Navigating the Grant Landscape: A Guide for Performing Arts Organizations and Non-Profits

Securing funding through grants is a crucial aspect of sustaining and growing performing arts organizations and non-profits. As the grant landscape continues to evolve, it's essential for these entities to be well-versed in the art of grant writing. In this blog post, we will explore general best practices, pitfalls to avoid, recommended writing styles, and provide a curated list of resources to help you find grants in 2024.

Best Practices in Grant Writing

Most important in your grant application, tell your story. Grant reviewers want to understand your mission, past impact, and your future, and that is best told by illustrating past successes and failures and new opportunities. Since communities are brought together through non-profits -- whether organizations help the unhoused or entertain with lively performing arts -- make sure to share how your non-profit works and how you ensure diversity both inside your organization and in the market you serve.

  1. Understand the Grantor's Mission: Before diving into the application process, thoroughly research the mission and goals of the granting organization. While being true to your organization's own objectives, tailor your proposal to align with their values, demonstrating how your project or program fits seamlessly into their vision.
  2. Craft a Compelling Narrative: Your proposal should tell a compelling story. Clearly articulate the problem or need your organization aims to address, how your project or program will make a difference, and the anticipated impact. Use concrete examples and data to support your claims.
  3. Demonstrate Sustainability: Grantors want to invest in projects that have a lasting impact. Outline your organization's long-term plans for sustainability, showcasing how the project will continue to thrive beyond the grant period.
  4. Budget Realism: Be realistic in your budget projections. Clearly outline how the grant funds will be utilized, providing a detailed breakdown of expenses. Avoid overestimating or underestimating costs, as this can raise concerns about financial management. Similar to point #3 above, ensure reviewers understand that the grant is not your sole source of support.
  5. Clear and Concise Language: Use clear, concise language in your proposal. Avoid unnecessary jargon or complex terminology that may confuse the reader. Ensure that anyone, even those unfamiliar with your field, can understand the significance of your work. When necessary to describe your goals, include simple glossaries to define terms for reviewers.
  6. Demonstrate Intersectionality with Area Organizations: Highlight your partnerships with other local non-profits especially those that provide different perspectives. For example, a Christian church might join with other faiths to offer holiday meals to lower income families. Cross-organizational collaboration helps demonstrate your commitment to the community.
  7. Build a Repository: Create a document of resources to draw upon for future applications. Save questions and answers in a spreadsheet to modify for similar grants. For your successful awards, be sure to check back with the funding agencies to learn why your non-profit was selected. Many will share some insights that help build on your success for future grants!

Pitfalls to Avoid in Grant Writing

  1. Generic Proposals: Resist the temptation to use a one-size-fits-all approach. Tailor each proposal to the specific requirements of the granting organization. Generic proposals signal a lack of effort and commitment.
  2. Overpromising: While it's important to highlight the impact of your project, avoid making unrealistic promises. Overpromising can lead to skepticism from grantors and jeopardize the credibility of your organization.
  3. Ignoring Instructions: Carefully read and follow the application guidelines. Ignoring instructions or submitting incomplete documents may result in immediate disqualification. Attention to detail is key.
  4. Lack of Collaboration: Showcase partnerships and collaborations. Grantors often value projects that involve cooperation with other organizations or stakeholders. Highlighting these connections strengthens your proposal.
  5. Neglecting Evaluation: Clearly define how you will measure the success of your project. Neglecting to include an evaluation plan can signal a lack of foresight and may impact the grantor's confidence in your organization's ability to deliver results.

Writing Style

Adopt a professional and persuasive writing style. Be confident, yet humble, and avoid sounding desperate. Back up your statements with numbers where appropriate, but avoid using too many numeric facts. Use active voice, present tense, and be specific in your language. Use headings, bullet points, and visuals strategically to enhance readability.

Resources for Finding Grants in 2024

  1. GrantWatch: GrantWatch provides a comprehensive database of grants for various sectors, including performing arts and non-profits.
  2. Foundation Center: Foundation Center offers a wealth of information on grants, funding trends, and resources to help organizations find the right opportunities.
  3. The website is a centralized hub for finding and applying for federal grants across different sectors.
  4. National Endowment for the Arts (NEA): The NEA is a valuable resource for grants specifically focused on supporting the arts. Explore their programs and application guidelines.
  5. Idealist: Idealist is a platform that connects organizations with funding opportunities, including grants for performing arts and non-profits.

In conclusion, mastering the art of grant writing requires a combination of strategic thinking, effective communication, and a deep understanding of your organization's mission. By following best practices, avoiding common pitfalls, and utilizing the right resources, you can enhance your chances of securing the funding needed to bring your creative visions to life.