How to write a successful quick response grant application

With the surge in quick response grants, thanks to job losses created by COVID-19, more people are applying for grants than ever before. We speak with funding bodies, a grant writer and successful recipients who share their tips.

Recently, I applied for a quick response grant for the first time, and although I am told the process isn’t as overwhelming or daunting as the regular grant application process can be, I wish I had asked more questions and sought additional advice so that I wasn’t left feeling ambivalent about what I wrote.

The immediacy of these grants, with many reaching the artist in a matter of weeks, calls for the applicant to really hone in on why they need the funding now. We’ve asked a variety of arts practitioners involved in COVID-related quick response grants for their tips on how to secure one. 

Check your eligibility

Olivia Power is the marketing and engagement manager at the Helpmann Academy, whose Creative Stimulus Grant Scheme is a four-part program in response to COVID-19, and is running over the next 6 months. She said to make sure you’re applying for the correct grant that suits your needs.

‘My first tip is to make sure you are eligible for the funding before you begin applying,’ she told ArtsHub.

‘All funding bodies have different eligibility requirements. If you’re not sure, contact the funding body to check before you put time and effort into writing the application. Also be sure to have all the documentation and information you need (like proof of eligibility etc) ready, well before the application due date.’

Ask: ‘What’s my purpose?’

Artist Belem Lett was a recent recipient of NAVA’s Artists’ Benevolent Fund and says having a clear intention of why you need the funding now, will help your chances.

‘I would suggest applying only with a very specific reason. It sounds obvious, but just get rid of extraneous information,’ he said. ‘Keep it to the facts: what you’re doing, when, how much it costs etc.

‘I think the direct and clear impact of COVID on my show, and the fallout of it not going ahead as planned, was clear to the Benevolent Fund assessors,’ said Lett.

Power reiterates this. ‘With an application like this [a quick response grant] you need to be extra clear and specific about how this grant will support you right now. Using the “why this, why me and why now” framework will be helpful,’ she told ArtsHub. ‘These applications are generally shorter and give you less chance to argue your case, so you need to be succinct and articulate.’

Read: Are arts grants applications blocked by classist language?

Focus on what’s unique

In the current COVID climate, more people are applying for grants because of job losses, so highlighting your point of difference is important says Kath Melbourne, an arts consultant who also assists individuals and artists with writing grant applications including quick response grants.

‘Make sure that you remember what is unique about your practice,’ she said.’There are going to be other people that are applying who have a very similar trajectory to you. So remember to ask “why you? and why now?”’.

explain covid’s impact on your work

Being upfront about the ways in which COVID has diminished work opportunities and affected your life is helpful when applying for a quick response grant, says Power.

‘If the application asks for it – be really honest about how COVID has affected you – not just how it’s affected your arts practice,’ she said.

‘If you’ve lost your “day job” or had a significant reduction in hours and income, or if you’ve been ineligible to receive government support then you should include that information, it’s really relevant to an application like this. Of course, you should also include details of lost gigs, performances, exhibitions etc.’

 Artist Belem Lett recently received a quick response grant from NAVA. Image supplied.

Leave plenty of time

For artist and curator Sabina McKenna, who recently secured a COVID-19 Quick Response Grant from the City of Melbourne for her online gallery event Hair, getting an application in ahead of time was important.

‘The earlier you get your application in the better, and also the more time you will have to perfect it. There is nothing worse than putting in a truckload of work and then trying to fit it all into the form correctly at crunch time. I am sure, with the volume of applications, that it will avoid any glitches or technical disasters too.’

Keep it concise

Those who have applied for funding before would agree writing a quick response grant is less laborious than applying for other funding streams, although it presents its own challenges. One of these is the ability to keep responses brief, says Melbourne.

‘A lot of these quick response grants required a very condensed form of expression, and that’s not necessarily something that people are familiar with, particularly if they’ve come from an academic background. So it’s really important to let go of your need to give a blow-by-blow narrative description, particularly of your practice and your professional history.

‘It’s really important to get to the guts of that expression upfront, have a middle point, which tells the highlights and then a final sentence which wraps it all together and gives the reader an understanding of where you’re headed with your practice,’  Melbourne continued.

Ask for help

Consulting with others will strengthen your application process, McKenna says. ‘Better to get advice from people who have gone through the process before rather than guessing your way through.’

‘Even though a quick response grant is a much lighter application process, my experience applying for other grants helped me a lot with how to structure and organise the application,’ she says.

‘Before you start writing, speak to as many others who have been successful with creative grant writing as you can. Then regroup when you have a draft to gather more advice on the direction. Doing that the first time will make subsequent applications easier!’

While some people might be intimidated by the process, Amrit Gill, Director, International Development at Australia Council for the Arts, who was working on the recent Resilience Fund grants, said staff are always available to assist with queries.

‘The underlying tip is call us or email us because we’re there to assist the sector,’ Gill explained. ‘We have a team of people at the Australia Council who speak to artists and arts organisations all day every day to help advise applicants on the best stream of funding to apply for.’

Search ArtsHub’s grants page for current funding opportunities.