It’s no secret that the world of grant applications is a competitive and often confusing one. With a limited number of grants available, it’s important to make your application stand out from the crowd.
To help make sense of the grants available for writers, this March we brought together guest speakers from key arts funding bodies for a special Grants Information Evening. Speakers included Wenona Byrne, Arts Practice Director, Literature, at Australia Council for the Arts; Nicola Evans, Head of the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund; and Tammy Close, Sector Investment Lead in the Arts Investment and Development team at Create NSW. The event was chaired by Writing NSW CEO Jane McCredie.
The speakers shared details of grants available through their organisations and their top tips on how to improve your grant applications. Writing NSW membership intern, Geordie Timmins, captured the key points from the night for those who weren’t able to attend.
Tips to improve your grant application
1. Check the guidelines
Tammy Close stressed the importance of paying close attention to the grant guidelines before starting your application. The guidelines will let you know if you are applying for the right grant, whether you meet the criteria, and what the assessors are looking for. When writing your application, addressing the selection criteria will help keep your application succinct and to the point.
2. Proofread, proofread, proofread
Before submitting your application, it’s crucial to proofread it carefully. It may help to ask a critical friend to read over it as well. If an application is littered with spelling and grammatical errors, it will be hard for the assessors to take seriously.
3. Give yourself time
Nicola Evans warned that you must give yourself ample time to submit your application. By leaving it to the last minute, you risk technology letting you down and may lose your chance of being considered.
4. Honesty is the best policy
When telling the assessors about yourself, Wenona Byrne stressed the importance of being honest. The peer assessors come from a range of arts fields, so if you lie or exaggerate in an application, the chances of being caught are very high.
5. Speak plainly
Speakers warned that grant applications shouldn’t be used as a chance to show off your writing skills. Your support material will speak for itself. Instead, use your application as a chance to convey the passion you have for your work. Remember that you are not writing a blurb – this is your own self the assessors want to see, not the back-cover rendition.
6. Keep support material relevant
When attaching support material, make sure it is polished, relatively recent, and in the genre you are writing.
7. Call before you apply
The speakers all agreed on the importance of calling before applying. By talking to a grants officer, you will be equipping yourself with the knowledge of what your application needs to address and that you are applying for the appropriate grant.
‘Nobody is going to laugh at you or belittle you,’ Wenona said. ‘We really want to help you to be as successful as you can be.’
About the grants
Australia Council for the Arts
While Australia Council for the Arts offer an extensive range of grants, Wenona focused her attention on the Arts Projects for Individuals and Groups and the Career Development Grants for Individuals and Groups. These grants range from $10,000-50,000 and $5000-25,000, respectively. While these grants are for writers at any stage of their career, Wenona indicated that the council should not be the first stop on your writing journey. Applicants should be able to demonstrate that they are getting their writing into the world whether this is through having a piece of work published in a journal (online or otherwise), attending workshops, or it could be as simple as being involved in a writing community.
The Cultural Fund provides grants for creatives of all kinds, however they are mostly geared toward the established writer. Available grants include IGNITE Grants, career development grants worth $5000; CREATE Grants, grants of $10,000-20,000 for individual writers who have published at least two books; and author fellowships, worth up to $80,000, available to writers who have published at least five books in their career.
Create NSW offers a range of grants for writers under the Arts and Cultural Projects program. Some of these grants include the ‘Creative Koori’ program, developmental grants for individuals, project grants for groups, grants for organisations, and author fellowships available through a partnership with Varuna Writing House.
The Writing NSW Grants Program includes grants for emerging writing organisations, early career writers, a joint project between a writer and scientist, and travel grants for regional writers. These grants share the aim of fostering a vibrant, diverse and innovative writing culture in NSW. They are offered by Writing NSW with devolved funding from Create NSW.