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How to Write a Grant Application | Planning & Research

Writing grants is an essential skill for those working in the arts, and many organisations depend on successful grants to deliver certain projects and activities. To celebrate the opening of the Regional Arts NSW Country Arts Support Program (CASP), Regional Arts NSW has put together a weekly step-by-step guide on how to prepare a successful grant application. This week we take a look at the Planning & Research phase.
 
 
Being able to prepare and research is an essential part of putting together your grant application, so it is important to allow plenty of time for this. The process of gathering information will also assist you in completing other funding applications so it is worth investing in this time. The information you are required to submit may vary from one program to another, however there are some basics that are common to most:
 

  1. Always read the Guidelines thoroughly before commencing your application
    They give an overview of the program’s objectives and its eligibility criteria, categories and amounts of funding available, required support material and closing dates.
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  3. Pick up the phone
    Always seek clarification if you are unclear about whether your application fits the objectives and eligibility criteria of the funding program. The Grants Manager at RANSW and the Executive Directors of Regional Arts Development Organisations in NSW are available to discuss your ideas, queries and concerns. It is also useful to check other projects funded through the funding program – the most up-to-date list for CASP and RAF can be found on the RANSW website here.
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  5. Who are you?
    Most applications will generally ask you to provide an overview of your organisation i.e. its background/ history, aims and objectives, current or recent projects and its future directions. Preparing a grant application is a useful exercise in terms of planning and shaping your organisation. For some, the process can even help to clarify what you hope to accomplish as an organisation. This information will define ‘who you are’ and ‘what you do’ to the panel assessing your application. You may be asked to elaborate on collaborations or partnerships with other organisations or groups within your community or region.
     

  6. What’s your project?

    Start with an idea, not a desire to get a grant. Make sure you ask yourself the following questions and make notes against each point:

    • WHAT is the project? Define your project before you even look at any grant application forms. Outline its aims and objectives and do a step-by-step project plan.
    • WHY do you want to do this project? What do you want to achieve? What are the proposed outcomes of the project? How is it significant or meaningful to your community? Identify the ongoing benefits after the life of the project.
    • WHERE will the project take place – the location/venue?
    • WHO are you targeting – both in terms of participants and audience?
    • HOW will you manage and carry out the project? Do you have the capacity to deliver the project? How and who will manage the funds? What resources are needed (financial, human, materials)?
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    Image: Microscopes in Mullumbimby CASP workshop, photo by Kurt H Peterson. Image courtesy the Scale Free Network.

    Image: Microscopes in Mullumbimby CASP workshop, photo by Kurt H Peterson. Image courtesy the Scale Free Network.

     

  8. Develop a timeframe

    Make a timeline or project plan. Determine start and completion dates and research application closing dates for all relevant programs. The more complex a project the more detailed required. Projects that have already commenced or have been completed are ineligible for funding from all grant programs.
     

  9. Research
    Research is crucial to your application. You’ll need to investigate the following areas:

    • Identify who you want to work with or bring onto the project –artists, artsworkers, consultants, facilitators or any other personnel involved – both paid and volunteer. You should check their availability and also their suitability in terms of what you want to achieve. It’s important to ensure that they have the skills to realise the aims of the project. Find out about their previous work and what they can bring to your project. You will usually need to submit a brief bio or an up-to-date CV for all artists involved in the project. This will depend on the requirements of the grant program and the guidelines and/or application form generally specify the amount of information required.
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    • Consultation. Where projects are based on community need or cultural development, it is strongly recommended that you discuss ideas and implications of these projects with the people in your community who are likely to be involved.
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    • Working with Aboriginal Communities. In the case of projects that target or involve Indigenous communities, it is essential that consultation is undertaken and that you have their support. For any RANSW grants, it is necessary that evidence of the community’s support be provided as part of your support material. Also check out the Indigenous protocol guides published by the Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Board at the Australia Council for the Arts.
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    • Support. Investigate other sources of support within your community e.g. local government, community groups, local libraries, industry groups, P and C Associations. Forming partnerships with other organisations or groups in your town or region has the potential to lead to sustainable cultural development in regional areas, rather than just one-off events. Request letters of support from those organisations involved or who will benefit from the project and include with your application.
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    • Documentation. It’s important to plan how you will document the process and outcomes of the project. Any costs for photographic and/or digital documentation will need to be considered for inclusion in the budget as well as towards meeting reporting requirements.
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    • Other Funding. Always explore funding options under other grants programs. Your project may ‘fit’ better into another grants program and/or you may be able to apply to other grants programs for different components of your project. You can find other grants at funding bodies like Create NSW, Australia Council for the Arts, the Department of Communications and the Arts, Museum and Galleries NSW, National Association of Visual Artists, Music NSW and the RANSW Grants Calendar. It’s also worth considering other funding avenues such as sponsorship and crowdfunding.
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    • Time. Allow time for preparation of your submission. Check early on what is required and don’t leave it too late as additional material like CVs, financial statements, letters of support may be requested and these rely on other people’s time commitments.
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    • Contact the Grants & Projects Manager at RANSW or your local Regional Arts Development Organisation to discuss your project and check that you meet the objectives of the program and eligibility criteria. For some grant programs, like RANSW’s CASP and Quicks, it is compulsory to make this contact and failure to do so will deem the application ineligible.

 
Next week, we will take a look at the best ways to make a budget for your grant application. Check back to our website our subscribe to our e-newsletter for updates.
 
 
If you have questions about Regional Arts NSW grants contact our Manager, Grants & Projects on (02) 9270 2500 or funding@regionalartsnsw.com.au. For more information on Regional Arts NSW grants visit the Grants page here.
 

Image: Photographs from the CASP exhibition and residency 'Sum of Us' in Albury. Photos by Nina O'Brien.

Image: Photographs from the CASP exhibition and residency ‘Sum of Us’ in Albury. Photos by Nina O’Brien.