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Do's and Don'ts

Top Ten List of Media Grantseeker Do's and Don'ts

Do's Don'ts

Make sure your project is original. Research distributors interested in your topic and read their catalogs. Talk to organizations or individuals who know the subject. Survey selected members of your intended audience. Don't assume your project is original just because you want to produce it.
Research each foundation carefully. Gain a full understanding of each foundation's mission. Take the time to look at what the foundation has funded over the last two years, where it has made grants, and the size of those grants. In your cover letter, ask for an amount within that giving range that will underwrite something specific in your line item budget. For example, if the foundation generally awards grants in the $5,000 range, pick one $5,000 item the grant could cover entirely. Don't be dissuaded by a foundation's lack of experience with media grants, especially if your project looks like a good match. But, if a foundation has no demonstrated interest in your topic or target audience, don't apply.
Try to contact the program officer and see if he/she will discuss your project before you apply to see if it is a potential match. This will probably only work at medium-sized or smaller foundations. Large foundations will want to see a letter of inquiry (LOI). Don't call a program officer too frequently and never ask a question that is already covered in any of the print materials. This is a fast way to have them lose interest in you and your project.
Think about what your project can do for the foundation. Put yourself in the grantmaker's shoes. Why would the organization invest in your project? Discuss how your project can help the organization further their goals. Don't forget that it's the job of foundations to give away money to projects that further their goals. They are looking for the right investments.
Present a complete, well-written proposal. If you're not a great writer, team up with one. Follow the foundation's specific guidelines. Make sure your writing is concise, direct and compelling. Look at A Media Proposal Checklist to see what foundations are looking for in a proposal. Don't forget that defining your audience, outreach and distribution are the most important parts of your written proposal.
Make sure your sample tape and work samples look great inside and out. The tape need not be lengthy, but it should represent you and your work in the best light. Simple attractive packaging is appropriate. If you want the tape returned, be sure to include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Don't send a low-resolution sample tape or work sample if you can possibly avoid it. Grantmakers have limited or no experience in production. They think the final tape will look like the samples you send—so send tapes that put your best foot forward.
Call your program officer after submitting your application but before the panel meets. Make sure the proposal arrived safely and then ask if the program officer has any questions or concerns that you can address. Do not expect the foundation to get back to you with any mistakes a grantmaker finds in your proposal or with any questions that might arise from your narrative or budget.
Call the foundation if your project is rejected. If the program officer will take your call, thank the foundation for considering your proposal, then politely ask for any additional information on why you were rejected or request any panel notes. This feedback can assist you greatly as you write future grants. Never make a follow-up call when you are angry. Never berate a foundation for not granting you funds, and do not try to change their minds.
Send a written thank-you note whether you get the grant or not. Grantseeking is about relationship building. You may apply again or meet the program officer again in your career. Don't hesitate to apply to the same foundation more than once. Every grant cycle is different.

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