Finding and applying for grants can be a challenging process! To provide some context around the grant world in the arts, and to offer our best pieces of advice and guidance, we spoke to our colleagues at GO Smart (a grants management system that was designed for arts administrators by arts administrators) and members of the Social Responsibility and Inclusion team at WESTAF (ZAPP’s managing partner and a regional arts agency).

This blog focuses mainly on the process and requirements for federal grants, though these tips may often apply to state or local grants as well.

Prepare for Grant Applications: Start early!

Image of person holding a camera

Once you start a project or program, document it for future grant applications. Take photos, videos, or record audio where you can to help funders understand the scope of your work. Documenting your projects increases the strength of your application—putting you closer to receiving the grant for your organization. This is particularly true as funders think of themselves as partners in actualizing their grantee’s goals. Storytelling is key in an excellent grant application.

And above all, always start early. If you have an issue completing the application or have any questions, call or email the grantmaking organization. Staying in contact with funders will help you learn more about their specific granting process and future opportunities they might be providing.

Prepare for Grant Applications: Have Essential Documents Ready to Go.

Many grants require recipients to have a 501(c)(3) status or an NFP (Not-For-Profit) status. To apply for these grants, you will need to have and submit documentation as proof of that status.

In addition to providing documents proving 501(c)(3) status or an NFP status, many granting organizations may also ask for the following:

For an example of the terms and conditions of a grant, check out TourWest’s Specific Terms and Conditions. TourWest is a grantmaking program under our managing partner, WESTAF, that brings touring musicians to the rural western states.

Prepare for Grant Applications: Avoid Common Mistakes

It is key to avoid making common mistakes when possible. Some of the errors the team at WESTAF come across most frequently are:

Failing to fully respond to an application’s questions won’t necessarily disqualify you and your organization for the grant, but in order to be competitive, applicants should be as specific as possible. In general, our team at WESTAF strongly encourages all applicants to use the full word count on granting applications.

So, What is the Typical Grant Cycle?

An image of the typical grant cycle workflow. In order, the steps on the image are 1. Intent to Apply, 2. Application, 3. Panel Process, 4. Award Process, 5. Subcycles and/or Flexible Pagesets, 6. Interim Report, 7 Final Report
The typical grant cycle in GO Smart. Some grants may have different steps.

At WESTAF, the grantmaking cycle typically takes place in seven main steps:

  1. The grant is advertised and the initial intent to apply is collected. Some grant funders may collect an intent to apply before collecting full applications to narrow down recipients.
  2. The grantmaker begins collecting applications.
  3. The application period closes and the grantmaker’s staff or grant panelists begin reviewing applications. During this time, preliminary grant finalists are selected based on the goals of the grant opportunity and the granting organization’s board of directors reviews and finalizes the awardees.
  4. The grantmaking organization notifies grantees that they have received an award.
  5. After being notified that they have received an award, the grantees must submit any documentation requested in the grant guidelines within a fixed time frame.
  6. Once approved, the grantees will receive the funds for their project.
  7. After the funds have been used, a final report is submitted by the grantee to the grantmaking organization. This report can take the form of a narrative that serves to show how the funds were used and the impact they had, in line with the grant’s goals.

Where to Find Grants

Available grants can be found in a number of places—including the National Endowment for the Arts’ Grants page. We recommend regularly checking your regional and state arts agencies for opportunities. For a complete list of regional arts organizations, please see below:

Outside of state, regional, and national organizations, you can also review GrantWatch’s Arts and Culture grants listing and GrantStation to find additional opportunities.

Additional Resources

For more information on grants and tools for success, please check out the following resources:

Are you a grantmaker looking to streamline your application process?

Check out GO Smart, an easy to use, time-saving, and affordable online grants management system that was designed for arts administrators by arts administrators. From intent to apply, creating the application, panel reviews, awards, and final reports – GO Smart will significantly simplify the way you manage your grants.

Schedule a demo here or reach out to the GO Smart team at with any questions you have.

Questions for the ZAPP team? Email us at