6 Things To Keep In Mind When Applying For Art Gra...

6 Things To Keep In Mind When Applying For Art Grants

With the government cutting more and more funds for the arts, it is getting harder and harder to obtain art grants, fellowships or scholarships for artists and art institutions. We decided to reach out to professional grant writer Ethan Haymovitz and put together a list of things to keep in mind when writing your application, some helpful resources, and important “don’ts.”

Fiscal Sponsorship

As an individual artist you are not a corporate entity and you are not a 501(c)3, which means a tax designation by the IRS for non-profit organizations, therefor people who contribute to your cause, cannot get a tax deduction on the contribution. Getting a Fiscal Sponsorship means “you find some other organization that has a 501(c)3 status and you ask them to be your sponsor. What they do is they are the conduit through which a donor will give the money to you, and then they can get their tax deduction.”

The Foundation Center

The Foundation Center is the country’s guide to philanthropies, they offer a directory of all foundations, private or corporate, that are from or do business in the US. The best resource they have is their website, “where you can access information about virtually any topic related to fundraising and grant-writing. So that’s where you want to go to learn how to write a grant.” They offer templates for letters of inquiry; grant proposals and applications as well as answers to any questions you may have related to grant writing.

Harpo Foundation art grants Dread_Scott-03_On-the-Impossibillity-of-Freedom-1100x809 artreport

Dread Scott, Harpo Foundation. Photo: Mark Von Holden

The Foundation Center’s Directories

The Foundation Center has two different directories; one is for organizations and one for individuals. The first directory will list all the foundations that give money to organizations while the second one will list foundations that will give money to individuals in the form of scholarships or grants. This directory also lists fellowship, like the MacArthur Fellowship program and their Genius Grant. It is one of the most essential and comprehensive resources available to artists!

If you hire a Grant Writer

Digging through the long lists of names and finding the right words to suit your needs can be difficult and overwhelming, which is why there are professional grant writers to help you out. When hiring a grant writer it is important not to offer them a commission-based contract, this is deemed unethical by the Association of Grant Professionals and unprofessional. Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid asking Grant writers for their success rate. The success of an application is hard to determine and is strongly dependent multifarious factors besides your writing skills. For example, if you are applying for the first time, on whose behalf you are applying (a large organization like the MoMA will be more likely to receive funding than an individual) or how well known you are.

holographic art grants program holocenter artreport

Jean-François Moreau, Photo: Holo Center

Don’t be a Pessimist

You want to be sunny and optimistic in your application and it is important not to create a niche for yourself and your work. “You want to convince the reader of the applications, that the audience will be benefiting tremendously from this work. That their lives will be changed, their outlook will be changed, it will be bringing the community together, it will be reaching diverse audiences.” Furthermore, educational opportunities for children and the elderly are highly valued in applications.

Don’t be Superlative

While it is important to be positive about your work don’t get carried away, this is not a sales pitch. Avoid marketing terms, this is not the “greatest thing to happen,” you are not trying to sell yourself or your work. Be descriptive in a very empirical, scientific way; make the reader understand why the project is unique, different, innovative and important without using too many adjectives. Your application should be rooted in facts.

Misha Sra MIT art Grants-1200x640 artreport

Misha Sra, Photo: MIT Art Grant


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Adriana Pauly is a curator and art writer with a MFA in Contemporary Art, based in New York. She specializes in artwork by emerging female artists as well as Latin American art. She has been published by Missy Magazine, Autre Magazine and is currently the Content Coordinator of Art Report.