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Grant Writing

Overview

In Canada, all three levels of government (federal, provincial and municipal) provide funding programs for the arts. We call these Public Funders.

In addition, private foundations also receive grant applications for projects. We call these Private Funders.

Alternative Servies and Application Processes

There are alternative services and application processes provided by the Ontario Arts Council for Deaf persons and persons with disabilities, for persons with limited internet access , and for oral applications for Indigenous persons.

Grant Writing Checklist

  1. Review the Evaluation Criteria and Guidelines
  2. Review the questions and sketch out your answers
  3. Make an appointment to talk to the granting officer to review your idea and eligibility
  4. Examine the why!
  5. Follow the instructions
  6. Work out your budget - does it match your narrative
  7. Have a friend in the arts read it
  8. Have a friend outside the arts read it.
  9. Give it a final check yourself.
  10. Plan to submit with time to spare.
  11. For online applications, be ready to submit at least 1 hour before the deadline to avoid any system errors while everyone is submitting.

Things to know before you start your grant:

  • The role of the grant officer is to facilitate the adjudication process. They do not determine who received funding, but rather support the peer review process and are there to answer any questions you have before, during and after the grant application process.
  • There are limits and/or restrictions regarding how many grants you can receive and apply for each year, depending on the organization (with the OAC and TAC, you are only able to receive one grant per year from that same organization, with the CAC there are annual limits). So be sure to check the guidelines around limits and restrictions.
  • Deadlines differ depending on the organization; ensure you check the date of the deadline, as well as the time in which you are to submit your application by
  • If applying as a collective or ad hoc, choose your name wisely. The name that you put on your application will be the name that your cheque goes out to if you are successful (and must be associated with a bank account).

During the grant writing process:

  • It is good to think about writing a grant as if you are writing to your peers, not as if you are writing a formal essay
  • Your word/character count matter. A good practice is to type your grant into a separate program that counts words/characters to ensure you are spreading out your words/characters appropriately
  • If you are including the name of a specific place or person that you will be working at/with, ensure that you ask them to be part of the project, otherwise specify that you are “thinking of asking (blank) to be part of this project”
  • You should not exaggerate in your application in any way, you never know who may end up reading it on the jury or peer assessment committee
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a grant officer a question when you are stuck with something, they are there to help

Support Material

With many project based grants you may be asked to include support material. This may be:

  • short video clips
  • still images
  • script excerpts
  • previous posters or programs
  • letters of support


You should always have some support material to serve your application, regardless of what the grant is asking. It is important to remember that these materials are there to support your written narrative. It is worth investing time and money into creating support materials that support your vision and relate to your application. Think about what you will be submitting as support material early on in the grant writing process. Sometimes you are unable to show exact materials that reference your idea, in these situations it is best to share materials that support your artistic ideas or show your artistic capacity.

Support Material Tips:

  • Video - if it is not mandatory, ask yourself if it is necessary to include. It is recommended that your video be no longer than 3mins. Ensure your video is edited to the sections you want the jury or peer assessment to see, or point to the specific section of your video that the jury or peer assessment should look at. Video quality should be good and not grainy. Include audio description, ASL and scripting.
  • Music Samples - not always necessary. If the project is a musical, or music-based, you should most definitely have some samples of the music
  • Script - send in your best 20 pages (or so). You are encouraged to then give context to the scene that the jury is going to read. They do not need the entire script
  • Letters of Recommendation/Support - submit if they are written by someone who knows the project and/or who can speak to your knowledge and ability to do the project set forth in the grant
  • Reviews - send in good reviews, not mediocre or bad. Pull quotes are fine, but pick strategic ones, not ones that are general/common phrases. A screenshot collage of sections from different reviews is also great and helpful


Tips from the OAC on Preparing Effective Support Material for Theatre, Dance and Performance-Based Multi and Inter-Arts

Budgets:

  • It is suggested that your budget be submitted for the project as you want to make it - don’t deflate or inflate expenses
  • It is recommended to show multiple sources of revenue within your budget
  • If necessary, add a rationale to explain things within your budget as it is helpful for the jury to read what you are thinking. This can either be in the notes column of the budget form provided or as an additional documents with explanations
  • Include a budget line for accessibility initiatives

After grant results:

  • The demand for grants is overwhelming, so if you don’t get the grant, it isn’t necessarily because your application wasn’t good
  • Always ask for feedback! It is recommended to not wait more than 2-3 months after you get the grant results to ask for it. It is always good to get your feedback and granting organizations are always happy to offer it, in both instances, whether you get the grant or not
  • Thank your elected politician at the level of government you were successful at (Canada Council - MP; Provincial Arts Council - MLA; Municipal Arts Council - as per your city) goes a long way; after all, they are the ones who help distribute the money
  • If there are changes in your work from the initial application that will change the scope of the project (ie. any large change), always let the grant officer know


More Grant Writing Resources

There are many useful resources out there on how to write grants. Here are a few:

Serving on a jury or peer assessment committee

An excellent way to learn more about grant writing and to support the creative community is to sit on a jury or peer assessment committee. Each funder will have a different intake process and application form. Usually it is part of what you fill out when you create an online profile. It is also worth mentioning your interest to the grant officer you most speak to.

Here's how to sign up to serve on a peer assessment committe:
Canada Council for the Arts
Ontario Arts Council