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Tomorrow we will be awarded a grant of $11,500 for equipment and software to use in art camps we’re planning for this summer.  

This grant comes about 6-months after we submitted a grant request summary.  The summary piqued their interest and we were asked by the local foundation to present a full grant proposal.  In that proposal we asked for $25,000 — they gave us $11,500.  Not bad in this economy.  Here are the lessons I’ve learned in the five grants we’ve applied for:

  1. Most granting agencies award to non-profits, not churches.  We incorporated our community center group as Chatham Cares, Inc, a 501-c-3 not-for-profit corporation recognized by the IRS.  
  2. Granting agencies have their own criteria.  The Virginia Commission for the Arts awarded us a total of $7,000 to date for an open mic program from teens.  The grant we receive tomorrow is for art instruction for kids.  The grant for the community center was for capital projects.  Know the criteria and mission of the granting agency and follow their guidelines.
  3. Grants usually go to expand existing programs.  Few foundations want to take a chance on an untried idea.  Many will partially fund (as in our case) an on-going program, or the expansion of a program, but you’ve got to get started first.
  4. Grants require documentation.  Both the grant application process and the grant reporting requirement call for documented support of the program for which the grant is requested.  Photographs, advertising copies, attendance reports, and other evidence to back up your application or indicate how you spent the money will be necessary.
  5. Local groups get local grants.  Most large government grants (faith-based initiatives) and national foundations give money to proven organizations.  If your local group needs funds, find a local grantor to approach.  Chances are you’ll have more success. 

Grants aren’t for everyone or every program.  And, grant writing is as much art as science.  The good news is that foundations have money they have to give away, and a well-crafted grant proposal may bring in a significant amount of money.