I've had that Abba song running through my brain for days! Finally feels like all the books I've read re grant writing are finally paying off. Have to give a big shout out for the latest grant writing book I have read to tatters...Gigi Rosenberg's "The Artists Guide to Grant Writing"...super helpful! One thing I would love to find in every grant writing book is a chapter or maybe just a paragraph that says "Ann....write this down exactly and you will get every grant you apply for." Grant writing is seriously painful. I'm not a writer, but with all the advice plus writing a blog which I find fun it's getting a tad easier. I am particularly proud of my most recent effort, haven't sent the grant in yet but the proposal feels strong and a friend who is a grant writer offered to look at it and said I did a great job nailing the points, holding to them, being clear, etc. So I'm feeling hopeful yet realistic...I am one of many that will be applying, a certain percentage will be instantly culled because they either didn't follow instructions or sent in terrible reproductions of their work. Every single piece of advice about grants points out those two things as major pitfalls and I know from experience that is what will not get you anywhere.
First a bit of personal and hopefully funny history about my own grant writing fiascos and really, who doesn't have some funny history re grants! It was my first big grant experience, to this day I can't even think about it without laughing till the tears come. I can only imagine what the granting organization thought when they saw it. A friend and I decided to apply for some major grant as a team. We thought that because the organization was big, important and gave out serious money that we should sound uber-smart. We most certainly did not. Oh god my sides are hurting already...my art buddy and I (both just out of school and of course no one in college ever told us about grants or what to do about them!) discussed our project at length, read the instructions and to our credit followed them to the T. But we wanted to sound "smart" so we got out the Thesaurus and wrote from that...meaning whatever words we picked for the "dynamic" words we tried to find bigger and smarter words for it. The end result was an absolutely unintelligible proposal that we glowed over. We sounded so smart and yes...you guessed it, we never got the money but I've no doubt they are still howling after all these years.
With the blessing of a few years and hindsight I cringe at the thought of that grant and happy to report I went on to write much better ones, many of which I succeeded in getting funds and as you all know it is a huge thrill to get a Yes letter.
Best experience was the time I got to sit on a grant panel for a state arts agency. Fabulous and boy did I get to see things I never thought possible. Even though requirements were clear, just a proposal, images and resume people sent in reams of info about themselves...did they think swamping us with all kinds of stuff would make us go "wow this person is amazing we must give them a grant". Then there were the dreadful reproductions of their work, crooked, unfocused, on an easel w frame showing or trees in the background (yes natural light is best but learn how to crop). There were proposals written in pencil, names were missing, the most painful were the ones that listed every bad circumstance in their life and begged for money.
I've applied for hundreds of grants and have had some success so when I write I focus on those positive results and examine why they worked. In the end it's really luck of the draw but in every case the writing was strong, clear, concise. Other than that it depends on the taste of the reviewer(s), but you will always be closer to succeeding if you follow directions precisely, submit professional images to the foundations specs meaning don't sent 72 dpi if they request 300 dpi, strong clear writing and don't flood them with other materials that are not requested. And apply, apply, apply...never give up...good luck to all!