Grant-writing (like all writing) is a skill that improves with practice. If you’re looking to secure grant-funding to bring your creative or community ideas to life the most important thing is to read the guidelines and make sure you’re eligible for the grant round you’re applying to before you get to work.
Checked you’re eligible and ready to tackle an application?
Here are some of my tips and templates:
Get started earlier than you think you need to. A common mistake people make when writing grants is leaving it to the week before it’s due (or even the night before). This might work with essays and solo writing projects but it doesn’t work with grants because you’ll need to gather support material, confirm quotes and other things that require time. So start now!
I usually recommend starting six weeks out from the closing date for project grants. For bigger grants I’d start gathering material even earlier. For things like quick response grants (which are generally smaller) you can usually get away with starting the week before it’s due.
There are many recurring grant rounds for individual artists, here are a couple to be aware of:
- Carclew Project & Development Grants, closing 1st (ish) March for activity occurring July-Dec the same year and closing 1st (ish) September for activity occurring Jan-June the following year. Open to individual artists of any artform aged 26 or under at time of grants closing living anywhere in South Australia.
- Country Arts SA Project Grants, closing 15th (ish) March for activity occurring July-Dec the same year and closing 15th (ish) August for activity occurring Jan-June the following year. Open to individual artists of any artform living in regional South Australia.
- Australia Council also have individual projects and career development grants throughout the year, however if you’re looking at grants for the first time I would recommend starting with state and local grants.
- Arts South Australia is our other local arts funding body, however if you’re 26 and under, it’s recommended to start with Carclew first. We are very lucky in South Australia to have some quarantined funding dedicated to young artists in this way, as the other states don’t have this!
But where do I actually start?
Great question! My suggestion for “week one” of grant-writing:
- Write a 100-word description of the project/activity you want to undertake with the grant. This will be relevant for a couple of sections of the final application but is also useful to send to collaborators and partners now to make sure you’re on the same page.
- Do a really rough timeline with a budget. People often leave timelines and budgets to last but this is a mistake! Things almost always cost more than we expect so doing a rough timeline and budget upfront will help you make sure that your idea is actually feasible and a good fit for the grant round you are applying for. It will also mean you have time to seek other support to make your budget balance. The timeline helps you check that you’ve actually covered everything needed in your budget and you’ve thought through the how of your idea.
- Call or email some key supporters and ask them to write a support letter for your project. Give them a deadline at least a week out from when the grant closes so that you have time to collate and chase if anyone forgets. Give them a copy of your 100 word description and a couple of dot points that you’d like them to include (like how they know you, or why you’re the right person to do this project). Sometimes people will ask you to write the draft and this is common, however be careful that all your support letters don’t end up sounding the same if you do this. The final support letter should be on the letterhead (if they have one) of the person it’s from or should include their contact details and should be signed.
- Read through the application form so you understand the specific questions it asks and any material you need to prepare. Most grant forms are very similar, but they still have differences, and even subtle differences can be important. Be sure to also read the guidelines and make sure you’re actually eligible for the grant you want to apply for.
- This last one isn’t critical but recommended – have a read through the kinds of projects the grant round has funded in the past. Most funding bodies publish lists of their successful applicants on their websites. A tip to find them if you’re having trouble is to use your search engine and search “NAME OF FUNDING BODY + successful grant recipients + media release + YEAR”.
*side-note* lots of what you need for writing and submitting grants also applies to applications for residencies, fellowships and similar opportunities.
When putting your budget together make sure you include your time! If you’re not sure how to cost time for yourself and other artists, use recommended rate sheets from industry bodies. Some useful places to start:
- Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA)
- National Association of Visual Arts (NAVA)
- Australian Society of Authors (ASA)
Country Arts SA have a recommended rates sheet, a budget template and some other handy resources in their “Information for Applicants” section.
A simple project plan template I use when I am starting to flesh out an idea:
Support letter template:
Your timeline will help you figure out the budget. For example if your project is 10 x 2 hour sessions over 6 weeks with 2 hours of admin support that immediately gives you a starting place. Every project is different in what it will need. Assessors will look at your budget against your timeline and project descriptions and your budget needs to accurately reflect the true cost of delivering your project. If your project is a garden shed but you ask for a skyscraper budget your project is likely to be marked down on viability, and this is just as true in reverse (a skyscraper project with a garden shed budget).
Some applications will ask you for only a cash budget, and others will ask for both a cash and inkind budget. An inkind budget shows all the value of things you do no need to pay for but are contributing to delivering your project, for example the value of volunteer hours, if a venue is being donated to you, the use of your own car/fuel to deliver a project. It may sometimes be appropriate to contribute some of your time inkind, but be careful about gifting away all of your time in grant applications. Art is work and you deserve to be paid for your time (especially when this is the work you use to pay the bills!).
Things to think about when costing out your project:
- staff time – including artists, facilitators, admin, marketing (include superannuation!). Remember to include all of the time needed to deliver your project, not just time that may be face-to-face/direct work. For example when delivering workshops, it’s not just the 2hour workshop, but the time to manage participant bookings & follow-up, set up and pack away the space, and the time needed to plan the workshop etc etc.
- equipment hire
- venue hire
- travel & accommodation (and per diems, sometimes called “LAHA” – Living Away From Home Allowance to cover meals and incidentals)
Here is the budget template I generally use (I modify this depending on the complexity of the project):
re: figuring out fees and what to charge
You might cost your time as a creative/artist either hourly or by word-count. Things to think about include:
- the particular form you are working in (poetry vs copywriting have a very different market, visual arts has different constraints and expectations to performing arts etc)
- the complexity of the project
- the stage of development (first development versus presentation)
- the time it will take and what else is involved (are you offering workshops, doing a specialised marketing campaign etc)
- your level of experience/expertise
- the next steps/market opportunity for the final product
Some thoughtful context from ArtsHub re: how much artists are paid and our expectations for the future: https://www.artshub.com.au/news/opinions-analysis/the-arts-needs-to-reboot-for-salary-equity-2508912/
MEAA freelance rate tracker is an interesting resource for those working in more journalism, copywriting, creative non-fiction: https://freelancers.org.au/rate-tracker/ (and I’ve mentioned some other places in the section above re: recommended rates).
For writers many lit journals (Overland, Kill Your Darlings etc) list their publication fees and you can look through examples to see the kind of lengths they cover.
Hey Pay Up is an anonymous Tumblr of Australia pay rates for writers – https://heypayup.tumblr.com/
Alex Desebrock’s “I’ll Show You Mine” is an interesting resource to explore for performance makers/theatre artists: https://illshowyoumineaus.wordpress.com/portfolio/from-alex-desebrock/
For transparency, I generally cost out my own time for independent projects at $75 per hour + super. This reflects the hidden costs including covering my own insurance, annual memberships, tax etc. I include all of my time when quoting—admin, creative, marketing, travel time (not just travel costs) etc—and I am not reliant on my independent projects for income as I have part-time salaried roles. There are exceptions to this, for example a commission which may just have a set fee. I will still use the hourly rate as a rough way to work out how much time I contribute and what scale/quality is achievable for the fee being offered. I also have the incredible privilege of only accepting projects I really want to do (because I have day-jobs and because I have over a decade of experience and relationships to draw on).
A sobering but worthwhile read about writers + pay from Jennifer Mills in 2021: https://overland.org.au/2021/11/precarious-words/
This is an American context and focused on freelance copywriters, but has a good little formula at the bottom to think through how much you will charge for your time (if you’re generating your income fully independently from your creative work): https://www.thefreelancewritersguide.com/blog/freelance-writer-rates
PS – not directly related to budgets or grant writing, but I always want creative people to know that Arts Law exists. Arts Law can provide advice on contracts and they have a bunch of handy resources on their website: https://www.artslaw.com.au/
Most (nearly all) grants will have the form you need to fill out AND a set of guidelines to read. These guidelines and the form will tell you what format and how much support material you are expected to provide. Make sure you follow the guidelines of the specific grant you are applying for.
Ie. If the guidelines say please submit no more than 5 images OR 1 URL link, don’t submit 6 images and 3 URLS! Following the guidelines is absolutely key.
Your support material is an opportunity to provide evidence that supports the intended impact and quality of your planned project. It is important that your support material is current AND is relevant to the actual project you are applying for.
There are two categories support material tends to fall into (roughly):
This is the support material that shows evidence of planning and agreements, things like quotes for major items, confirmation from artists/mentors/facilitators, confirmation of any inkind or cash contributions from partners etc. You may also seek support letters from people or organisations who know your work well and can attest to its quality/impact/your ability to deliver it – these act as referee letters.
This is the support material that demonstrates the style, quality and impact of the work you intend to make. This includes images, video and/or written material showing examples of previous work, images and video showing the communities you work with, and the impact your work has on them, artist CVs/biographies (most grants will have specific guidelines on how long they want TOTAL combined personnel CVs to be – make sure you double check!). Short (less than 1-2minute) clips showing beneficiaries of your work overlaid with artistic outcomes are particularly effective for the panel to emotionally connect to the ‘why’ of your work.
Remember digital hygiene in your labelling of support material. Make it easy for the assessors to open your support material and understand what it is. Sometimes writers are asked to provide copies of their written creative support material without their name on it (usually for things like fellowships), for most grants though everything you submit should have your name in the filename and header (or footer). An example of file naming a support letter: LOS by Alysha Herrmann for YOUR NAME/NAME OF PROJECT. You’ve included what the support material is, who it’s from and what application it’s attached to (assessors end up with multiple things open at once).
Caution – don’t just provide a link to your website! Provide a specific link to a specific page of your website IF (and only if) it supports something you are saying in the grant application and you can contextualise why you want the panel to see it. If providing URLs make sure the URL is correct and remains live until after the funding round is announced. If using password protected URLs, make sure you provide the password and it’s not too complicated for assessors to enter/access.
READ THE GUIDELINES – this is true for every section of the grant but doubly and especially true for support material!
Support material often takes longer to collate than people realise which is why it’s good to get started on it early.
Find the Gaps
Use the application questions as your base and start with dot points to begin working out the body of your application.
Some questions to guide this:
- What do I want to do? (what is it – an EP, a camp, writing first draft of a novel, an exhibition etc)
- Why do I want to do this? (this is telling the story and helps set your ‘what’ apart from the rest)
- Why does this project need to happen now? (timeliness, urgency, right time because XYZ, legacy etc)
- How will I do this? (logistics, the planning)
- Who is doing this? (who are the personnel – the lead artists, the mentor, the team – paid artists, volunteers etc. Make sure you approach potential team members and get confirmations from them before you submit your application – some applications will ask you to include written confirmation from every listed team member)
My big tip at this stage of writing your application is to find the gaps – put everything you have so far together and into the correct order/format and then read & re-read it. What’s missing? Is there support material you still need? Maybe some of the timeline or budget isn’t making sense. Maybe you need to reorder some of the project description to be clearer.
Remember that the panellists don’t know you or your project, you have to make it easy for them to grasp what you are doing, why, how you’ll do it and what impact it will have.
Send your draft to a trusted friend (ideally someone not connected to the project) and ask them to read it over and let you know anything that isn’t making sense to them. The assessment panel will bring their industry knowledge and expertise to the room but if your application is confusing or unclear, it will be confusing and unclear to them too.
Here’s a little article from ArtsHub (published last year) specifically focused on arts grants for literature projects: https://www.artshub.com.au/news/career-advice/getting-an-arts-grant-for-your-literature-project-262516-2370912/
And some generic arts grants advice (also from ArtsHub): https://www.artshub.com.au/news/career-advice/tips-for-writing-great-arts-grant-applications-260716-2367867/
PS – online forms will kick you out when the closing deadline is reached (the form will actually lock and not let you edit/submit), so don’t be trying to still upload support letters or final tweaks in the last ten minutes. It’s not worth the risk of losing all your hard work! Get everything in and submitted at least an hour before the deadline if you can. This avoids any last minute tech issues and means you’re not up until midnight s-t-r-e-s-s-e-d….
Places to look for $$$
Some opportunities to attract $$$ for your projects and practice:
*these are just a selection, not a comprehensive list*
Project or Professional Development Funding
Arts South Australia (State Government)
Arts South Australia have a range of funding programs for both individuals, groups and organisations. Explore them all here and links to ones most relevant if you’re just starting out below:
- Professional Development
- Market Development
- Projects – Independent Artists and Groups
- Projects – Community
Australia Council (Federal Government)
Australia Council distributes federal arts funding through an arms length process (meaning that individual politicians don’t decide who gets funded!). Funding is available for individuals, groups and organisations for projects and professional development. There are also special funded initiatives that invest in artists and arts organisations in other ways. See all the opportunities for individuals here. Australia Council actively wants to see more applications from regional artists, especially South Australians as high percentage of applications come from city-based artists on the East Coast.
Foundation for Regional and Rural Renewal (Philanthropic)
FRRR manages a number of funding opportunities supported mostly by philanthropists. These funds are dedicated to small regional communities and different rounds will also have a specific focus. Arts and Culture is one of their priority areas. Individual artists cannot apply, but local organisations can apply. I have applied for FRRR funds by partnering with local health and community organisations – essentially I did the work of writing the application, and I delivered the project but the local org was auspice and actively collaborated on outcomes. See their full list of funding opportunities here.
There are Awesome Foundation chapters all over the world, including Adelaide. The model is ten people contribute $100 every month and each month the chapter donates $1000 to one awesome idea. It’s a small amount but can be a great little contribution at the right time. The application process is the easiest funding application you’ll ever write! An example of something I had funded by the Adelaide Awesome Foundation was the Part of Things launch party, we used the $1000 to pay a ukelele performer, provide catering and goody bags. Adelaide Chapter does fund regional ideas, find them here.
Local Councils (Community Grants and/or Arts Grants)
I’m not going to link to every council in the state, but do check out your local council website for grant opportunities. Many (but not all) local councils have either a community grants program or specific grants program for artists. If your project has a community benefit you can also submit a sponsorship request to the council even if they don’t have a dedicated funding round. It varies as to whether individuals can apply or need to be in partnership with an org. Many local councils also have small youth sponsorship budgets which might be useful for young creatives – for example financial support to attend the National Young Writers Festival for your professional development.
Copyright Agency grants support mid-career and more established writers. Find a list of what they offer here.
Carclew & Country Arts SA
I talked about both at the start of this post but a reminder that they also offer Quick Response grants and some other funding opportunities.
*most of these occur annually*
Churchill Fellowships offer a diverse range of people from all walks of life an opportunity to travel overseas for four to eight weeks to explore a topic or issue that they are passionate about. No prescribed qualifications are required in order to apply for a Churchill Fellowship, and the topic of your proposed project is limitless, provided a benefit to Australia and willingness to share your findings with the Australian community is evident
Peter Blazey Fellowships
This fellowship, worth up to $15,000, is awarded annually to writers in the non-fiction fields of biography, autobiography and life writing to further a work in progress.
Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship
The Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship supports Australian writers of biography, and extends to include a writer who is working on an aspect of cultural or social history. The Fellowship awards $20,000 to assist with travel and research.
Jesse Cox Audio Fellowship
The Jesse Cox Audio Fellowship is a $15,000 cash fellowship, awarded annually to an Australian resident pushing innovative audio storytelling.
Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli Fellowship for Writers
Open to mid-career writers, the fellowship is awarded to someone in recognition of their literary achievements and commitment to humanity demonstrated through their active participation and engagement in social justice issues. Applicants must be under the age of 40 and identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, LGBTQIA+, living with a disability, or culturally and linguistically diverse.
Marten Bequest Scholarships
The Marten Bequest Scholarships offer talented young artists (aged 21-35) the chance to explore, study and develop their artistic gifts through travelling either interstate and/or overseas.
The scholarships provide financial support under the categories acting, architecture, ballet, instrumental music, painting, poetry, prose, sculpture and singing to help talented Australian artists achieve their dreams.
Scholarships are each worth $50,000, payable in quarterly instalments over two years. Delivered by Australia Council.
Varuna offers a range of Fellowships designed to support writers across different genres and at all stages of their writing careers. Fellowships are all competitively awarded and include between one and four weeks’ residency at Varuna. There is one in partnership with Writers SA too!
Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship
The Arts Fellowship program aims to increase Australian and international awareness and appreciation of Antarctica, the sub-Antarctic, Southern Ocean and the Australian Antarctic Program.
The Arts Fellowship advances these objectives through the work of people gifted in communicating through various media including (but not limited to) the visual arts, film-making, performance, writing, and music. Adelaide science fiction writer Sean Williams was awarded this fellowship in 2016.
Carclew Fellowships offer financial support to emerging cultural and creative artists and arts workers aged 26 and under, for:
- Arts career building
- Skills development
- Exploring new art form practice, methods and techniques
- Research towards creative development
Up to $10,000 is available.
I am endeavouring to update this list every January with opportunities relevant to creative and community projects.
Rest is resistance. Rest is critical. Rest is necessary. Rest will make you a better creative and community member in general, but also help you write competitive grant applications. Don’t stay up all night doing grant applications. Pace yourself and take care of yourself.
We all want to have resources to support our big creative ideas and pursuing grants is one avenue to secure those resources. It’s really important though not to get lost in chasing grants and trying to nab every single opportunity that comes along. You’ll exhaust yourself.
I’m not going to lie to you, there are less funding opportunities and less funding dollars available than there were in the 80s and 90s, and that can sometimes make it feel like we have to pursue every opportunity when it’s there (in case it doesn’t come around again). This is a trap! What you’ll end up doing is stretching yourself too far, and not submitting any applications that are competitive. It’s better to pace yourself and strategically apply to things that you are a good fit for, rather than just trying to grab anything that’s there. Work smart.
Feel free to hit me up directly if you have specific questions about grantwriting. You can find me here.
Alysha Herrmann is an independent creative producer, writer, performance-maker and community organiser, and is the co-founder of Part of Things. Part of Things is an ideas hub, small co-working space and producer of weird & wonderful creative experiences in the Riverland region of South Australia. As a creative practitioner, Alysha makes performances, installations, experiences, presentations, poetry, digital exchanges and small moments of connection in public places. She works across disciplines in the arts, education, tourism, community development, youth work, social justice and social enterprise
As a grant-writer and independent artist Alysha Herrmann has secured over a million dollars in grant funding over the past decade for herself, other artists, and small-to-medium arts and community organisations. Alysha has also been a peer assessor for arts funding at a local, state and national level.