Winning grants: Barrie Brennan


Writing applications is a game. It is a game that I want to win so that my organisation, the Australian Country Music Foundation, receives grant money to prepare statements of significance and carry out preservation. There are rules the funding board sets out for you and then there are the rules you make for yourself.

1. Learn their rules, ie instructions for writing the application. Read them very carefully. Break them and you are probably out in the first round, eg if they limit the application to x pages, do not send x + 1 pages.

2. Draw on the skills of your team. Some are good compiling statistics and finding out about expenditure/income, while others chase up information on the Net.

3. Put the application together is the task of one person. That’s the person who finds out who the judges are, and who won the funds last year. This is the person who finds out about the history of the award/grant.

4. There is no point having a ’standard’ response. The same question may be asked in every application: ‘What is the main feature of your museum/gallery?’ But your answer should vary in each application.

5. Adopt an approach to encourage the judges to read your whole application (that’s a must). Make them enjoy it, be convinced by it and have a positive feeling about your organisation, that it is ’special’?

What makes your place important to your members and locals may not have the same impact on those judging applications from all over Australia. They may not have heard of your community or know where it is. So ensure they provide that information in a subtle way.

Sell but don’t oversell your museum/gallery. The judges are probably good at detecting any outlandish claims.

6. You never really know how much attention is given to all the attachments that may be requested. Assume they are all read word for word. You need to ensure that the attachments do not contradict what is claimed in the application itself.

7. Ensure all those involved in using the grant money are supportive of the application. It is not good to win the grant and then have no enthusiasm for the funded project.

8. Keep good records of the material you collect to write a grant – from the figures of visitor numbers to the support letter from your local MP.

9. Make some preliminary arrangements to have press releases and interviews with the local paper and radio/TV people when the winning bids are announced. Have an announcement prepared in draft ready for release. (This is both presumptious and cheeky but helpful!)

10. If you don’t win this time, find out who did and ask them for a copy of their application. Even if you don’t win, make losing a learning experience.

For more advice on how to apply for grants, email Barrie Brennan

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