Many people know the disappointment of not receiving a grant. Funding providers begin their email of unsuccess with a paragraph or two about the huge number of applicants and the small number of grants allocated.
So we know from the outset our chances of success are small. Yet we still invest considerable time (our own and also others’ time through their involvement in writing letters of recommendation and helping us with our research).
What do we gain through our applications, aside from the obvious – experience in writing applications?
Clarity of project – your can’t tell someone else about your project unless you have a clear definition of what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it and when you see yourself doing it.
The applicant may have many ideas about what they could be doing, what they would like to be doing, and it is the focus of meeting the criteria of a funding application that consolidates those ideas into one workable business plan.
In writing the budget that is required in an application they learn about the viability of their project. As they research the elements of the budget, they consider how the items will fit together to become a strong and complete toolbox to use to achieve their goals.
They may discover several ways to achieve the same result and, through the investigation into the ability of each to meet their needs, they may find other features that skew their designs in new directions as they consider new possibilities. And so the project definition is honed further.
Each step taken in the preparation of the application refines the process into a stronger plan, increasing the chances of success.
So what happens when that letter or email arrives, telling you (in the second paragraph) that unfortunately your application was unsuccessful this time?
For me, there was a moment (or two) of disappointment. Even an irrational thought that I shouldn’t have begun by scanning the letter for the word “unfortunately”.
Then a moment of guilt, when I realised that during the waiting period I had already started taking some of the steps laid out in my project plan – even though the guidelines clearly stated the project must start at the beginning of the next year.
And this was followed by the question, “Did I really need the grant?”!
Of course I did! Why else would I have applied?
But I didn’t get the grant!
Sure, I can apply again next round, but I don’t want to wait until then. Life is too short to put everything on hold!
And besides, I have a clear vision of what I want to achieve and a concise business plan with steps laid out to follow. The funding may not be coming from the grant I had applied for, but
– perhaps it could be sourced from somewhere else
– or maybe I could do some tweaking to my goals or plan
– some compromise may be called for; I was able to make a plan once.
Ok, that plan didn’t get the dough, but – why didn’t it?
Ah! That is the question…
And to find the answer any applicant can, not only read the panel’s report to see what worked for the winning applicants; they can also phone the funding body to discover the strengths and weaknesses of their document thus informing their next application.
And – as a footnote – it didn’t hurt my mood to have recently received a short listing in a competition and an acceptance to my application to exhibit my work at a new venue next year – and in a new format.
The moral being: keep submitting and applying and keep developing your work. With strong forward momentum, we’ll get there.