I choose to stay here; PFP Documentary

Writing Grant Proposals

Trying to write a grant proposal in folk and traditional arts?

Getting started

Begin here! Start by asking yourself some questions. You can use the following as writing/thinking prompts, as ways to prepare or imagine. Use what feels helpful: look for a question that interests you, or that helps you consider territory important to you (new or old!) Pay attention to where you get stumped, and why.

1. The big picture: some first questions
- What do you want to do in the next 18 months to 3 years?
- What are your artistic, social change, and community goals?
- What are your priorities?
- If you can choose just one project as your legacy, or as an outcome, what would it be?
- Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years?
- Imagine an ideal situation, and think back: how can you get there / how did you get there?

2. Assessment tools
- What assets or resources do you already have in place? (You can make a list of these: they may include knowledge, materials, people, places).
- Who is also invested in this project? Is it something that you alone want to carry out, or is this something that can come from/engage others?
- What kind of process or path do you imagine: how will you do this work?
- What do you need? What kind of help do you think you need (knowledge, skills, resources)? How will you get this help?

3. Process / next steps
There are multiple funders to whom you can apply. You can review the PFP list of folk arts friendly funders on this site, and think about where else your project might fit. Or, you can think about what opportunity one funder or another might offer, as a way to move further towards your goals.

4. Looking for inspiration? Examples?
See what others are doing. Look at the projects (if you are from an organization) funded by grant agencies of interest to you. Or look at the bios and materials from previous Pew folk arts fellows (if you are an artist) available online: http://www.pewarts.org/pewfellows.html. Look for projects that seem compelling, and read them to see how they are described: why (and how) do they catch your interest?

Writing grant proposals

Many funders ask for the same kinds of materials: resumes or biographies, artist statements, budgets, project descriptions, work samples, and so forth. Materials you prepare for one grant can often be used again with slight adaptations. You may need to modify materials based on the focus of a funder, but you can still think of your preparation for one grant deadline as an investment: a way to make it easier to apply for other deadlines. The following charts explain some commonly requested elements of applications. Additional information on assembling work samples, project narratives, and artist biographies follows.

A. Basic elements of grants
Items Leeway PCA Project Grants PCA Fellowship PCA Apprenticeship Pew
Application x x x x x
Budget x x (as part of app.; + separate for organization)   x (w/in limits)  
Project description x x   Workplan Critical juncture
Resume x x (for artists) x x x
Letter of intent   x   master & apprentices sign plan  
Proof of age and residency x       x
Support materials (slides, video, audio)   optional: 1 minute of video or audio, 5 slides/photos x (2 copies of 2 works) x x (high quality work done w/in 5 years)
Description of work: slide or video log, etc.     x x x
Description of cultural community or tradition w/in which you work     x (in artists' letter) x (in master & apprentice description) x
Letters of support   From project partners x (up to 3 people who know your work)    
Tax-exempt form   x (only if 501c3)      
List of board of directors   x      

B. Why these requirements? So why do funders ask for particular things? Read their mission and guidelines, and look to see if they share the criteria by which your application will be evaluated. Then, use every element of your application to strengthen your case. The following examples from local funders give a sense of the logic of these requirements.

What? Why? Which funders?
Project narrrative and/or personal statement To show clear and compelling concept, concrete plan, and believable ability to implement All
Budget A version in the numbers of the above Most
Sample tape, audio or slides "work sample" To show quality ("excellence"), "good communication skills," "authentic presentation and context" PCA AIE,
Dance Advance,
Resume To prove "credentials in education, training, and experience"— can be folk and community-based, depending on what you want to show you know PCA AIE, Dance Advance, Leeway, PCF
Letters of recommendation Letters should always be from people who have seen you do the kind of work you are applying for. To prove "ability to develop a complete and sequential [learning] plan" or “interest and ability in working with children" or community impact
PCA AIE, others
List of presenters, programs, or performances: where have you performed or presented programs over the last 2 to three years To show experience and scale of work, "touring readiness", ability to present programs, organizational togetherness, and/or community involvement and outreach

PennPAT, PCA programs, 5-County, Dance Advance, NEA

Sample contract that you are comfortable using, with any addenda To show touring readiness, to show clarity about needs and professionalism PennPAT
Current press/promotional kit (see p. 3 PennPAT) To show “quality,” to give a better idea of your skills, repertoire, way of presenting yourself PennPAT,
Optional for PCA AIE,

C. Project narratives/telling your story: a simple guide to assembling a grant application (Adapted from the Fund for Folk Culture site: www.folkculture.org)

1. Narrative or Cover Letter (Length: Usually two to three pages)
- Basic information about the artist or organization
- A brief overview of the project’s activities, goals, and projected outcomes
- Project dates, amount of funding request, and a description of the budget

2. Project Description
- A brief history of the art form or cultural activity of the project
- Activities involved in the project
- Timeline for the project
- Names and backgrounds of the people involved in the project
- What the roles of the people will be
- Target audience or participants in the project
- Intended outcomes and long-range goals of the project
- Method of evaluating the project’s success

3. Resumes, Biographies, or Biographical Statements

- Indicate qualifications for the project or program
- Detail past experiences, training, honors, etc.
- Biographies and biographical statements are often helpful when describing the training, background, and experience of traditional and folk artists. (Feel free to name masters within the tradition with whom you have worked, studied or performed; explain how you learned in terms that are important within your tradition, and then explain what is important (and why), so an outside reader will understand).
(Also see - College Art Association, Resume guidelines)

4. Project Budget and Financial Information
- Asks for information about the income and expenses for the project
- Expenses should be listed by categories such as:
Salaries, materials, travel, daily fees (meals and lodging), office expenses, postage, space and equipment rentals, film, publicity expenses and fees for artists, speakers, and project specialists
- Entertainment and capital expenses are usually not eligible costs for grants
- Organizations are often required to submit recent, current, and/or projected annual budgets
- IRS letter of determination of 501 (c) (3) status may be required

D. Writing artist bios: You can use the following questions as a template to get started.

1. Who are you? Where are you from? (1-2 sentence overview, can be a summary)

2. Basic information: highlights of training, education, reputation (in terms outsiders can understand). (2-4 sentences)

3. What specific artistic lineage or tradition or context are you working in? How should you be understood? Establish traditionality, connection to community (if folk arts). (2-4 sentences)

4. Highlights of past achievements (show evidences of quality, ability to do work, reliability, achievement.) (1-3 sentences)

5. Awards, accomplishments (1-2 sentences: specifics that are meaningful within your tradition and community, explained for outsiders.)

6. Current plans, vision, future plans (1-2 sentences).

HINTS: Be specific. Think about how this will read to someone who knows nothing about your field. Keep track of your work/performances year-round so you have a folder of evidences and details to draw on! Ask others to read/critique your writing for you.

E. Developing work samples

Many funders require work samples - slides or digital images, tapes or CDs, videos or DVDs - of your work. These samples are your main tool for giving funders a sense of you and your work. Consider that a brief 3-minute (or less) sample is expected to demonstrate your artistic excellence, place in a tradition, and significance. How do you make good choices in crafting a work sample? The following websites offer some tips. Though mostly oriented for "mainstream" artists (and often requiring some different strategies for community-based cultural workers) there is much helpful basic information here.

- Arts Resource Network: Lots of good resources: building portfolios, resumes and work samples, but also lots of basic professional development suggestions for artists in many media.

- Susan Myers, Portfolio Development, NYFA Interactive. (You may need to register to enter this site).

Professional Development, Audio & Photo Work Sample Tip Sheets (and other materials from Artist Trust)

- Quality work sample submissions, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation suggestions.