, I have been fascinated by the contrast between the unpredictable and ever-evolving nature of creative work and the rigid and result-oriented management and funding models behind it. Eventually, I channelled this fascination into working with funding applications, helping my clients to navigate between the creative and the pragmatic. I find a lot of joy in facing chaos and turning it into structured content. I love what I do, and I also find it very enriching, as it gives me the opportunity to get an insider point of view into a wide variety of creative practices. I hope this page is informative! Greetings from the home office, Karina firstname.lastname@example.org
How did you get there?
By writing a lot of funding applications. And by analysing the rejections. And, of course, by developing and producing funded projects. These experiences, combined with my love for structure-building and editorial work, gave me a good base to develop as a grant writer. In 2019 I started doing it for friends and in 2021 I started offering assistance in funding application writing as a service.
What type of applications did you work on so far?
So far, I worked with individual makers and small collectives in the fields of design (including all kinds of design-adjacent practices), digital culture, (audio)visual art and fine arts. Most of the applications were project-based, meaning that the funds were raised for a particular project. I also worked on a few applications that were not project-based, where the funds were raised for the development of one’s practice as a whole. Currently, I am based in the Netherlands, and most of my professional network belongs there. Next to clients who apply for Dutch funding, I also worked on applications for open calls in other countries within the EU and in North America. In terms of finance, the smallest amount I helped to raise was €2k and the biggest was slightly above €30k. However, the sky is the limit and I am looking forward to working on bigger applications and potentially shuffling practising solo and being a part of a fundraising team.
How do I start working with you?
I always start with a free intro meeting. (sign up for one! let’s meet!) This helps to understand whether this is a good match and determine the scope of work. The total amount of work varies greatly from project to project.
Below is a small breakdown of phases of a funding application, plus some of my methods and the types of work I offer
Phases of a funding application (or an artist/designer residency, fellowship etc – this is a very generic breakdown)
Orientation, zero, ‘soul searching’
At this stage, there is an idea of a project but a lot of questions need to be answered to turn this idea into the first draft of a proposal. Good questions to ask are:
- What are the needs of this project?
- What kind of resources does it need to become real?
- Which field(s) does this project fit into? Where do I belong as a professional?
Finding the right funding source(s)
The title explains itself. Questions to ask here are: How much money this project needs? What is the duration of the project? Are you commissioning others? Are there production costs? Are there travel costs? After there is an approximate idea of the amount of money this project requires, it is easier to understand which funds can cover which parts of the requested amount and whether you need other sources of funding (for example, a publisher covering production costs, or a gallery providing a space).
Preparing the application(s)
This is also self-explanatory. In short, it all boils down to creating a strong argument why this work should be funded. While every project is unique, there are a few things that can help us to estimate the amount of work to be done. For example, a lot depends on whether the project already has written material, or whether we have to create it.
Here I wrote down three scenarios, all based on the actual cases. Please note that these are not fixed routes, but rather a set of ingredients we can mix to get what we want.
Scenario one: From Scratch
The content is not there yet (you have a good understanding of the project you aim to fund, but you are not yet able to articulate it in a form of a proposal)
→ To bring in the content, I do two things
- If relevant, I go through previous applications and any kind of documentation (like interviews) which can help us to write down some information about the project and the practice.
- I make a questionnaire, to gather all the information needed for the proposal
→ The content is there, but it is not yet structured
- Route one: You write the proposal, and we do a few feedback sessions to work on the structure, coherence and go through the argumentation.
- Route two: I write it, and together we check whether the text represents the project correctly and provides enough information.
Scenario two: Questions and Answers
The content is there (you drafted your application)
→ I go through the draft and we do a few rounds of editing, the main point here is to work on the argumentation. We make sure that the text answers such questions as:
- Is it clear what are you making and why?
- Is it clear how the project is urgent and relevant to the field?
- Is it clear how the project relates to/interacts with its context?
- Is it evident that you have the expertise?
- What about the support network and the audience of this work?
Through a few rounds of questioning and answering, together, we make sure that the proposal explains the project well and provides all the information important to the funding body
→ We got there! Now, the finishing touches. Either my work stops there or I help to edit the text, working on the coherence, clarity and word count.
Scenario three: The Next Big Step
The whole project is there, a lot of work has been done already (maybe even a few previous funding rounds), but the proposal is not there yet
→ After receiving all the materials, I go through the whole thing and ask you questions that I don’t see answered so far (for example, you spent a few years developing the project but it is unclear what is the next step, or I’d like to see a better explanation of why are you gathering a new team or something seemingly benign – like a very tech-forward project lacking an explanation of the tech behind it for the less tech-savvy reader)
→ You answer my questions
→ I create a structure of the application
→ Either you fill in the application structure and I edit it into a coherent text, or you do both, or I do both.
More or less every application consists of the proposal itself and additional files, such as project plans, communication and outreach plans, budgets, partnership agreements etc. I can either help you to develop the content of the proposal or I can also create a structure for the supporting files. There are two additional things I can do:
- Project management of the application
- Helping the project gather its network, by creating mini-pitches, where I help you to introduce the project to potential partners and collaborators.
I am still in the orientation phase, what can I do to prepare to write a funding application?
Do the homework!
- Spend some time pondering where you are as a professional. Define your field. Define the field/environment you want to be in.
- After positioning yourself, position your project. What kind of audience do you think it has? Why is it interesting? What are similar projects? What do you want to do differently and why?
- Look into the funding sources. Ask: What are the projects similar to mine and how are they funded?
How do you calculate your fee? Do you have discounts and promotions?
I work with an hourly rate and also agree on a percentage of the grant I get in case the application is successful. The introduction meetings are always free.
I have also decided to volunteer 3 hours per project for projects/practices where one or more participants is a citizen of a country outside the EU and will use the funding to prove their cultural value and/or income in the residence permit application.
Are there any projects you avoid?
I don’t avoid any projects per se, but I definitely don’t work on the applications where I and my potential client are applying for the same thing. I also don’t work with activist organisations, simply because it’s a different type of funding and at the moment is just outside the scope of my work. But I gladly work for creative projects with an activist component!
I currently work in IT, but I have been considering retraining as a ballerina, would you be able to help me fund this?
I wish I could! Career change is incredibly hard to fund, as for the 99.9% of funding you have to prove that you are a professional with some work experience (or a beginner with a diploma in the relevant field). However, with some funds creating opportunities for self-taught artists and changing their eligibility criteria considering the diplomas, the situation is slowly changing.
I have heard that you failed to fund one of your projects four times, what makes you think that you are capable of assisting others in their applications?
Ouch. But also I love that you brought this up, as it helps to illustrate a very important point. Applications and proposals don’t exist on their own, they are representing a project or a practice. The portfolio (and CV, if required) is what shows the committee that your work is interesting and you are capable of making what you pitched. Next to that, the overall aesthetic feel and the vibe of the project is crucial.
As a grant writer, I am self-taught, and I am constantly in doubt whether I am capable of doing this type of work. Still, I know that what I do is helpful and I am definitely able to see the progress my clients make with my assistance. I remain critical, but I am also certain that I know my sh*t.