Grant Writing for Individual Artists: Writing a Project Description

Creating Your Project Description

Each component of your grant writing toolkit is equally important and provides critical information about you and your work. But the project description, which is the hub around which all of the other components revolve, is where you are making your case for support – and it needs to be clear, compelling and illustrative of your ideas.

 

What is a project description for grant writing?

A project description for grant writing provides a project’s goals and objectives, and all relevant details about how you will achieve them through its creation, production, and performance. It’s different from an artistic statement, which describes the conceptual meaning and purpose behind your work. And while you can and should include information on the conceptual underpinnings of your project in the project description, this is just one small part of your overall description, which should include as much detailed, tangible information about the project as possible. Remember that you’re writing it to convey your ideas to a funder or grant panel that may not know your work, so it should be clear, succinct and should not assume any prior familiarity with your work. 

 

What kinds of questions should a project description answer?

Below are a list of writing prompts for your project description. You don’t need to answer every question, but you should try to incorporate any of them that are relevant to your project.

What – Describe your project and what it is you want to do.

  • What is your primary goal – i.e.,to choreograph a new work? To reprise an existing work? To stage a play? Be clear about your goal and explicitly state it for the reader.
  • Do you have other goals for your project? What are they? For example, your primary goal might be to choreograph a new work, but your secondary goals might be to tour it to two additional cities and do residencies at community-based organizations with each engagement. 
  • What inspired you to create your project? What are your major influences? Name them.
  • What is your artistic vision for the project?
  • What is your artistic process for the project?
  • What are other production elements, i.e., original score or an existing piece of music, lighting design, production or, costume design, etc.
  • Are there any educational components to the project?
  • Are there any social components to the project? Why are they relevant now?
  • What are the outcomes that you expect from this project?

Who – Describe who is involved in the project, and who you’re creating it for, whether that is a specific audience or the general public.

  • How many performers are there? Have you worked with them before (is this an ensemble piece)? 
  • Who are your artistic and technical collaborators (set design, costume design, lighting design, sound design, composer, playwright, technical director)? Name them. Have you worked with them before?
  • Are there other collaborators – i.e., presenters, community organizations?
  • Is your project being created for a specific audience (i.e., is it for a K-12 school-based audience? For seniors?)?
  • Are there funders, venues, presenters that have already committed financial, commissioning or in-kind support for your project? 

When – Describe the timing for the creation, rehearsal and production of your project.

  • What is your timeline for the project? Define it – i.e., 8 months or 12 months.
  • Is any portion of it complete, using previously created material, or is it an entirely new creation?
  • When will it be in development? In rehearsal?
  • When will it be performed? Include dates.

Where – Describe where the project will take place. 

  • Where will you be developing/rehearsing your project? 
  • Where will it be performed? Do you have a confirmed venue/presenter and if so, where and when? If you don’t have a confirmed venue, are there other potential venues you’re exploring or negotiating with? What are they?
  • Are there other possibilities for performance? Will it tour; are there additional venues? 
  • Are there other possibilities for virtual performance? Will it be live streamed, or is there a virtual life after the live performance?

Funders want to know if this project will have life beyond its initial performance. They also want to make sure that they are investing their grant funds into a real project at a known venue with dates.

Why – Describe why your project should be supported. This is your opportunity to make a compelling case for why the funder should support your project.

  • How will this project advance your career? How will this grant advance your career?
  • How does this project relate to your previous work?
  • Why is this grant important to you at this stage in your career?
  • Why is this project important?
  • Are there community benefits or impacts of the project?

Because much of what you put into your project description will be expanded upon in other components of your Grant Writing Toolkit, such as your Timeline or Community Impact statements, you need to make sure that everything in your project description is in alignment with all of the other components. For example, if your project description says that you will be rehearsing for 8 weeks followed by a performance in October, your timeline needs to say the same thing.

This is especially important for your project budget, which is a financial representation of your project description. All of the performers, artistic and technical collaborators, rehearsal space, set and properties, costumes and other items listed in your project description must also be included in your project budget. 

 

Give yourself plenty of time to write, edit and rewrite drafts of the project description

After you’ve drafted a project description that you feel comfortable with, put it aside – and then revisit it a few days later. Make any edits, and then ask a friend or collaborator to review and critique it – listen to their feedback. Remember, your goal is to draft language that others can easily understand. Check back in with your project description every few months to make any updates, including changes to artistic personnel, venues, performance dates. Once you have a solid draft, you can tailor it to use for other grants and the language can also be used in media releases, on your website, in social media, and for program copy.

 

NEXTSTEPS GUEST AUTHOR: SUSAN LATHAM | 11.30.20

Susan Latham is a professional fundraiser with experience in the performing arts, human services and higher education. She is a member of Pentacle’s Board of Directors.

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Pentacle’s nextSteps is supported, in part, by public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Pentacle receives private support for nextSteps from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and The Howard Gilman Foundation.

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