Practical Advice on How to Apply for Grants

Performing arts grants are an important part of the dance world - projects and companies cannot run on donations and ticket sales alone! Seeking funding grants and writing a grant takes a lot of time and energy; but that award can mean the difference between your project remaining a dream or becoming a reality.

What types of grants are available to me?

First, you need to find out which kinds of grants you qualify for. Some accept applications from anyone for any variety of projects; others may require that you are a non-profit organization.

If your company is not a non-profit, you may consider acquiring a fiscal sponsor. A fiscal sponsor is an organization that acts as a sort of non-profit liaison for smaller companies. Under their umbrella, any donations made to you will be tax-deductible for your donors (though the fiscal sponsor will get a percentage of that donation - usually around 7 or 8 percent). However, this does increase the amount of grants you can apply for, as some grants will accept applications from non-profit projects OR fiscally sponsored projects. And if you are a non-profit - great! You will have a multitude of grants available for you to apply to.

... you need to convince them that you will use their money wisely!

There are two basic types of grants: public and private. Public grants are through the state or federal government, and are mostly reserved for non-profit organizations (such as the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Manhattan Arts Council in NYC, or the LA County Arts Commission). Private grants are funded by a donor, or group of donors; many accept applications from individuals or companies that are not non-profit organizations. Some of the more famous private arts grants are the Mellon Foundation, Capezio A.C.E awards, or the Princess Grace Foundation.

How long does the process take?

Grants require quite a bit of planning ahead. Some have a rolling deadline - that is to say, they accept applications all year. Others have just one or two due dates a year. Regardless, the process is often slow. Some grants have multiple rounds of judging; they require you to submit more information about your project with each round, which can take months. More often than not, the project you are applying with must take place the following year, in order to allow time for the funding to process. For example, if you apply for a grant in the fall of 2019, your project must be slated to perform in 2020, or perhaps even 2021.

How can I find grants?

There are a number of databases available to locate grants, though some of them do charge a fee. If you already have a specific grant in mind, this may not be necessary; however, this may be worth it if you plan on applying for many grants. Websites such as Foundation Center and Grant Station are valuable resources, and can help you search for grants depending on the type of project, where you are located, and more. Grant Advisor is another great resource, as it’s a database of anonymous reviews about many grants and foundations. I recommend doing a little research on any grants that you’re interested in - Grant Advisor can give you some insight into the application process, as well as an overview of the organization as a whole.

Applications are quite specific - leaving out one part may get you disqualified.

How do I apply?

Once you’ve found a grant that you qualify for, make sure you read the instructions very carefully. Applications are quite specific - leaving out one part may get you disqualified. Each will vary, but many of the basic guidelines are similar. If you write one application, chances are you only need to make small adjustments and submit multiple applications to other grants. WHEW, amiright??

Letter of Intent

It’s very common for a funding organization to require a Letter of Intent, or LOI. This is often the first step in the process; some will require one even before a complete application. If they think your project will be a good fit, then you will be invited to tell them more. A good letter of intent should be passionate and inspiring, and full of good information. Include your name or your organization’s name, which grant you’re applying for, and the amount of money you’re hoping to receive. You should also include a description of your project - one or two paragraphs will do.

Project Description & Budget

Depending on the application, this should be one to three pages long. Describe, in detail, exactly HOW you plan to put this project into motion, from start to finish. Include names of any collaborators you may be working with. This is also a good time to include a budget; make this as detailed and thorough as possible. Grantors want to see exactly where their money would be going!

A good letter of intent should be passionate and inspiring, and full of good information

Artist Statement

This is a chance to really show your devotion for what you’re doing. Include some of your biographical information, such as your training, background, and experience with the type of project that you’re applying for. For example, if you’re seeking funding for a show, talk about your experience with choreography and stage production. If you’re hoping to get funding for a workshop you’re creating, discuss a time in your work history that shows you are equipped to do so. Remember, you need to convince them that you will use their money wisely! Lastly, talk about why you want to do this specific project. Tell them why it interests you, and why you think you would be a worthy project to fund.

Other Materials

You will also need other artistic materials, such as photos and videos of past projects, or even mockup drawings, lesson plans, or bits of choreography - anything that pertains to your project that you feel lends to your credibility, or shows that your project is worthy of backing. You may also need a letter of recommendation or a character reference, especially if you know someone who is somehow related to the organization, or perhaps knows someone on the committee. Don’t be afraid to use your resources - sometimes, knowing the right person can help you and your ideas get noticed!

Though writing a grant may seem like an impossible task, it’s a worthwhile way to spend time! Even if you don’t get an award on your first try, or even your first few tries, don’t give up! Granting organizations often admire repeat applicants, as it shows your dedication to your project and interest in their philanthropic work. In the meantime, there are other ways to supplement your bank account, including private donations and crowdfunding. Good luck - may the grants be ever in your favor!

About the author

Anne Luben has performed works by notable choreographers such as Donald McKayle, Bill T. Jones, Jiri Kylian, Idan Cohen, Alex Ketley, and Summer Lee Rhatigan, among others.