Research Reads: Grants
In our recent Student Grant Workshops, TCR fielded some key questions: How do I find support for my work? What’s a grant and how can I get one? Is a grant the same thing as a fellowship? As a residency? What happens to my application after I submit it?
Let's start with GRANTS.
Grants are a specific payment mechanism, used by entities such as operating or charitable foundations, non-profit organizations, schools, and government agencies (i.e., “grant-makers” or “funders”) to provide resources in support of a project or program, research, and/or education. Grants are usually expressed in cash (though some grants provide non-cash provisions such as free work space or supplies, etc.), and are characterized by the absence of repayment (of cash or value of non-cash provision). If you owe your funder more than a report on your activity at its conclusion, what you received was not a grant!
Typically, grants are secured through a proposal-and-review process – which is often, though not always, public or semi-public. (Government agencies are required to make their grant competitions public, although they can use very specific criteria to ensure they get the applications they want. Private entities can operate completely private, invitation-only processes.) Proposals are generally invited by a “Call” or “Request for Proposals (RFP),” and are submitted through an online application which generally consists of the following pieces:
- Artist Statement and/or Applicant CV/Resume
- Project Description
- Budget (grant-maker’s template may be required)
- Completed Application Questions (if required)
- Work Samples/Documentation
Yes, that’s a lot of work...and submitting a proposal is just part of the process! If your proposal is accepted (congratulations!) and you are awarded a grant, you will be responsible for ensuring that the grant is managed in accordance with the grant-maker’s requirements and that your project is delivered as you have proposed it. (We’ll cover the particulars of Grant Management and the Panel Review Process in another issue.)
Where to Look
If you’re interested in finding grants for which you may be eligible, there is no shortage of available resources online. Get curious! Databases include NYFA Source, Foundation Center/Candid and Grant Forward (which you can access as an NYU student or faculty member). You can also just do some key-word Google searches (“RFP photography grants 2021,” etc.) that will provide all kinds of leads. But if you’re just getting started, we recommend going local: find out what’s available through your department or institute, or through student associations, or through our office. IF YOU ARE A STUDENT, YOU SHOULD CONSIDER APPLYING FOR TCR’s UPCOMING GRANTS.
- Do your homework. Learn as much as you can about the grant-maker’s mission and interests, and if they offer an orientation session prior to their submission deadline, GO! Pay careful attention to applicant eligibility and selection criteria – and if you don’t think you’re a good match, check with the funder before you invest time and effort applying. (It’s a myth that grant-makers don’t want to hear from you – they do, as long as you are prepared to ask good questions.)
- Follow the directions. Grant-seeking is a competitive exercise so don’t give your panel reviewers any reason to disqualify your application. With online applications, word counts and file types can be automatically enforced, which is helpful. But if you’re reading about those requirements for the first time as you are rushing to submit on time, well...you can imagine. Start early.
- Good grant writing is good writing. That’s it. There’s no other secret. Be clear and complete in your descriptions. Limit colloquial language, flowery prose and jargon; and write for an audience who does not know you or what you do. Use standard English for any US-based grant-maker, and take the time to brush up on the “rules” of grammar and syntax if you aren’t a strong writer. We also recommend enlisting a ruthless (but supportive!) editor who isn’t your best friend or closest collaborator.
- Invest in your Work Samples. Poor quality samples make it difficult for reviewers to understand your work, and can reduce the competitiveness of your application overall. If you aren’t sure what makes strong work samples in your discipline, be sure to ask faculty or other professionals in your field. And make sure what you’re submitting matches the grant-maker’s requirements.
Note: We will continue to provide these Research Reads pieces in our upcoming newsletters. Did you find this helpful? If so, please let us know! Email us at email@example.com or connect with us on social media if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for upcoming issues.