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Grant Writing for Museums
With revenue pools shrinking, grants have become more competitive than ever. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply for one.
Here are some things to consider when writing a grant for your museum project.
Find the right fit. Get to know your foundation or granting agency and learn what they like to support. If they prefer to fund educational programs, don’t apply for a grant to replace your roof. If they don’t fund endowments, don’t waste their time and yours trying to explain why endowment funding is so important to your organization. Be careful when trying to retrofit your project into the grant’s criteria. Instead, save that funding source for another time and brainstorm about new projects that might qualify.
Be complete and accurate. You will NOT get a second chance. Fill out every single form, attach all the supporting documents, and proofread, proofread, proofread! Silly mistakes will make you look careless and could harm your chances of receiving funds.
Deadlines are NOT negotiable. If your grant request is not there on time, it will not be considered. Period. The granting agency is probably inundated with requests, not actively seeking projects to fund. Your late grant is one less person vying for the same pot of money. Don’t bother to ask for an extension. Just wait for the next grant cycle.
Write a great narrative. Be brief and to the point. Avoid stock phrases and tired language. Use active verbs. Avoid jargon. Be specific. Don’t give more information than the grant application requires, but provide enough information to describe your project adequately. Have other people on staff review it. Have someone who has nothing to do with your museum review it. Give yourself enough time before the deadline so you can leave it for a week or two and come back to it later with fresh eyes.
Grant applications are not “one size fits all.” There is no standard “grant application” that will work for any grant you hope to receive. Each granting agency has its own way of asking for information. You have to conform to their specific formatting guidelines. Don’t give them financial information you compiled for another grant application if it is not the way this grant application has asked for it. You will likely be disqualified because the reviewers want to be able to compare apples to apples when looking at a stack of grant applications.
Ask for examples of successful grant applications. The best way to get your project funded is to see how other people got their projects funded. Of course, it is never OK to plagiarize another person’s work. But you can study how they described their project in the narrative or how they planned to allocate the funds. You might even be able to ask the grantor why they chose to fund this project. All of this information can help you create a successful proposal for your own project.
If a granting agency will review drafts ahead of time, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE OPPORTUNITY!! Follow up on every suggestion to make your application stronger. You will likely gain points if you use the advice provided to you and lose points if you ignore it. If the agency does NOT review drafts, NEVER submit one and expect feedback.
Don’t be discouraged by a rejection. Follow up and find out why you weren’t successful. Maybe you were very close to getting the grant but were edged out by another project. Or maybe there was an error in your application. Find out when and if you can apply again. Some granting agencies limit the number of times you can apply in a certain time period, or may not allow you to resubmit a grant for the same project. Use a rejection as a learning experience and press on!
If it feels like you are jumping through hoops, it’s because you are! Quite frankly, the granting agency has all the power in this equation. They have the money. You need the money. You must complete their process – no matter how complicated or involved it might seem – in order to be considered. That is the stark truth about grant writing.
Create a solid proposal that is a perfect fit and you will be successful!
Content copyright © 2015 by Kim Kenney. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Kim Kenney. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Kim Kenney for details.
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