I hope I see you tonight at Chicago Artists Coalition! Granted: Crafting a Winning Proposal, starts at 5:30 with a panel discussion and is followed by sold-out one on one application reviews. I'm excited to join some local art heroes for an artists' Q & A after the formal grant-makers panel (ask me about my budgets).
Update: I thought I'd include some of the best advice that came out of this panel, from the artists and also the granting organizations.
The maybe-obvious but never-over-stated suggestions:
Ask questions about your application--well ahead of time!
Double check budgets.
Submit early, especially if it's an electronic application.
Other excellent tips:
Show your commitment to the project. This could mean including personal financing in your budget, or by already having started it (at least in a small way). For last year's DCASE application specifically, there was a question that asked whether you would complete the project even if you didn't get the grant. While this wasn't explicitly stated–and I assume wouldn't be a deal-breaker anyway–it seems a good idea to say yes to this kind of thing ('cause you would, wouldn't you?).
It's completely acceptable to get in touch after a rejected application to ask what you could have done differently (not something I've ever done but will try to start).
Build a relationship with the organization and the people who work there, even if you don't get the grant. Allyson Esposito, Director of the Cultural Grants Program at DCASE, talked about receiving invitations to shows and email updates from some applicants even after they'd been rejected from that year's grant cycle, and how she finds that kind of relationship-building incredibly valuable.
Contrary to most visual art applications, grant panels often read statements before they look at images, so be sure that your writing makes sense on its own.
Juries and panels are often made up of people from many cultural fields (art, music, dance, etc.) so again with the writing making sense–your readers may have different vocabularies, so be as straight-forward and jargon-free as possible.