Let’s run down a list of common mistakes and their respective solutions.
Mistake #1: Incoherent, sloppy writing
We have seen plenty of applications that read as if they were written, last minute, by a Benzedrine-addled Beat Generation writer. This is not the place for stream-of-consciousness writing—it should be constructed with carefully chosen words.
While this may not get your application thrown out right out of the gate, if panelists are comparing two similar projects and one is simply has a better use of language than yours, it could easily get thrown out of the running.
This may seem simple, but can’t really be stated enough. Review your work before submission. A week may not seem like a long time, but you can fit in plenty of time to read over your application carefully, again and again.
Here is my own step-by-step proofreading process.
- Proofread your application once on your own.
- Make the changes
- Take a break from it for a little bit.
- Return to the application and proofread again.
- Make the changes.
- Give a copy of your application (and the grant guidelines as well) to a trustworthy, intelligent friend (and maybe offer to buy him/her a drink to sweeten the deal—you may get a quicker turnaround and better feedback).
- Make changes based on your friend’s feedback.
- Repeat this process as much as possible before submitting and use another friend the second time around. Feel free to mess around with the order
Pretty easy right? This process can also catch some of the following mistakes.
Mistake #2: “Hmm…it looks like this applicant did not read the guidelines…at all.”
“Oh. I see about 75% of your expenses are going toward the purchase of a Moog® Sub 37 Analog Synthesizer. Those are super amazing machines and I wish I had one as well. Too bad equipment purchases are forbidden as per the QAF guidelines.”
Things like this, or mentioning that your production is slated for a Manhattan performance in your application, or really anything that goes directly against the guidelines shows a lack of careful reading on the applicants part. This = bad.
Solution: Carefully read the guidelines alongside your application
Mistake #3: Budget numbers don’t add up/ask amount exceeds $5,000/does not show 25% of expenses covered by non-QAF income
Overlapping with Mistake #2, presenting a grant request amount that exceeds $5,000 shows either a disregard for the guidelines or a lack of care when constructing your budget. Sometimes applicants discuss a group of collaborators in the narrative section, but in the budget they are not even mentioned.
Solution: Compare your budget with your answers to the narrative questions, re-do your budget
This is more or less “number-proofreading.” Heck, you may catch these problems when taking care of Mistake #1.
Any people/items/venues that are mentioned in the narrative need to be addressed in the budget (and vice versa as well). Compare these sections. If these items are being covered financially in some other way, this needs to be clearly explained. Don’t leave panelists with any questions, because you will not be at the panel meeting to answer them.
For an example of the 25% rule: If you have $9,000 in total expenses then you need to show a total income of at least $2,250, which is 25% of $9,000. Check your math!
Mistake #4: Poor work samples
Unless your vinyl-covered, split-pea-colored loveseat is relevant to your proposed project, do not use it as a stage when photographing your lovely painting. This kind of thing is distracting and unprofessional. Sometimes an audio sample of what should be choral music, sounds more like a Library of Congress field recording of buffalo from 1893.
Remember a key criteria—especially for individual artists—is the quality and artistic merit of submitted work samples. Lead with your best foot forward.
Solution: Choose the best and most relevant work samples.
And re-do them if they are not of great quality. No blurry pictures. No weird shadows of your body cast over your work. If you have trouble with technical aspects here, i.e. uploading and file format issues, let us know.
If photographing: Find a nice clean space instead with decent lighting, and crop your photos to best present your art objects.
If recording music/sound: Use a decent microphone and not your cell phone’s microphone.
If the sample is literary: There are not often issues with this. It should be typed and not handwritten, I suppose. Just make sure it’s the writing that best exemplifies your talent and work.
You can reach Lynn at 347-505-3015 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
BONUS TIP: As a (very) generalized breakdown, QAF funds are really reserved for about four things: Peoples’ time/effort, advertising/promotion, Venues/spaces/studios, and supplies (consumables that only go towards the creation of the proposed project is a decent definition of “supplies”). This is true for all four of the grants QCA offers. Keep in mind, I said “generalized!”