Q&A About Grants
Every day, writers email about finding grants. Just like no two requests are alike, no two grants are alike either. Here I try to answer the most frequently asked concerns so that you do not anxiously send out emails only to find out it’s the wrong grant, the wrong question, the wrong angle for your project. If you read this list and don’t see yourself in any of the situations, email me, and I’ll try to answer your questions within a week.
Q: I don’t have time to write and work my job. Are you aware of a grant that can cover my living expenses while I complete my book?
A: First, the grants that pay that much money are limited to contenders who have a publishing and writing history, demonstrating a serious investment in a writing career. Second, if this is your first book, the answer simply is no. Most grants purely for writing (versus teaching writing or going to a retreat or attending a class) will ask for your history as a writer. History normally means education and publication.
Q: I’m in dire straits financially. How can I get a grant by next week / next month?
A: All the emergency grants are located at the Grants page. However, I am not aware of one that offers immediate financial assistance. Also, keep in mind that most emergency grants for writers require confirmation of your sincere efforts at making a living as a writer. Be prepared to show tax returns, publishing credits, etc.
Q: I’m in the middle of writing my first book. I need a grant to finish.
A: Sorry, but I’m not aware of grants for first-timers. Grants offered to artists and writers command a certain proof of experience, to insure the grant provider that the applicant knows how to follow through. If this is your first attempt at a book, you are pretty much on your own. I hate to say you must “pay your dues,” but that would be the attitude of any grant provider if you apply without experience. However, you’ll sometimes find grants from libraries and museums to do research, and grants from conferences and retreats for you to work on your project. Those are not as restricted.
Q: I need a grant to self-publish my book.
A: Keep in mind that grants for writers usually fall in one of three categories, from my experience. One – the grant is for a proven writer to tackle a project. Two – the grant is for a project that will have impact on the humanities (i.e., you have to show the impact of this book on the world). Three – the grant is for emergencies. I’ve known a handful of self-published books to receive a grant, however, the author had a solid marketing plan (often with an agreement with an organization or nonprofit) demonstrating a firm grasp of how to distribute the book, with a confident means of sales. There are no grants to self-publish if you have not developed a platform. I have known people to land a grant when they partnered with a nonprofit/educational organization to publish a book and sell/distribute it in conjunction with a mission of the nonprofit or educational organization.
Here lately, crowdfunding has become a serious option for writers. Go to www.kickstarter.com or www.indiegogo.com to let the public know about your project. With a good podcast or video and an explanation of your project, you can get the public to consider supporting you. I periodically cruise Kickstarter and see what author is struggling, and I’ve “kickstarted” a few bucks their way.
Q: I need a grant to start my copywriting (or other writing) business.
A: There are no grants for businesses. Even the Small Business Administration does not offer grants for businesses. Yes, I know your business is about writing, but grants for writers lend themselves to prose (fiction and nonfiction), plays and poetry (3 P’s). You are starting a business, not creating literary art, so grants are nonexistent. However, there is a site called Idea Cafe that offers a small grant once or twice a year to business owners. You compete with other businesses, not other writers, but that’s the category you fall into so it’s appropriate.
Q: Would you help me find a grant?
A: When I seek grants for individuals, I ask questions first, to insure that the requestor is qualified for any type of grant. Then I charge a fee (see Consult Hope). Usually I need your writing history, your geographic location, your educational background, your current project, and your basis for needing a grant. Of course, time must be available on my calendar. If I’m on a book deadline, I’ll probably decline. But I’ll readily send you to the FundsforWriters archives so you can see the past newsletters, to include the grants.
Q: You tend to specialize in grants in the United States. Why don’t you cover grants in other countries, and can I apply for those in the United States?
A: As with a publisher, agent or magazine, read the guidelines of a grant. Some are open to international candidates. Others are not. However, I do tend to specialize in the United States. It’s where I have experience. It’s where I live. I understand the tax code and nonprofit arenas in the US, while I do not have a solid grasp of it in other countries, and those two topics drive grants. My second most posted grants are in English-speaking countries, usually UK, Canada, Australia and NZ.
Q: I have this great idea. Find me a grant for it.
A: Whoa. You need this idea not only defined clearly, but planned out. Benchmarks, goals, budget. You need to show that you’ve thought this idea through from concept to consummation and sales. A grant isn’t just money to tide you over. It’s an investment by the grantor, and just like you’d have to take a well-thought-out plan to a bank for a loan, you have to do the same for a grant. You have to prove yourself and your project. Have your act together before thinking of grants.
Q: Where can I find a grant to get away and write?
A: There are many retreats available to writers. They are everywhere. Mountains and coast, rural and urban, lofts and ranches, Europe and North America, school or nonschool affiliated. Each has different requirements as well. I try to post as many retreats as possible in FundsforWriters and TOTAL FundsforWriters (especially in TOTAL) to show writers how many opportunities actually exist. But you can also subscribe to Alliance of Artists Communities. It’s inexpensive ($25 and up depending on the membership) and is the most comprehensive resource of artists communities (i.e., retreats) on the Web.
Q: Where can I find a grant to go get my MFA or study creative writing/journalism?
A: Grants are not scholarships, and vice versa. Speak to your financial aid department at your school. FastWeb is another outlet for scholarships. And most people do not realize that community foundations offer scholarships. A community foundation is a compilation of small grants managed under one umbrella, limited to a certain, small geographic area. There is a community foundation near you. Google with “community foundation” and your town or county in the search. There are 650+ community foundations in the United States, and you can also find them at this consolidated web page.
Q: I would love to attend a conference, but can’t afford to do so.
A: Ask the conference if it has scholarships/fellowships/grants. Some do not advertise the fact that they do. If you have only part of the cost, consider asking your state nonprofit writing organization for assistance. Each state has one. Also, contact your local arts council, which might have professional development type grant assistance. Also your state arts commission. And there’s nothing wrong with asking for a commercial sponsor. But many conferences have assistance and don’t advertise it. They may also work out a work-study deal with you.
Q: I need a grant to pay an editor to improve my manuscript.
A: Sorry, but I’ve yet to find a grant for that purpose. I have, however, seen a self-published young lady do a Kickstarter campaign to have her book done over with an editor, new cover designed and PR campaign developed.