Grant Writing

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How to Write a Successful (CC Catalyst Grant) Proposal

This summer we launched our first CC Catalyst Grant program. We were floored by the number of applications and their high quality. And although we were unable to fund more proposals this time around, we also learned a lot about what makes a strong proposal and would like share these thoughts with the community.

Mission-Driven Projects

We published our major evaluation criteria for applications, and the one nearest and dearest to us is our mission. There are innumerable initiatives and ideas that are exciting and positive for the world. But, if we can't tie those aims back to our mission, then it is not possible to justify the funding. Examine the mission and scope of the grant program and determine how your application really addresses the institution's goals. Does your project contribute to CC's mission in discrete and realistic ways?

Budget, budget, budget

Money makes the world go round, but as a non-profit, we have some constraints. Budgets should be fair yet realistic. If a budget item is proposed, it should be explained in the application. Expenses should be reasonable and justifiable. We do our best to match the grantee's needs, but each dollar spent should go towards a concrete outcome. That way, we all get more for our money, and we can afford to support more smartly frugal projects.

Complete and Accurate Applications

It sounds simple, but just filling out the application form and addressing the questions accurately and fully is a huge first step in being considered. Dot your i's and cross your t's, so to speak, and you'll be sure to make it through the first screening.

Modest Deliverables

We all hope to improve the world, but sometimes you have to start small. Keep your deliverables focused and manageable. A grant project can be a success and make a positive impact, while still being realistic about its outcomes and goals. Break your project down into more modest components or consider reshaping the application to achieve one very clear aim.

Give Alternatives

Tell us what you might be able to do with less money than you're asking for, and give us alternatives to saying no. Good ideas can often be adapted based on resource availability. Also, let us know if you can partner with other institutions or individuals. If there's a way to combine forces, that'll strengthen your application.

No Content for Content's Sake

CC licenses are great tools for copyrighted content, and we're always intent on increasing the pool of available works, but the creation of CC-licensed works alone does not make a scalable or compelling project. Instead, how can these works solve specific problems or address an important issue? Rather than publishing a one-off production, could the methodology be released instead? Let's teach each other how to fish and not just hand out free fish.

No Conferences for Conferences' Sake

Face-to-face meetings offer enormous value and unique opportunities to share ideas and get to know new people. But travel and conference logistics are expensive, and unless there is a tangible outcome and compelling reason for the meeting, we should use free and easy online communication tools to connect with colleagues. As an international and incredibly distributed organization, we're learning this as well. So every time we meet, or fund someone to meet, there needs to be a clear goal and purpose to the meeting and tangible output that helps educate, inform or propel others forward. Otherwise, maybe a quick phone call would get the job done just as well.

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