Nobody likes a “needy” person, least of all funding organizations. Although you will never actually write on the application, “This project will happen with or without this grant,” this is the attitude that you must foster; it will be reflected in the language you choose and in your budget.
Granting organizations want to fund writers who take responsibility for their own success and who are not always waiting for something else to take their work forward. Therefore, your application must convey that you are so devoted to your project that you will ensure that, no matter what, your project will come to fruition.
Think about it: if there are two writers who both have talent but one has chutzpah and the other doesn’t, who is going to receive funding? Chances are it’s the writer with chutzpah who will get the money because, no matter what, she will persevere.
How do you show this attitude on the application? One way is through the use of verb tense. For example, when you are editing, delete any conditional verbs. Change all “coulds” “shoulds” and “woulds” to “can,” “shall” and “will,” as appropriate.
Readers of your grant should feel that your project is already happening or is at least well on its way. Your answers should enable a reviewer to hear, feel, smell, see and, if possible, taste your project. But hey, if you make your living as a writer, this skill is in your toolkit. Use it in your grant applications like you use in your short stories or creative nonfiction.
Another way to show your grit is in your budget. If the application has a budget form, it will probably have a line to note other grants you’ve applied for. Nobody likes to be the first one or the only one to finance. In the best case, you will have already received money from another source. Funders feel more secure when they see that other individuals or groups have already contributed to your project.
Next month, we’ll discuss the details of how to show your determination in your budget. For now, try this month’s assignment: What actions can you take to make your project more “real”? Is there anything about the project you can put into motion and write about in your application? Now change the conditional verbs to present or future tense and see how this enlivens your application.
Gigi Rosenberg writes about motherhood, relationships and the writing life. Her latest essay “Signora” appears in the Seal Press anthology The Maternal is Political. Her work has been published in Parenting, Writer’s Digest, The Oregonian, The Jewish Review and featured on Oregon Public Broadcasting. Gigi coaches writers on how to read to an audience. She is currently writing Get Your Art into the World: How to Fund Your Creative Endeavors a book to supplement her national workshops on grant writing.