Friday, March 04, 2011

Writing Grants are Like Loans You Don't Pay Back

I receive many emails about how to find a grant, especially one to start or finish a first book. For the grand majority, they want money moreso because times are tough . . . not to write the book. A grant, however, is a two-way street. It has to satisfy the needs of the grant provider as much as it helps you.

Grants are like loans but for one exception: you don't pay them back. That said, think about obtaining a loan. What does the bank normally ask for when you want a loan?

The purpose of the loan, dollar for dollar.
Just like the banker wants to know exactly what you'll use your loan funds for, the grantor wants to understand how you'll spend a grant. Why? One: the bank has to say to auditors that the money was utilized as required by the laws used to make the loan. In otherwords, the banker and the person receiving the loan, followed the rules.

What rules? Heck, it's a grant, not a loan. They are giving it away, not expecting it back, so what does it matter? Grant organizations have rules, by-laws, and mission statements that require the funds so graciously donated, to be used for the right purposes. Imagine the chaos if there were no rules. People would rob grant providers blind, taking money for one reason and using it for others, with no accountability. If you ask for $1,000, be able to state specifically how you will use each dollar.

Your experience.
A bank making a loan to a business, wants proof that the person knows how to run the business. A loan for buying a house mandates a credit report from the loan applicant, to show that he has enough experience with handling money to pay it back timely. Those who offer grants for writers, want to know that the applicant can write, can follow through on the proposed project, or has establish himself well enough as a writer to be trusted to use the funds for that purpose.

So, when a brand spanking new writer asks for a grant to write, what does that grant provider have as evidence of experience? Education? Publishing credits? A job as a writer? Success in a similar profession such as journalist, educator or public speaker? If you are a fireman, wanting to create a fantasy novel, how is a grantor supposed to believe you will fulfill the purpose of the grant? The grant reviewers play the odds. No experience - no grant.

Your presentation.
I spent 16 years as a loan and grant provider. I've participated on grant panels. Presentation adds and detracts. A well-articulated, correctly typed, properly completed application stands a so much better chance of funding than one slapped together with mistakes and gaps in information. What happens when a sloppy query lands on an agent's desk? Ditto. If you can't take the time to properly apply, you most likely won't properly fulfill the requirements of a grant, either. Your paperwork has to be perfect.

The Artist's Guide to Grant Writing: How to Find Funds and Write Foolproof Proposals for the Visual, Literary, and Performing ArtistHopefully, I have not intimidated you. Just know that grants have a purpose, and they want to be as successful at what they do as you want to be successful as a writer.

One of the best guidebooks to obtaining a grant for your writing is by Gigi Rosenberg. The Artist's Guide to Grant Writing takes you by the hand and escorts you through the daunting journey of grants. If you wish to add grants to your financial toolbox, this book is a must.


Jenn Crowell said...

I second the recommendation of Gigi Rosenberg and her guide! I've taken her grant-writing workshops locally (here in Portland, OR) and they are fantastic.

story takes time said...

Hiya Holly, would the grant book be equally useful in Australia?

Hope Clark said...


The book is pretty much feared to North America, but the concepts are the same.

story takes time said...

Thanks, Hope and thanks for not bawling me out for getting your name wrong....

Hope Clark said...

Aw, I wouldn't do that. I've been called all kinds of cool names like Holly, Faith, and Grace. I answer to anything I think is coming my direction!