Whether you’re a non-profit organization or not, I’m sure you’ve heard that grant funding is kind of a big deal.

Most non-profit museums depend on grant money for programming, exhibits, and even operational support. That grant money is quite literally a life line for around 30,000 museums throughout the U.S.

A variety of organizations award grant money and can include private family foundations, businesses, public charities, and all levels of government.

At Edwards Creative, we’re all about providing you with resources aimed at helping you and your museum get to where you want to be! So we’ve compiled this list for some useful tips to guide you through a successful grant-writing experience.

Join Email Lists.

Will you have a fuller inbox? Yes. But there are so many hidden gems, such as those from The Center for the Future of Museums Blog, Blogs at AAM, and Blogs from IMLS that will let you know about grant opportunities – even grants that you didn’t know existed!

Have a project in mind.

90% of the work for any project isn’t flashy. It happens on paper, in the planning phase. Often times, grant opportunities are announced with little time to meet the deadline. Be sure you’ve thought about a project that will be successful with the grant money you’re asking for and have some of those thoughts and ideas well-documented before you start your grant search.

Don’t wait.

Grant proposals often require a number of supporting documents. Consider having all supporting documents compiled in advance. Most of these documents are standard and are easy to have on file to pull for your application. But make sure they’re up to date! If a letter of support is required, ask for it early and give the person as much information as possible.

Get to know your funders.

Research potential funders and understand their mission. Psssst…it’s okay to do a little bit of internet stalking on your funders… Review past funded projects and how they relate to yours. Connect and network with board members. It’s not always what you know, it’s who you know.

Avoid the Fluff.

Keep your proposal clear and concise. Funding is often extremely competitive, so make the narrative easy to understand. Read your proposal out loud to make sure it flows and is logical. If you are not comfortable with writing, ask for help. It’s okay to have someone else, even a professional, write it for you. Explain, but don’t over-explain.

Be on Time.

Murphy’s Law is real. Plan to run into some bumps in the road as you’re putting your proposal together. You’ll want to submit your proposal few days ahead of time, just in case there is any missing information or documents. Consider setting yourself an internal deadline in order to finish things in advance.

It’s Going to Be Okay if You’re Turned Down.

Inhale…exhale. Unfortunately, the non-profit world is incredibly competitive. And not every institution can receive everything they ask for. Ask for feedback or notes from your funders and take their notes to heart. Apply for the same grant the following year utilizing the feedback. Everyone likes it when guidance is followed.

As we all adjust to the new normal, many museums will continue to face difficult funding decisions. I hope this list serves as a reminder that even though the non-profit world is competitive, there will continue to be opportunities to help further missions, educate communities, and encourage the joy of discovery.

Jason Dornbush
Museum Services Project Manager