Úna’s Optimal Grant-Writing Timeline

(or, ‘THE MASSIVELY, FABULOUSLY, WONDERFULLY, MAXIMALLY OPTIMISED GRANT-WRITING MASTERPLAN’)

Last night I found myself awake at 4am, cooking 56 meals, for no other reason than that I was avoiding writing a grant. Today I nearly had heart failure trying to get my grant finished, and may have set a Guinness world record for ‘The Latest Online Grant Application Ever Successfully Submitted’. I have finally decided that I would like to try a gentler system, and have come up with this aspirational grant-writing timeline for future endeavours. (And with that, I’m off to bed after eating a lovely pre-prepared dinner … cooking-as-procrastination has some upsides, at least 😉 )

Cautionary note: Prepare yourselves for a foreign concept. This timeline aims to submit the day before the advertised submission deadline. WOAH!!

 12 days before submission: Register for online system if necessary (takes 5 working days for Irish Arts Council). Invite referees to send letters; ask proofreaders if they’ll look at draft 1 of your doc in a week’s time.

11 days before submission: Analyse grant guidelines; get more info on objectives of the award by ringing awarding body (e.g Arts Council / hosting venue); brainstorm possible project activities.

10 days before submission: Choose project activity. Invite collaborators & ask for letter of support, costs & fees, CV, bio.

9 days before submission: Do draft schedule for project. Assemble all costings for project. Do draft 1 of budget

8 days before submission: Write CV

7 days before submission: Write ‘Statement of Artistic Practice’

6 days before submission: Assemble samples of creative work

5 days before submission: Do draft 2 of budget (… this time in Excel)

4 days before submission: Download and fill in first half of Application Form (for Irish AC, as far as ‘Details of proposal’)

3 days before submission: Finish Application Form, proofread, send for proofreading by others

2 days before submission: Assemble all letters of support, collaborators’ CVs and bios, references, any additional docs.

Day before submission: get proofreaders’ feedback and make final edits to Application Form

Day of submission: upload all files; double-check all files are uploaded; hit ‘submit’.

Day of submission deadline: relaaax! Maybe do some cooking!! 🙂

Grant-Writing Tips

Aaaah, grant-writing… possibly the bane of my life. I will do ANYTHING to avoid it. But last night, as I was up at 4am batch-cooking 56 meals, I finally thought to myself ‘Úna, there has got to be a better way.’ And with that in mind, I have put together an aspirational schedule, and these tips for myself, for the next time I’m applying for a grant-a-roo.

Top tip: it’s so basic, but hit ‘save’ frequently. Including while working online.

–  With every significant change in your document, click ‘Save As’ and amend the filename with a number, e.g. BursaryDraft1.doc ,  BursaryDraft2.doc, BursaryDraft3.doc . Now if for some reason your document gets corrupted, all is not lost. 

– Timeline? I’ve learnt the hard way that I can’t organise mandatory documentation for a grant without an absolute minimum of 3 days’ notice. I need to start assembling this material a minimum of 3 days before the submission deadline, and ideally 12 days. (I can pull allnighters, but I can’t make other people answer my emails!)

– If it’s an online application system…  put all your supporting documents in one location, clearly labeled. This will save you hours in the eventual uploading process. At the very beginning of writing your grant:

  1. Create a folder on your computer. Call it ‘Bursary X’.
  2. Create a subfolder. Call it ‘Supporting Materials’.
  3. Save every document you intend to upload to ‘Supporting Materials’.

– When contacting each referee and asking them for a letter of reference, tell them what grant you’re applying for, and what your focus is, but actually ask them to leave the title of the grant OUT of the application. That way you can recycle this letter for future use (and avoid bugging them again – a win-win!)

– Before you start, think ‘who do I know who could proofread my application?’ Aim for 2 people to proofread the first draft of your application form. Criteria for these people, in order of preference:

  1. They won won the grant you are applying for in the past
  2. They won a different grant, awarded by the same body, but the grants are in the same domain (e.g. for me, music)
  3. They won a different grant in a different domain (e..g. for me, literature, theatre)
  4. They are experienced grant writers
  5. They are very good writers

(You may also want to think of 2 people to help you choose your best work for the supporting materials. These people don’t have to be academic, but must have expertise in your domain. For example, I asked 2 friends of mine who are excellent music critics, but not very ‘wordy’, to help me select the best of my audio recordings for inclusion in a grant I applied for last summer.)

Contact the people you’d like to proofread your application / listen to your material, tell them you’d like to send them your application in 5/6 days for submission in 7 days, and ask them if they’ll proofread it for you. People appreciate a heads-up. And some chocolate after 🙂

– I find that collecting quotes, letters of support and CVs from potential collaborators, is one of the most time-consuming tasks… perhaps because (a) it’s high stakes (it’s a mandatory requirement of an Irish AC application, so if you don’t include them in your application it won’t get assessed) and (b) it’s a tedious task so most normal humans put it off. Consider giving your invited collaborators a draft letter of support to edit themselves, just to get them started.

– Úna’s grant uploading checklist:

  1. Application form
  2. Examples of work
  3. CV
  4. Letters of support
  5. Collaborators’ CVs
  6. Collaborators’ bios
  7. Letters of in-kind support
  8. Letters of reference (a doc with bios of referees may be necessary)
  9. Any additional docs, like an additional budget / schedule

– A few days after the whole shebang is submitted, I recommend making a list of all your referees, collaborators, proofreaders, anyone who helped you, and send them thank-you cards / emails. They took time out of their busy lives for you!!

… are you psychologically prepared?? If so, take a look at …

THE MASSIVELY, FABULOUSLY, WONDERFULLY, MAXIMALLY OPTIMISED GRANT-WRITING MASTERPLAN

*Huge thank you to sound engineer and music-maker Shay Leon for this excellent suggestion!