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Tips on Writing a Memorable Grant Proposal to Fund Your Art

Tips on Writing a Memorable Grant Proposal to Fund Your Art

Getting funding for your art doesn’t have to be daunting. Here are some tips on writing a grant proposal to get you started.

The idea of writing a grant proposal can be daunting, especially when it comes to writing one that has the potential to help you reach a goal in your creative career. We’re here to say—writing a solid grant proposal doesn’t have to be so challenging. You just need to break down the steps and start writing. Last month, Shutterstock launched our first grant program ever—The Create Fund—built for artists around the world. So, today we’re going to share some tips for creatives looking to apply to grants like this to pursue passion projects and creative endeavors.

Writing a Grant Proposal
Don’t fret! Learn how to write an impressive grant proposal. Illustration by RysaVector.

Shutterstock’s Grant Program: The Create Fund

We’ve launched a grant program called The Create Fund with the goal to support artists who are trying to advance and change the world with their art. This initiative program provides financial and professional support for artists focusing on making the world a better place with the content they create. In our inaugural grant programs, artists will have the opportunity to apply to the following grants: Create for the Climate, Invisible Illness, and The Senior Creatives

Writing a Solid Grant Proposal

In order to apply to The Create Fund and other creative artist programs, you’ll need to write a short project proposal that outlines your creative goals and process for the project. In short, this is the key piece that sets your grant proposal apart from the rest. In your grant proposal, you’ll be setting the stage for the creative endeavors you want to pursue. That’s why we’re sharing ten tips on how to write a grant proposal that’ll blow the judges away. 

10 Tips on Writing a Grant Proposal to Fund Creative Projects

Tip #1: Research the Company Before You Write

When you’re applying for a grant hosted by a specific company, like Shutterstock, do your research before you apply. While your creative project might have nothing to do with the company, it’s always a good idea to see what that company is currently producing and the language they’re using to talk about the key areas of the grant. 

Research the Company
Research the company of the grant you are applying for. Illustration by Aleksandr Merg.

For example, one of Shutterstock’s grants is the Create for the Climate grant, which focuses on providing grants for individuals who want to pursue creative projects focusing on environmentalism and sustainability. Take a look at Shutterstock’s blog for articles that focus on this topic, or look at curated collections of imagery with this focus to get inspired by what’s currently out there. Next, think about how your interests and project could align with what the company is currently producing in that space. How are you different, or the same? Where could your grant fill a gap that the company currently isn’t focusing on? Set aside enough time to do some research on the brand providing the grant before you start writing your proposal. 

Tip #2: Customize Your Grant Proposal

Shutterstock is a design-forward company. To set your grant proposal apart from the rest, consider how you can creatively create a grant proposal that inspires. While you can submit a text doc, you can also attach a PDF file. Use this feature to your advantage by creating a design-forward template that’s inspiring for the judges to look at. There are plenty of app templates out there to help you create. For example, Shutterstock Editor is a perfect place to find design templates. You can also use free software like SlidesGo, which features free Google Slides or PowerPoint templates for proposals. 

Customize Your Proposal
Customize your proposal with a design that suits your style. Illustration by Limolinda Design Studio.

When you’re customizing how your proposal looks, remember that simplicity is better than over-complicated. Judges on grant proposals should be able to find the information they need quickly, without being overwhelmed by a complex, hard-to-understand design. Simply use a PDF template to accentuate what you’re proposing—don’t overwhelm it. 

Tip #3: Break Down Your Proposal into Components 

When you’re writing a grant proposal, don’t just spew everything out onto the page. Engineer a bit of organization so that judges can clearly see where you are focusing on and how you plan on getting there. Avoid creating a proposal that is too complicated and hard-to-achieve. So, take a step back. When you write your proposal, consider breaking it down into the following steps.

  • Step 1: Proposal summary
  • Step 2: Short autobiography
  • Step 3: Project objectives
  • Step 4: Project management 
  • Step 5: Project budget

In the following tips, we’ll write some suggestions on how you can achieve great results in your proposal in each of these steps. 

Tip #4: Write a Fantastic Proposal Summary

To start off writing an extraordinary grant proposal, you have to write a proposal summary that makes your project clear right from the start. Your proposal summary could be as short as a thesis statement (one or two sentences) that summarizes what your proposal is and the key reason you want to do it. Avoid adding too many details and specifics. Instead, think of this as a big picture statement.

Here are a few examples of quick proposal summaries:

  • Kelp forests are the anchor of oceanic wildlife, sustaining marine biodiversity of our waters. My grant proposal seeks to visually document the changing kelp forests of the Pacific Northwest ocean surrounding Ucluelet, British Columbia through weekly photographic sessions.
  • There’s a misconception of what living in a senior home really looks like. As a retired director of photography living in a senior care facility, I would like to document my roommate, through 8mm film, for a month living in a senior home to give people a better view of senior living. 
Writing a Proposal Summary
Your project proposal should clearly state your project. Illustration by Cienpies Design.

Tip #5: Writing a Personal, yet Professional, Autobiography

Here’s your opportunity to tell the judges who you are, and why your professional and personal experience has led you to the point of writing this grant proposal. You should include a short personal biography, key moments in your life that have led you on this creative path, and professional experience. Keep in mind that each detail of this section should in some way relate to your proposal. For example, you may have worked retail for six years, but that doesn’t really relate to your proposal to document wildfires in California. Include key details that have led you to be inspired or interested in applying to this grant. If you have a personal story that you think the judges would be interested in, this is a great place to put that information in. 

Basically, your biography is your short introduction to the judges on who you are, what brought you to this point in your life, and why this is the next step in your artistic journey. 

Writing Your Biography
Your biography introduces who you are, and what makes you unique. Illustration by Cienpies Design.

Tip #6: Creating Project Objectives That Make Sense

In this section of your grant proposal, you should be detailing the desired outcome you hope to achieve with this grant. Not just the final product of what you produce, but the reasons why what you produce matters.

For example, let’s say you’re writing a grant to document your sister who has autism. Some of the project objectives you might include here are:

  • Create visual documentation of life with autism in the form of an online journal to break barriers in what people assume daily life with autism is.
  • Better understand autism from a personal perspective and be an ally through my art.
  • Have a body of work to share with non-profit organizations focusing on autism so that they have increased visual assets to share autism stories with the world.
  • Have an online art gallery on the project to share my learnings with creatives around the world.

Create project objectives to make it clear that you’ve thought about what the final project will look like, and how the objectives it reaches will create a better, more inclusive world. Each objective should be actually achievable and realistic for the timeframe you have to apply. 

State Your Objectives
Your proposal should clearly state your objectives. Illustration by Cienpies Design.

Tip #7: Show That You Understand the Management of the Project

When writing a grant proposal, you need to think about what you can actually achieve with the money and what’s realistic for your access. For example, if the grant will allow you to hire a team to support you in various areas of your project, include it. If you have access to a studio or equipment that will allow you to achieve this project, include it. However, if you have a nine to five job and won’t be able to shoot in the time allotted to complete the grant project, consider writing a proposal that’s achievable to do on evenings and weekends.

Executing Your Proposal
Make sure you include the team you need to execute your proposal. Illustration by ivector.

In this area, it’s important to show the grant committee that you’ve thought about how you’re going to execute the project. We suggest including a short synopsis of what you anticipate needing for success. Here are several areas that you should consider including in your proposal, depending on the nature of what you’re trying to achieve.

  • Facility/ location requirements
  • Team or additional support
  • Transportation
  • Equipment 
  • Time

The more you can demonstrate that you have the ability to complete your proposal, the more likely you’ll succeed in your endeavors. 

Tip #8: Create a Realistic Budget and Timeline

Most grants will have a specific monetary amount that you’ll receive from the grant. For example, The Create Fund has a monetary value of $2,500 USD per grant. When writing a proposal for a grant, it’s important to document how you’ll use the money. The money may support a project you’re already working on, such as a water housing for a video you’re doing on lake biodiversity. Or, maybe it will help you build a project from scratch. In your proposal, you should include how the money will relate to you delivering the final results. Providing a justification for expenses makes it clear to judges how you’ll achieve the project. 

Provide a Budget and Timeline
A budget and timeline show a grant committee that you know what you’re doing. Illustration by romi49.

This is also important when considering a timeline for your project. When can judges expect results from the proposal, or how long is it going to take you to execute the proposal? Being clear on how long it’ll take shows that you’ve considered the execution of your particular project. 

Tip #9: Selecting Visuals to Accompany the Proposal

In most creative grants, you’ll need to submit images that support the grant proposal. For The Create Fund, we ask that you submit five to ten visual examples to accompany your written proposal. These images should highlight the best of your work, and work that relates either directly or indirectly to the proposal. For example, if you’re suggesting a proposal on portraits of Indigenous elders in your area, include portraits you’ve done in the past, as well as environmental landscapes of the area you want to shoot in.

You may have to create new work to include in this area, but ensure every image stands apart and that there’s a reason for including it in your proposal. Don’t submit random images just to submit more images. Less is always more if the images you submit have a real purpose to support your grant. 

Images Should Support Proposal
The imagery you submit with your grant should support your overall proposal. Illustration by Cienpies Design.

Tip #10: Triple Check the Grant Requirements

Before you submit your final grant proposal, make a checklist of all the things you needed to include, and check your work to make sure everything is in there. The last thing you want to do is apply for a grant, only to realize you’ve missed a key detail that’s vital to receiving the grant. Read it out loud, ask a friend or colleague to look it over, and triple check everything before you submit your application. We’re excited to see what you submit to The Create Fund

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Top illustration by Cienpies Design.

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