Introduction to Grants

Before you start applying for grants:

There are some basic things that any organization needs in order to start applying for grants. So have a quick check of our list before you begin to write a grant application, and if you are missing something, put some effort into sorting that out first. It will pay dividends - if you have the proper tools in place, then writing applications each time will become much easier.

You will need:

501(c)3 status - confirmed or pending.

Most grantors, particularly public ones, need to see a copy of the confirmation letter from the IRS with your application. If you want to know how to apply for 501(c)3 status, here are some useful links:

If you decide to form a non-profit, you will need to have a Board of Directors, a set of bylaws, and a Mission Statement. And you will have to keep proper financial records and fill in the IRS paperwork each year to keep your status. Not only will you be able to apply for grants, but you will also be able to accept tax-deductible contributions and matching-gifts from your friends with corporate day jobs!

There's more advice here at the NonProfit Good Practice Guide and a Toolkit for Boards.

If you aren't ready to get 501(c)3 status, then you can ask another organization to be a financial agent for you in order to apply for grants. Some organizations you might try are The Shunpike or Allied Arts Foundation.

Remember that this should really only be a temporary measure until you are up and running properly, and also that your sponsoring organization will want to check out your plans and your application to know that you are organized and efficient, and will be worthy of them lending their name and support to your application.

Mission Statement, Vision and Strategic Plan for your organization.

Clear plans for the project that the grant will support.

A budget (project and/or organizational)

This might all sound like a lot of thinking time and paperwork, when you'd rather just be in the studio rehearsing, but these are all useful tools to have for all kinds of purposes, and to show the world that you have thought seriously about what you are planning to do. Don't be afraid to ask for advice and help with creating your mission statement and your plans. There are lots of dance artists around town who have done all this before, and administrators, consultants and mentors who will be happy to spare the odd hour to discuss your plans with you. You'll find some useful contacts in the Directory or email us at DanceNet if you're stuck!
Also the NEA has created a Planning Toolsite.

A track record.

There are some grant applications which insist that you must have two or more years experience as a non-profit before you can apply for money; mainly public funders for annual grants. But don't despair - most of these grantmakers have alternative funds for projects for which you can apply for as a "start-up" - we've listed the ones who are friendly to artists early in their careers in the first part of our grantmakers list.

Another source of funding.

No grantmaker wants to be your ONLY source of funds. They will want to see pledges or actual funds from several other sources before taking the risk of helping you too. This can be earned income from your last show/class or workshop, or donations from friends or a local business. There just needs to be some proof that people like your ideas and want to share your vision in supporting you and also that you can ask for money successfully (there will be a lot of this!).

Here are some ideas for raising money instead of making a grant application:

  • Throw a party - charge an entrance fee, get your food and drink donated, hold a raffle or ask for additional donations during the evening.
  • Teach a class or several.
  • Propose a workshop or class at a local school or community center for which you get a fee.
  • Write a letter - as well as asking people for money, you can tell them what your plans are and introduce yourself.
  • Ask your friends and the friends of friends. The people who are closest to you will always be the first ones to give you support, and personal contacts count for a lot.