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COMPOSER BOOT CAMP

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How to Apply for a Grant

In the perfect universe, musicians and artists would be paid a regular salary, just like an engineer or a teacher or the guy at Walmart that always smiles and says "Hello, welcome to Walmart".

There are various methods of funding your creative passions:

Sales of work
Music gigs and gallery shows
Winning contests
Rich parents
A day job
Commercializing your work
Grants
Etc.


Working at a non-profit the last three years has given me some insight into grant writing. Here are some simple tips to help you fund your passion through grants.

10 Tips for Applying to a Grant

1) MAKE A LIST OF WHO YOU ARE
Don't limit yourself to music and art grants. Was your mom Italian? Were you in a college sorority or fraternity? What schools did you graduate from? Do you work with under-served populations? Do you write polkas, salsas, or ballet? Do you have a good story to tell? Make a list of every category you can possibly fit in.

2) SEARCH EVERYWHERE
Armed with your list, look for grants that you are eligible for. Used advanced options in Google to search for grants on the net, call an old teacher or prof, check out your college's website. You will be amazed at what you can get money for! (Scroll down the New Music Resource for a list of grants).

3) FOLLOW DIRECTIONS
If the grant calls for "ballets" and you write hip hop or sappy country ballades, you are wasting everyone's time by submitting to the grant unless it is a hip hop or country ballet. I have heard, unscientifically of course, that 50% of all submissions are tossed because they don't follow directions. Don't be one of them!

4) BE PROFESSIONAL
Yep, nice paper, proper grammar, nice binding, professional-looking CDs or slides, etc. all play a huge part in getting a grant. I was fortunate enough to have a stint at Kinko's for awhile and know all the ins and outs of creating an impressive portfolio. If you haven't had that type of experience, pair up with a friend that has and have them look over your submission packet. Who knows, if you buy them dinner or walk their dog, they might offer to put some of it together for you.

5) PHOTOS SPEAK A 1000 WORDS
Wherever possible be VISUAL. And I don't mean adding a CD-R with 2000 files for the grant committee to peruse through at their leisure. I mean adding photos of what your work looks like (or might look like) if you receive the grant. I learned a trick at a grant workshop where you create the entire scenario in Photoshop. Example, applying for a public art project? Download a photo of the public space and insert your artwork digitally. Looks great and the committee doesn't have to scratch their heads when you describe your piece as "an abstract representations of birds flowing ever so gracefully on the wings of time." Nice, but, Huh?

6) BE ON TIME
The deadline has passed? Well, you can call up and see if they will still accept your work, but unless you get a nod, don't waste everyone's time.

7) EARLY VS LAST MINUTE
I don't really know which is better. If you are one of the first to apply, they might store your submission until they have all of them, or they may look at it and compare the others to yours. In either case, I usually try to be earlier to avoid the barrage of last minute submissions.

8) TELL A STORY
Its nice that you play oboe. Its inspiring that you picked up oboe after a tragic car accident made you quit your job as a Peace Corp volunteer and now you find that the oboe gives you the opportunity to share with others the hope and joy of life that you feel every day. Don't LIE, by the way. Honesty is best in any and all cases.

9) CREATING A BUDGET
Many grants will require a budget. Be honest about how much you think everything will cost. If you are not sure, look it up or ask a professional. Grant committees generally like to know that your project's success does NOT hinge on your receipt of their grant. They like to know that you have several other sources of income (even your own bank account).

10) READ THE FINE PRINT
If you receive the grant, be sure to read the fine print. You may have to submit additional paperwork once the grant is received. Depending on the size of the grant and who is funding it, you may have to be audited, submit recordings, etc.


Don't be surprised if you do not receive the grant the first, second, or tenth time around. Grants are always extremely competitive, and sometimes they are based on politics. Just persevere and you will be rewarded in time.

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