Host: Garrett Shatzer (@garrettshatzer)

Grants are something that artists across all disciplines wrestle with, and I also do it professionally. We’re changing #musochat up a bit this week as I’ll primarily act as a resource for questions you may have. I’ll also ask questions of my own to shape the conversation a bit and perhaps get you thinking about aspects of the grant process you may not have previously considered.


Welcome to #musochat! We’ll be talking about grants. First, a few words about me and how we’re changing things up a bit this week. After a PhD in composition, I chose to forego academia in favor of arts admin. In addition to writing grants for myself, I’ve been in charge of grants for the Association of CA Symphony Orchestras, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and, currently, Oakland Symphony. I by no means know everything! And while some of what I say will be more opinion than fact, it comes from experience. Use me as a resource tonight! Either tweet questions, or if you’d like 140+, go here. Let’s begin!

  • Q1: Introduce yourself by approximating how many grants you apply for per year & whether you think that number is good/low/high.
  • Q2: Where do you look for grants? Do you search not just by field (music) but also by location & subject matter of your project?
  • Q3a: In your application, how do you balance Narrative vs. Statement of Facts? Do you argue for your project or just define it?
  • Q3b: How do you change your approach, if at all, depending on who the panel is? Tip: never assume they know anything about music.
  • Q4: How do you balance what YOU will get out of the grant vs. what THEY (i.e. the funders) will get by supporting you?
  • Q5: How do you decide which supplemental materials to use? How do you weigh what they ask for vs. your Best Foot Forward?
  • Q6: What are some ways you make your grant stand apart from the pile? Do you ever reach out to the funders ahead of time?
  • Q7: What are some tips/practices that YOU have found to work well in your own writing/applying?

Responding to the questions received ahead of the chat:

  • Do I need to line up performers BEFORE I get a grant? Because it seems like it’s easier to say, “I’ve got $XXXX, will you play my piece”? 
    I suggest always having your project completely planned before applying. Funders don’t like question marks.
  • Can you hire third parties to search/write grants for you? (For, say, 20% of the take?)
    You should not hire a grant writer on commission basis because funders want to see how their $ is spent.
  • What are organizations really looking for when reading your grant proposals?
    Funders want first and foremost to advance THEIR cause with YOUR project.
  • How much time do you spend writing a grant?
    Make no mistake, grants take a LONG time to put together. I never spend less than a week on one.

And finally, thirteen grant-writing tips:

  • Tip 1: Visit the websites of arts nonprofits in your area (e.g. museums, theaters) to see who is funding them. Follow those leads.
  • Tip 2: If your project is based on climate change, investigate foundations that deal w/ climate change for out-of-the-box sources. These types of organizations love projects that get their message OUT, so music and the arts can be very attractive.
  • Tip 3: Unless you’ve been performed by Yo Yo Ma or LA Phil, listing collaborators is often a waste of valuable space. Be honest with yourself about how much name recognition everyone has. Listing “nobodies” (me included!) only hurts.
  • Tip 4: Add love/joy into your app whenever possible. Show that passion that got you into music! Loosening up your language helps.
  • Tip 5: It is absolutely vital to CONNECT with funders. Make them CARE about what you’re doing, not just be impressed by it.
  • Tip 6: READ THEIR MISSION STATEMENT. (Haha, sorry, got excited there.) But seriously, that’s where you should start.
  • Tip 7: Use EXCERPTS from pieces/performances, and ALWAYS skip to the most exciting part. All about First Impressions in SECONDS.
  • Tip 8: Recording. Quality. Matters. #HardTruth A good recording is a GREAT investment. And composers: Never submit MIDI. Never.
  • Tip 9: In your budget, list in-kind services! Friend design your flyer? List it! Friend going to record the performance? List it!
  • Tip 10: Relationships matter! Reach out to funders well before applying so they’re expecting your application.
  • Tip 11: Make your app look PROFESSIONAL. Think of it like a score. Visuals matter. Use headings, indents, etc. to make it clean.
  • Tip 12: Talk about your audience — i.e. who your project will reach. That’s often extremely important to funders –> COMMUNITY.
  • Tip 13: FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. I know many foundations that receive so many apps that they’ll ax you immediately if you go astray.

Read the full discussion on Storify.