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Friday, June 15, 2007

Grant Writing for Storytellers: Art of Success

You have a fantastic project in mind and everything is coming together . . .except for the funding. Do you turn to writing grants or do you hope that a leprechaun will arrive at your door with a pot of gold?

I would stick to the grant writing.

Successful Grant Writing:
1. Determine Your Purpose
2. Explore the Possibilities
3. Seek Out Examples
4. Demonstrate Your Commitment
5. Connect with Their Goals
6. Read, Read and Read Again
7. Persist in Applying

Determine Your Purpose
You may understand how you will organize your project. Yet, do you know why you were inspired to pursue the project in the first place? Part of understanding your purpose is so you can connect with other individuals or organizations that share the same purpose.

Let us say you want to provide a storytelling program that meets English curriculum standards and promotes excitement at the same time. You could go to Google or any other search engine on the Internet and type “grants+English+arts” and discover many groups who support your idea. Then you can sift through the search, try other word searches, and decide which groups/individuals you connect with best.

If you still cannot find anything helpful, then you could contact organizations that at least support your goals. You may give a call to the National Council of Teachers of English, especially as their eight-page position statement includes a section on storytelling. Or you may want to email members of the Youth, Educators, and Storytellers (YES!) Alliance from the online roster. As individuals, they may be able to guide you to grants that could work for you.

YES! also has a one-page position statement I could email you upon request concerning the importance of storytelling in education. It may assist in an idea for your purpose or in the actual writing of the grant. Here is one section—
Through storytelling:

  • Connections and understandings are formed about and between the past, present, and future

  • Horizons are broadened

  • Understanding of and empathy towards other races and cultures is increased

  • Auditory processing skills and listening skills are supported and practiced

  • Visualization skills are expanded as children form pictures in their minds

  • Sensory imaging is heightened as all senses are elicited: tasting, touching, smelling, hearing, and feeling

  • Order is brought to students’ worlds through use of thinking skills

  • Decision-making skills are discerned

  • Memory is enhanced and attention spans are stretched

  • Fear of public speaking is reduced

  • Writing skills are strengthened as students examine the structure of a story

  • Characters, events, and settings are brought to life

  • New vocabulary emerges

  • Cultural literacy is conveyed

  • Difficult scientific or mathematical concepts are introduced, explained and explored

  • Students learn core academic skills including math and science as well as language art skills

  • Factual and conceptual curriculum material is effectively and efficiently taught

For more ideas on determining your purpose, you may want to read my previous blog of “Artist Statements: How Storytellers Gain Them” and apply it to the grant writing process.

Explore the Possibilities
Once you have narrowed your search to organizations/individuals with the same purpose, then you can learn more about them. You may want to call a representative and say, “tell me about your organization.” If desired, you could say that you are considering submitting a grant and that you’d like to understand the organization first. Or you can simply be a curious person and not mention anything about grants.

Hopefully, this phone call would consist of listening/asking on your side and the bulk of the conversation coming from their side. Take notes and think how you might be able to apply them in the grant writing.

You may discover that your idea does not match as well to the group as you first thought or you may be more confident in receiving support for the organization.

Seek Out Examples
Now that you have decided which organizations/individuals to submit applications, look at what past recipients have done so to understand the types of projects that attract their attention. Usually, these reports can be available online. Otherwise, you might be able to ask the organization to send a couple examples. Always note how the organization wants you to structure the grants. Deviating from the instructions is grant-writing suicide.

Besides past recipients, you could see general examples of successful grants on numerous how-to websites such at "School Grants: Grant Writing Tips" or at "Social Edge".

Demonstrate Your Commitment
The organization will give you money if they trust you. Most often they must base their trust on your accomplishments.

You do not have to be a super-star in the storytelling world. Something should say, “I am committed to the art.” This could mean that you volunteer through a storytelling guild—whether as a member or as an officer—or that you have organized storytelling events at community venues or even at your own family reunion. Leadership experiences tend to attract more attention for grants due to the high-energy level and coordination required.

Connect with Their Goals
As you choose words in writing the grant, be aware of what words the organization uses to describe their goals. Avoid using the exact words while still acknowledging their goals. This shows that you are interested in more than their funding.

Read, Read and Read Again
Once you put your first draft together, read it aloud. Do you sense a rhythm or flow to your words? Do you feel excited as you read it or does it lack feeling? If it sounds like something a robot could write, then look for ways to pour more of “you” into it.

Allow enough time for several drafts. As you complete a draft, set it down for a day or two and then pick it up again. Share your drafts with family and friends for feedback.

When you feel everything is as perfect as it can be, then you can submit it. If your submission is received at least a week or two early, then the committee can read your application without being rushed or stressed. You will be first on their minds.

Persist in Applying
There was one grant in particular I desperately wanted. The first attempt I was rejected. On the second try, I received it. When I asked the grant committee why I was chosen the second time, I was told that I showed persistence and the kind of determination that they wanted in a recipient. They noted that I did not re-hash the previous application and they could see that I was active in storytelling since the last submission.

I would have tried a third, a fourth, and a even a fifth time had I failed in securing the grant the second time.

Any time I have failed—and it has been many—I reviewed what I could have done differently. Whenever I received another chance, I applied what I learned.

Perhaps this is what the art of grant writing is all about.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance
(801) 870-5799


Tim said...

Another tip: collaborate!
Partner with someone who fits the funder's priorities (a school, a homeless shelter, a museum), especially if they have a larger reputation than you. Letters from partners can be helpful, and sometimes all it takes is a lunch meeting to discuss a project to generate enough enthusiasm for a letter of support.

Professional Storyteller Rachel Hedman said...

I am a big believer in collaboration. The storytelling world does not do enough of it. My thesis for my Masters may address this topic.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman

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