Now that I have a long-term project based on HJ Andrews Experimental Forest underway, I thought that I may as well make this BIG. However, making things big is difficult for a few reasons: 1) My studio is not big; 2) My cash flow is also what you can consider ‘not big.’
So, the logical step is not to scale things down, but to make some not big things bigger. Step one is trying to find the funds for this project. I dusted off the grant writing book and got to work.
One thing that I was unprepared for was how many uncomfortable feelings about money come bubbling to the surface when money comes into the equation. Money is a big issue and I don’t feel very comfortable when I need to ask people for it. Some deep-seeded belief in me gives voice to a nagging idea that says that asking for money is a sign of weakness. That is not a good way to start a grant application.
I’ve decided to assemble a little financial team in the form of a fiscal sponsorship. I thought that this might make asking for money a little easier: I’ve got someone besides myself backing my project, I can apply for more grants and I can make sure that donors can get a tax deduction, all for a small percentage paid to the sponsoring organization.
To apply for fiscal sponsorship I needed to fill out an application explaining what I am doing and why I need fiscal sponsorship to do this in the first place. Along with this I needed to provide a budget for my project with anticipated grants and donations included as revenue.
At the onset this sounded like a ridiculous thing to try to do: I don’t even have one painting for this project in existence. How can I create a budget and framework for a project that only exists as an idea in my head? Well, it turns out that this is possible. Not easy, but possible.
Writing the application forced me to clarify my thoughts on the project, not just about what it is that I want to do, but why I want to do it… and why anyone should care. Now I have a mission statement, of sorts, a manifesto at best, or at the least, a solid framework to start that I never had before.
The harder thing was working through creating a budget. Usually when I need something for a project I just go out to get it. If it’s a big something it goes on my credit card to be thought about briefly at some later date. I never had any idea how much it really cost me to make one painting, let alone an entire series.
I spent days hanging out at the local hardware store pricing all of the things that I need from tools to the most insignificant seeming thing like blue tape and gloves. I searched for other material on the internet and pieced together a pretty decent financial picture of my project. And, to by shock and horror, the final cost was more than I made last year at my day job.
That was my budget for the way that I would like to do this project in a perfect world. To quiet the panicking demons in my mind, the next step was to revise the budget to see what it is that I absolutely need to get this project up and running in a way that I can feel good about. The numbers are still scary, but not quite as ominously large.
Now I have a range to work with and a realistic look at what this will take. The fact remains that, even if I stick with my bear bones minimum, I still need financial help. There is something strangely reassuring about knowing that. At least now I know what I need to do and I won’t get surprised later in the process. It’s also a motivating factor to follow through will writing grants, a task that is not the most pleasant.
Now I’m stepping into the realm of asking for grants and donations. I don’t feel very comfortable doing this, but that will probably change the further I venture into it. At least I hope it will. For now, I’m trying to convince myself that it’s all going to be a big new adventure.
By the way, the dusted off grant writing book is The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing by Gigi Rosenberg. I highly recommend reading it. Not only is it full of great suggestions, it won’t bore you out of your mind.