There comes a point in every young non-profit employees’ life when they must come to the terms with fact that money rules the world. I’m not happy with this fact, but I am realizing that in order to do what I want to do (i.e. educate the public, promote creativity, spark imagination, etc) I have to find a way to fund it! This semester I may or may not have overloaded myself with academic and professional commitments. I’m taking 5 courses, researching for a 35 page thesis, working as a teaching assistant 10+ hours a week, and pursuing a paid internship at the New York State Historical Association (NYSHA). Little did I know that a majority of these experiences would end up involving that funny little thing that has a way of factoring into everything – money.
I have had little to no experience with grants in my life thus far. While interning at the American Library Association I was put in charge of reviewing summative program data and final grant reports and compiling this information into a giant report for important people. Sound complicated? It wasn’t, but I also didn’t learn a heck of a whole lot about what exactly a grant is. This semester, as part of my teaching assistant position, I am helping the Cooperstown Graduate Program write a letter of intent for a grant called ArtPlace. Additionally, for my internship, I am in charge of creating a feasibility report that outlines whether or not NYSHA should create an iPad or online elementary level textbook for state history. In the first month of my project, through research and interviews, I determined that it not only was it feasible, but that we could start applying for grant money now.
With no prior grant knowledge, this semester is shaping up to be an amazing experience for me. Here are a few things that I’ve learned so far:
- Vocabulary – There are a lot of terms that work their way into grant writing. I’m helping to write a Letter of Intent (LOI) for ArtPlace (that’s like a pre-grant application, you have to apply to apply for the grant) and I am helping to come up with a planning grantfor NYSHA (money to fund the planning of a project in the hopes of gaining more money down the road because of successful planning). Wowza.
- Collaboration – Working with other non-profits when you are fundraising is a must. The ArtPlace grant encourages multiple community organizations to apply for grants together. SUNY Oneonta, NYSHA, the Glimmerglass Festival, and the Otsego Land Trust will all be working on a project that is mutually beneficial to all. Together we hope to be granted money to fund art based initiatives involving nature, history, and music in Cooperstown and the surrounding area. Over at NYSHA, I recently interviewed a CGP alum who is currently working at the Ohio Historical Society. OHS recently created an online textbook called Ohio As America and we will be getting advice from them about the process they went through over the past year. Without their help, we wouldn’t have known that a planning grant might be our best option. Teamwork makes the dream work!
- Playing the Game – A lot of grant writing (in my humble opinion) seems to be about explaining what you want, and what the end result will be, as beautifully and in the least amount of words as possible. For example, I had to explain all the federal funding that four organizations applied for and received in the past year that relate to a current project proposal… in 50 words! Sometimes this feels like an impossible challenge, but it reminds me of all the college and graduate school applications we had to fill out in the past ten years. I’ve come this far – what’s a little word-smithing going to hurt?!
Stay tuned – surely there will be more grant-inspired adventures in my future!