There are more ways to bring in money as a writer than publishing a bestseller, freelancing, or taking a full-time job in the media or corporate sector. Grants for writers come from a variety of sources, including individual donors, endowments, charity foundations, bequests, corporate funding and tax dollars.
But you have to have a plan. Are you looking for someone to pay your expenses so you can focus your complete attention on writing the Great American Novel? Do you want to use your writing skills in the service of a good cause? Determine what you want to accomplish with the grant money, then start searching these possible outlets.
Some grants memorialize individuals. The International Association of Culinary Professionals (www.iacpfoundation.org/grants.html) sponsors the Harry A. Bell Grants for Food Writers and the Linda D. Russo Travel Grant, in honor of two well-known food writers.
Sometimes, grants focus on specific geographical locations, be it country, region, state, county, city and even within a small community. Many corporations, for instance, limit their grants to the region in which they do business. This way, employees have the opportunity to either contribute to or benefit from the grant. Companies such as BlueCross BlueShield, ConocoPhillips, Microsoft, Citicorp, American Express, Wells Fargo and Texas Instruments offer writing grants. Check each company's Web site for more information.
Most art commissions and humanities councils offer grants restricted to a community or region. You can find your local art commissions through the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (www.nasaa-arts.org). Or search for area humanities commissions through the National Endowment for the Humanities (www.neh.fed.us).
Other examples of location-specific grants include the Bush Artist Fellowship (www.bushfoundation.org), which provides writers with financial support to further their careers while making a contribution to their communities. Up to 15 fellowships of $44,000 are given to residents of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota or 26 counties of western Wisconsin.
The Montana Committee for the Humanities (ww2.umt.edu/lastbest/default.htm) offers a fellowship program to support humanities research related to Montana. Up to three awards of $4,000 are awarded each year, in addition to several other grant programs.
And for international writers, check out the Arts Councils of Scotland (www.sac.org.uk), England (www.artscouncil.org.uk), Canada (www.canadacouncil.ca/grants) and Australia (www.ozco.gov.au). Most other English-speaking countries offer liberal financial opportunities, as well.
Some grants reward writing that's already been published, others underwrite training and research, and still others promote independent writing. These grants may be numerous, but there's intense competition. Be sure to do your homework and tailor your application carefully.
Journalists can find numerous grants in individual categories such as health, politics, science and international events. The Kaiser Media Fellowships (www.kff.org/about/mediafellowships.cfm), for example, offer $55,000 opportunities for journalists with a medical focus. The McCormick Tribune Foundation (www.rrmtf.org/journalism/index.htm) also offers funds for journalists, and you can research other organizations that provide journalism grants on the McCormick Foundation Web site.
The Fund for Investigative Journalism (www.fij.org) is well-known for its assistance to journalists operating without the protection of a major news organization. Columbia University offers research funds for journalists through its prestigious National Arts Journalism Program (www.najp.org/fellowships.htm).
Some grants known as residencies offer more general opportunities but often involve living in a particular location for a specific period of time. Sometimes you work for or with the grantor, or you're given seclusion for your work.
The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts is known for its residencies in the Blue Ridge Mountains (www.vcca.com), where writers have the solitude to focus on projects—no strings attached. The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass. (www.fawc.org), also offers fellowships to writers seeking a relaxed community among fellow writers.
If you're itching to go overseas, The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation grant (www.delmas.org/guidelines/v_ir_a.html) supports individuals who want to live in Venice and study its culture.
Universities often dole out fellowships for those willing to teach classes or mentor novices. For instance, the University of Wisconsin funds fellows to assist resident professors (www.wisc.edu/writing/wf/main.html).
Schools with a writing program may provide residency or fellowship opportunities, which is a good deal for both the writer-in-residence and the students receiving attention. Another excellent place to find residency opportunities is through the Shaw Guides link at Writer's Digest's Web site (www.writersdigest.com/conferences).
You may come across grants that don't specifically mention writers or journalists, but don't pass them by, even if they focus on subjects other than writing. For instance, "community development" doesn't have to mean new sidewalks or refurbishing the water tower at the edge of town. It might also involve cultural ideas and, if you write about history, biographies or culture, you could find yourself a great opportunity.
The Verizon Foundation (www.Foundation.verizon), sponsored by the communications company, offers grants for disaster relief, education, employment training, technology and literacy. Writing potential exists in all of these areas. Public relations is needed within disaster relief; curriculum information is needed in education, employment training and literacy areas. The Madison Area Literacy Council in Wisconsin (www.Madisonarealiteracy.org) recently received $20,900 to develop handbooks for adult literacy tutors. A writer fits in that picture quite well.
You can also seek out a nonprofit whose work interests you and offer to assist with writing a grant proposal. The nonprofit would act as your fiscal agent, receiving and managing the funds that cover your salary and project expenses. This is a fairly common practice, since many grants are available only to nonprofit organizations.
For example, the Arizona Humanities Council (www.azhumanities.org/ggrants1.html) offers $3,000 grants to nonprofit groups that preserve the humanities, including literature, linguistics, history, religion, language and other similar topics. The council's grants directly compensate individuals for work in these fields.
The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee (www.cfmt.org), in c onjunction with the Tennessee Arts Commission (www.arts.state.tn.us), offers the Arts Build Communities grant program. Awards range from $500 to $3,000 for art projects that nurture Tennessee artists, arts organizations and supporters throughout the state. This funding also aids book festivals and arts fairs nationwide.
Writers and artists can also take advantage of educational grants in the local school system. The Northwest Regional Arts Council has an Artists in the Schools program (www.nwrdc.org/artsgrants.htm), which provides school districts up to $2,000 to sponsor visiting artists. The Kentucky Arts Council (www.kyarts.org/gtprogs.htm) funds two-year residencies for writers to work, teach and share their creativity with students.
More information on grants available to writers can be found on The Foundation Center Web site at www.fdncenter.org. Check out The Chronicle of Philanthropy newspaper, as well (online at www.philanthropy.com). Your local library also lists projects already receiving grant funding.
Give your grant search the same diligence you give your writing and you'll discover plenty of support at your disposal.