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Arts Ed Grant Writing Tips

February 7, 2018

South Carolina Arts Commission

Recently my colleague, Ashley Kerns Brown, Arts Education Program Director at the South Carolina Arts Commission reached out to our network of arts ed directors at the state arts agencies across the country and asked a really great question: In all of your years granting money into arts organizations and classrooms, what would be your number 1 tip for a classroom teacher writing a grant? From her knowledge and the responses she received she put together an informative blog post that is filled with great advice. She provided permission to re-post it so I’ve provided part of it below. I’m sure those of you who are writing grants will find it useful and will want to read the entire blog post on the Palmetto State Arts Education which is a network of professionals dedicated to
​advancing learning in and through the arts for all students. Ashley serves on their board.

I was in graduate school when I wrote my first “big grant application” and was so confident I decided to share it with an advisor about 24 hours before it was due. You know, to get a little pat on the back before submitting. So imagine my shock when she called and asked, “Have you submitted this to the University’s Department of Sponsored Research?” Cue record scratch. No. No I had not submitted it to the Department of Sponsored Research. I had no idea what the Department of Sponsored Research was or how it was about to make the next 24 hours one of the biggest learning experiences of my life.

What I soon discovered was that our University’s internal process involved approval by the Department Chair (who was out of town) and the Dean (who was out on medical leave), more paperwork than the actual grant application itself (including a waiver for biomedical test subjects), and an average processing time of 2-3 weeks. The University recommended submitting grant applications to the Department of Sponsored Research a full month before they were due, and I had 24 hours. Over those 24 hours I made a lot of people angry, broke a lot of trust, and learned a lot of lessons.

Now that I am on the other end of grant making I try to share those and other lessons with teachers and arts organizations. I get how frustrating, confusing, and overwhelming grant writing can be and understand the urge to give up. But I also understand that grants can mean a child experiences the magic of theatre for the first time. They can mean an art teacher acquires the supplies to teach print making to a future designer. Grants can help narrow gaps, improve equity, and be the reason a child holds an instrument in their hands and thinks “I can do this.”

Below are my top tips for navigating the world of grants. Grant writing is a skill that improves with practice. So don’t give up – because you never know the impact your next grant can make in your program or classroom. Oh, and that first big grant I wrote? We did end up receiving funding. And I got to see firsthand how this frustrating, overwhelming, and confusing process can lead to life-changing experiences for students.

Before You Begin Writing

  • Give yourself time. Make a calendar of grant-related dates that includes technical assistance sessions, internal due dates, and any follow-up dates (such as when final reports are due).
  • Find the grant to fit the program, not the other way around. You don’t need to do programmatic gymnastics to fit a square peg into a round hole. If a grant isn’t the right fit for your need, it just isn’t the right fit – and that is ok.
  • Have a short- and long-term vision. One of my favorite quotes is “Strategy without vision has no direction. Vision without strategy is a wish.” Know where you want to go but also know how you’re going to get there.
  • Look at previous grant awardees. Many granting organizations post previous award winners on their website. This can show you the kinds of programs or projects that have received funding in the past. 

READ the entire blog post if you found the above helpful!

If you’re interested in applying for funding for the Maine Arts Learning grants please go to

Thank you Ashley for collaborating and your willingness to share the blog post!

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