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Want to be more competitive when seeking grant dollars?

A few months ago I had the pleasure of serving as a grant reviewer for a major national funder in the arts. Reading dozens of proposals from small, medium-sized and large arts organizations across the country helped me identify three key areas in which arts organizations as a whole could benefit from added strength:

1. Be abundantly clear about what you intend to do, for whom, and why it matters. I read lots of proposals that said, in effect, “We just want to put on a show!” Target audience? “The people who come!” Key indicators of success? “If people come to our show, we’ll know we succeeded!”

Dollars to support the arts are too few in number, and the competition for those dollars can be fierce. To be more competitive:

  • Funders want to see that you’ve thought deeply about the project for which you’re seeking support.

  • They are looking for evidence that you have identified your target audience and that you have reason to believe you can engage that audience through this particular project.

  • Funders want to know why: Why this project? Why this audience? Why this moment in time?

  • Think and talk in detail about how you intend to gauge the impact of your work. What’s the intended immediate impact on your audience, your community, your organization? Are there long-term effects?

  • Funders want assurance that you/your organization has the capacity – artistic capability, organizational strength – to get the proposed work done. Few funders respond well to “We’ve never attempted anything like this before, but we just know we can do it!”

The clearer you can be about what you intend to do, for whom, and why it matters, the more competitive you will be when seeking funding.

Stay tuned for numbers 2 and 3!

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