The panel of judges for the inaugural Women Photograph Grants spent days reading over more than 500 project proposals. There were some consistent suggestions that we had for photographers working on their next applications, and wanted to share. — MB, AZ, + DZ
+ Write A Strong Proposal: Make sure you know the structure of a proper pitch, and that you are adhering to the instructions that the grant or publication has laid out. The best pitches start with one or two succinct sentences about what the story is, with a clear hook and story idea. Use a couple of paragraphs to go into deeper detail about the story — show that you've done your research and know the story and the intended impact. Share only the most important facts in your pitch, and anticipate obvious questions (How long has this event been happening? Has this been heavily covered? How dangerous will it be to do this reporting?). End the pitch with a few sentences explaining on how you plan to cover the story — how much time and travel you’re anticipating, what types of scenes you hope to show, if you’ll need to involve other reporters or producers to accomplish your goals.
Some things to keep in mind when writing your proposal:
- There’s a difference between Why You Care and Why Others Should Care. It’s important to know you are passionate about your project, but you also need to be clear about the importance of the work in a larger context, whether it’s to the immediate community or to a global community.
- Tell a story. Some of the strongest and most compelling grant proposals have strong anecdotal ledes or narrative woven throughout. You're a storyteller, so make sure you’re clear about what your story is.
- Prove you’re an expert. Especially if you’re pitching a project you haven't started shooting yet, explain your background research and show you know the relevant history and statistics. Make sure you’re clear about your contacts in the communities where you'll be working, and be honest about what kind of support you’ll need in the field.
+ Do Your Research: It’s up to you to know the rules and format of the grant, to know your intended audience, and to do background reporting. A big reason proposals are successful is because the reviewers are sold on your expertise in the topic, your journalistic abilities, and your clarity of purpose. If you are sloppy in your proposal (addressing reviewers as “sirs” when they’re listed as women, for example), it gives the impression that you’ll be sloppy in the field. When reviewers are considering awarding a grant, they want to ensure the awardees are able to follow through and produce a quality story that’s journalistically sound; the proposal is your way of showing you’re able to do that.
+ Proofread: Get several eyes on your proposal. Ask colleagues, editors, and friends to read over your proposal and look out for factual errors, missing information, and grammar and punctuation errors. A fresh set of eyes can help catch obvious mistakes or holes in your documentation.
+ Be Realistic: Every story has the ability to spin too large. Take a step back and take stock in your abilities, in the time you’re allotting, and in your deliverables. To be successful in your project, you need to make sure you’re able to accomplish it, so crunch the numbers and make realistic estimates of time, travel, and expenses.
And for good measure, here are some extra resources:
Q&A: How to Get Funding From the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
How to Write a Winning Grant Proposal
Grant Proposals (Or Give Me the Money!)
Tips on Preparing Proposals for Grants