How to get a grant: top tips

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 Thousands of artists apply for grants every year. How do you make sure your application stands out? Michelle Silby, the director of Ausdance NSW and Executive Director of Ausdance Victoria, the peak bodies for dance in each state, has been facilitating grants for more than 15 years. Here, she shares her tips to achieving an outstanding application.

1. Time is of the essence.
Please be aware of what grants are available and their timelines. You must allow plenty of time – and then some – to form your project ideas, create a thorough outline and engage with other artists and art professionals. The outline is key to your project and to sharing it with other professionals. Make sure to leave time for artists to get back to your emails and to find out what speaks strongly to them. If your project involves others, contact them several months before of the application closing date. Allow enough time to talk them through your ideas thoroughly, to make changes, accept their help, and work on aspects of the project that don't speak to them.

 2. Criteria, Criteria, Criteria!
You know the phrase “don’t fit a round peg into a square hole”? This applies to grant applications. If your project does not line up with the grant criteria perfectly, either find another grant or an alternative income stream – such as fundraising or crowdfunding. If you are unsure if your project fits the criteria, call the funding body and speak to the grants officer.

 If you are still unsure, here is a useful process. Get a pack of highlighters and assign one colour per criteria item. Give your application to a friend; have your friend highlight every sentence that addresses a particular criteria. You should aim to have an equal amount of colour across the application.

 3. (Un)supportive material
Support material that is not actually supportive can kill an application. I have seen and read countless applications in my time, including their support material. It really lets an application down when the material is not relevant to the project or is unclear or poorly put together. Think about what you are planning to present and how best to show it through your support material and, of course, allow plenty of time to achieve this.

Don’t expect the assessors to do all the work and find links. Make a digital PDF with links so assessors can get to your support material in one click. Lastly, if they ask for only 10 minutes footage, only give them 10 minutes. Assessors only have a certain amount of time to look at an application. Make sure those video links work!

If you want to have some grant advice from Michelle herself, feel free to become a member of Ausdance. For more information, head to She is available for grant advice and auspicing for any Australian state.

 The photo is from a creative development of 'Cella', by Narelle Benjamin, which was auspiced by Ausdance NSW. Pictured are Benjamin and Paul White photographed by Pippa Samaya.


On not getting a grant


A word from Adrian Burnett, Director of Dance at the Australia Council.

Adrian Burnett
Adrian Burnett

“I can understand why people become disheartened – it's a tough road being a non-mainstream artist.

 “I always say that, if you're passionate about your work and your art form, [not getting funding] is not a reason to not make work. It can be a barrier, but there are multiple avenues for support. The Australia Council is just one of them. Support can be financial but it can also be in terms of space, expertise, knowledge support, digital [fundraising] platforms and such things. I'm not telling everyone to go and crowd fund, but there are other avenues beyond a traditional application process.

"The Australia Council is not for everyone. And like a job interview, there are set criteria. If you don't meet the criteria it will not happen compared with another application that does meet the criteria. We can either work with you to try and help you navigate other avenues or make your application more competitive next time.”

For a full interview with Adrian Burnett, see the August/September issue of 'Dance Australia'. Buy it at your favourite magazine retailer or subscribe HERE, or purchase an online copy via the Dance Australia APP.




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