Research Grants 101 for Arts

4 minute read

Have you been looking for grants, fellowships, or awards that can be used to support artistic and expressive projects? This post presents a webinar from December 2020 with specific tips!

Summary

This presentation focuses mainly on the national arts funder in the United States: the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Although regularly referred to as the NEA, you may also hear references to “the Endowment” on occasion. I start the presentation with a few general pieces of advice for grantseekers:

  1. Learn the process of how grants work so that you know the main types of proposals and what funders may be looking for.
  2. Combine this process knowledge with an understanding of the specific funder(s) you may be interested in.
  3. Finally, consider your writing approach since, even if you are working on a performance or other expressive project, your pitch to a funder in most cases will be presented through writing. Check the notes of the presentation for more details, but in general: avoid adopting too many “scholarly” affectations in your writing (avoid jargon and wordy phrasings), make your writing accessible to broad audiences, and understand who you need to reach (in the case of most grants, your audience is “the reviewers”). These basic tips can help you to craft a more “reviewer-centric” proposal.

Following these general tips, the presentation makes a basic overview of the types of funders and funding that you may encounter in your search. Major types of funders include independent foundations, operating foundations, community foundations, and government funders. Each type has differing priorities, processes, and application procedures. Major types of funding that you may pursue include grants, contracts, fellowships, and other mechanisms. I offer very brief advice about how to seek funding internally at the University, as well as where to search if you are looking across a broader landscape.

Finally, I discussed some tipcs about how to look at a specific funding opportunity. For most government funders, and many independent foundations, you can access a lot of information about the funding programs and review procedures. Top tips include:

  • Do background research on the funder: understand their mission, funding sources, amounts of funding, who can apply for the funding, and consider how your work might align with their funding priorities.
  • Once you find a particular opportunity, read the guidelines.
  • From the guidelines, you can glean specific bits of information, such as:
    • The criteria that will be used to evaluate or “review” a proposal.
    • How much you can ask for, and any things that you cannot ask for in that program.
    • When is the application due?
    • How are applications and supplementary materials submitted?
    • Are there any eligibility requirements that you need to meet before the application is due?
    • Are there additional resources available, such as sample applications, FAQs, information resources from the funder, and can you ask for more information or feedback?
  • After you read the guidelines, create a checklist, map out a timeline that works backward from the application due date, and follow the guidelines as closely as possible.
  • For arts projects in particular, the presentation slides offer specific advice on the types of materials you may need to include for supplementary materials or work samples (see slides 31 & 32).

This post is based on a webinar that I presented in December (2020). The video offers more details on how researchers from the arts may develop strategies to increase their competitiveness when seeking different types of grants. You can view the slides for this webinar at http://myumi.ch/nbdmr, or view the video at https://youtu.be/38qZX2zqLzo. To browse currently available federal opportunities, you can view open competitions on grants.gov; it may be useful to limit your search to awards available from the National Endowment for the Arts.

If your work is more closely aligned with the humanities, you may also be interested in my previous webinar, which covers additional programs.

Researchers at University of Michigan are also welcome to get in touch with the Research Development team to discuss any arts or humanities related grant proposals, and more: https://research.umich.edu/research-development.

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