How to Fund an Arts Project with Wyoming Arts Council

Always wanted to do a festival? workshop? program or demonstration? Hunting for someone to teach a new craft or skill to your local fiber arts group? Short on funds for your small arts council or organization?

Then look to the Wyoming Arts Council. A government entity supported by state and federal funding, their goal is to help spread the arts across the state. And they are just as interested in the little guys in rural areas as they are the larger cities. If you have a good idea, you have a chance.

1. Areas of Interest

Wyoming Arts Council has grants available to support a broad variety of projects:

* The Artists Roster of Wyoming artists and groups helps you find people that meet quality standards and who are used to teaching, performing, working with students or special groups.

* WAC recognizes that many areas are "underserved," in remote geographical areas, and they are dedicated to helping small communities that often lack resources.

* In addition to the general public, WAC is interested in programs to reach seniors, disadvantaged youth and people with disabilities. That includes programs in senior centers, healthcare facilities, hospice, pre-schools and correctional programs.

* WAC recognizes the importance of traditional and folk arts. This includes skills, crafts or performance arts related to specific groups or communities (i.e., Basque dances, Native American textile arts). It also includes skills passed from one generation to another (i.e., chair caning, horsehair hitching, basketmaking, quilting).

* WAC has several programs to help individual artists with professional growth and mentorship opportunities.

If you have an idea for a program or activity, but don't know where to begin:

Look at the WAC website first. Go to http://wyoarts.state.wy.us/Grants/Index.aspx.

If you have never applied for a WAC grant, they will need some documentation, such as a DUNS number. How to get started and to apply for the DUNS number can be found on that page. 

Read the Fiscal Year 2013 information carefully. Grant opportunities change year to year; many categories have new names, requirements and deadlines.

Don't expect the WAC to give you the full amount of funds needed for any project. In today's tight times, almost all grants require some type of a match (i.e., 1:1, or dollar for dollar). Some of the match may be "in-kind" (donated volunteer or work time), but more grants are requiring some "cash match." If you are uncertain about this, ask the WAC staff member specifically about the level of cash match. Then you can determine how much you/your group needs to raise from other sources (raffles, chili suppers, car washes, community donations or an existing budget).

2. Turning Your Idea into a Proposal

If you have difficulty telling which grant would best match what you want to do, call WAC. They will walk you through the process to help you find the best fit. Each grant lists the individual who can best help with a particular grant and the contact information.

If you are computer-challenged, find a friend, a child of a friend, a teacher — someone who can help by either teaching you the basics or filling in the online application. (Or update your skills by taking a computer class.) Although online forms may seem daunting, they are far easier than "the old days" when grant applications required a stack of paper and a trip to the post office.

Don't be too concerned about your writing skills. You want the spelling to be correct and the sentences grammatical. But those who read the grants are looking for good ideas not fanciful prose.

If you are having difficulty getting started, try saying what you want to do out loud, as if you were telling a friend about your project. Type it out as you speak. When you think you have said everything, look it over. Have you said the same thing in several ways? Can you make it simpler? Reorganize it with the most important points first. Give each point its own paragraph for easy reference. This draft can help you as you fill out the online form. Because of the way the online form is organized and the limited number of characters on some questions, you will not be able to use what you have written in its entirety. But you may find that you can pull entire sentences from your draft to use in the form.

Try to think from the WAC point of view. Novices usually think in terms of explaining why they want to do the project. But the real question should be why would the WAC want to fund this project? How does the project match up with their stated goals? Once that point is made, you can address how your goals match theirs.

The WAC online system allows you to change and correct before you submit your proposal. You can view the entire proposal, along with the questions, just before you submit. If at all possible, run out a copy. Do not submit the final copy for at least a day. Re-read it. Ask yourself:

* Does the answer you wrote really answer the question that is asked? It is really common for the answer to miss the question. Your answer may address an important issue, but if it doesn't answer the real question, delete and rewrite.

* Have you answered this in another question? If so, do you need to move or change your answers? Often, an answer may actually fit in two places; be certain that it applies in both. Since your answer space is limited, you may be able to delete it from one question and give yourself space to make another important point.

* Did you leave any important information out? (Refer back to your first draft.)

* Remember, no words are sacred. Your goal is to be easily understood. Learn to edit your copy; be cruel to yourself. Make sentences short and simple. Even an experienced editor edits copy at least three times.

Have a colleague or friend read your proposal before you submit it. The WAC will also read a draft of your proposal if you submit it by a certain time. If that service is available for your specific grant, the draft deadline will be specified, along with the actual deadline. Their input can be very valuable. Listen carefully to what they say and don't argue. (Yes, I've actually heard people do it.) But if you have not made a case to the draft reader, you probably won't have a chance with the final readers.

Above all, don't get discouraged, and don't give up. 

If you don't get a grant the first time, talk to the WAC contact. Ask about the weak points, what you can do to strengthen the project. They have seen hundreds of arts projects, and they know what others have done and what has been successful.