Free Money

Free Money

Do you fancy some free money? All it costs is some time.

I’m currently working a couple of days a week in an employed capacity, offering grant advice to churches. Many church buildings in my area date back six, seven, eight or more centuries, which means they’re important enough to warrant being registered as a listed building: acknowledged by the State as being of architectural importance to the country. Which means, when they need repairing (because when you’re 700 years old you do tend to start sagging in places), the repairs often cost more than the people in the parish can afford to pay.

And that’s where I come in. I help these parishes apply for grant funding – free money, effectively – to help them raise enough cash to undertake the repairs.

What’s this got to do with writing? Well, it is possible to apply for grant funding for some writing projects. (I’m not saying there are funders out there who are prepared to prop up the sagging parts of a 700-year-old writer.) But, if you’re struggling to get a project off the ground, perhaps because you can’t afford time off work, or you can’t afford to undertake the travel needed to do the research, there is a way you could overcome this. A grant.

Burhana Islam (https://www.browngirlscribbling.com) is an English teacher by day and a hermit writer by night. She’s been a mentee in the Penguin Random House WriteNow scheme, designed to support writers from under-represented communities. Her project, titled Sticks and Stones, is inspired by the three-year-old Syrian refugee, Aylan Kurdi. He drowned in 2015 when his family and other refugees attempted to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, and his death made headlines around the world.

Burhana Islam

‘I found out about the Authors Foundation Award,’ says Burhana, ‘after a fellow WriteNow Alumni, Nazneen Ahmed, mentioned that she received a grant. Getting funding in that capacity seemed outside my realm of possibility as I had no previous writing credentials other than the mentorship itself, but I thought I’d apply anyway as the worst that could happen was rejection. I could deal with that.’

The next step Burhana took was to check the scheme’s criteria.

‘The awarding scheme was right for me and my project,’ says Burhana, ‘as it recognises the value of time needed for a work-in-progress project and rewards it. From research, I saw that the grant also wanted to support those who were working on specific themes such as racial understanding, poetry, magical realism and the likes. Since Sticks and Stones deals with the issue regarding race, I thought I’d stand a better chance too.’

Despite researching online about how best to complete a grant application form, Burhana found the scheme’s guidance notes were the most useful.

‘The application process wasn’t as difficult as I thought initially would it be. In all, I spent two days writing and proofreading the application endlessly. I spent some time Googling what was needed for a successful grant application and, in the end, gave up on that completely and instead read the information pack carefully, highlighting key words and phrases when necessary. After writing each paragraph, I checked that I’d addressed each bullet point the pack referred to.’

Take time to read through the guidance notes and think about how you can meet the required conditions of the scheme. 

It was time well spent. Burhana was awarded the grant funding she asked for. It’s also given her something else, though: validation, as a writer.

‘The award has given me the most valuable thing of all: time. Being a teacher, as well as having responsibilities at home, makes it difficult to fit in time to write, but because of the grant, I can really work on something that means the world to me. The Society of Authors supports writers from all walks of life and this opportunity is not only a much-needed confidence boost, but it almost feels like it validates my own aims of getting a marginalised voice out to readers, one that needs be heard in this day and age. Truth be told, I cannot be more grateful for that.’

Funding Tips

  • Read all the eligibility criteria and guidance notes.
  • Explain how you’ve arrived at the grant figure you’re applying for. Get quotes for travel/accommodation costs, training courses, or show evidence of your monthly outgoings that you need to meet.
  • Adhere to any word counts, and only send relevant supporting documents.
  • Sell yourself. Grant funding is limited. Why should the funders chose you?
  • Give yourself time to complete the application form.
  • Get someone else to read it through. Do they understand what you’re applying for and why?
  • Submit your application in plenty of time.
  • Remember to acknowledge funders in any specific projects they’ve helped you with.

Applying for a grant could make the difference between a writing project proceeding, or not happening at all. Despite money being tight, there are still funders out there willing to consider supporting writers for a specific project.

Grant Funders

The Society of Authors (https://www.societyofauthors.org/Grants) distributes over £360,000 every year through various grant schemes aimed at supporting works in progress, or helping out writers in financial difficulty.

Arts Council England (https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/applying-grants-arts) considers applications from writers seeking amounts of £1,000 or more for projects as diverse as professional development, publishing, and research and development.

Arts Council Wales (http://www.arts.wales/funding/individuals) accepts applications from creative individuals looking to develop their careers and earn a sustainable living from their work.

Creative Scotland (https://www.creativescotland.com/funding/funding-programmes/open-project-funding) offers funding to help individuals develop skills, or create something new.

Arts Council Northern Ireland (http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/funding-for-individuals) offers a range of schemes for individual artists.

Royal Literary Fund (https://www.rlf.org.uk/helping-writers/applying-for-help/) offers help to writers in financial difficulties, who’ve published several commercial works.

Good luck!

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