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Grants and Funding Part 1

Lesson 19 from: Create Powerful Photo Essays & Personal Projects

David H Wells

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Lesson Info

19. Grants and Funding Part 1

Lesson Info

Grants and Funding Part 1

We're going to talk about grants now, right? I noticed all the pens are just ready to go. Uh, what is the grant foundation or a company asking them to give you funds to work on a project that could benefit them in the long run? But that that I'm done already that's my job now that was it were already done. Thank you very much. You started off in a place where a lot of people go into a company or a foundation, but the last part is what's important grant is a job. It's exactly what you said at the second part of this great city. We also practice it over lunch, right? You're spot on a funder of foundation, a nonprofit organization in mrs group or corporation has a mission they want to promote and you absolutely grant is fundamentally a job. Yeah, it's money that somebody gives you to do something, but they're not giving it because they like you. They think you're good looking. They have something that they want to promote, and your point was exactly we'll take him, okay? It is not about p...

hotography and photographers. Oh, we talked a couple of times I think went even mentioned that your mother wasn't gonna let you be a photographer and my father my mother was not going to let me be a photographer either and I became a I told I was a photo historian but you being a photographer but you know the reputation of photographers and so it's not about photography it's not about photographers and if remember, yesterday talked a lot about subject matter expertise in almost all of your projects were really talking about that more than who you are. Okay, um it's about expertise in whatever different thing you're doing I had in the nineties I developed a subject matter expertise in the middle east. Now my subject matter expertise is in south asia. Each one of you has some subject matter expertise here says about the communities that impacted julia's is very clearly about this family experience, but you're trying to make it larger went about this thing that you both care about but there's a potential market for. So you have a subject matter expertise and it's not just about photography. All right, asai said mine was in south asian and before that the middle east uh the trick is to match your expertise and we've talked about this and I keep doing that gesture I'll bring the two together but to match your expertise in your passion with the area of interest of the funding group, the disseminate earthy outlet, that's, the art and it's like the idea that milieu but in this sense, it's a mission that a funder foundation, etcetera and none seeds typically in their mission statement is not very hard to find a foundation or a non profit group. Who says our mission is working with people with dementia. Our mission is supported. The creative arts and people who are using dance and new ways. These were relatively straightforward missions if you can find them. All right, um, one of the things that's really interesting, and this is sort of the last five to ten years with the explosion of the internet. Is it funders used to be interested in primarily academic research talking about macarthur grant. They used to pay money to researchers in the conventional sense who would write academic research and typically put it in books and things like that and that's kind of where it ended. Not that I was a genius or anything, but they understood the value of funding a photographer rather than a writer, to photograph the israeli palestinian conflict away. I did. And that's really to our benefit, because a lot of these same funders are waking up to the value of research that is widely disseminated, more accessible to people, typically through things like what's broadly called new media photography video the web it center so it's one of those rare things that we as photographers can actually say wow, we have something in our favor rather than against us so that's actually something that's to your advantage so I'm going to talk about grants and a little tiny bit about crowd crowdfunding but not very much ok it's not a crowdfunding seminar, but my issue with grant's forces crowdfunding is simply that grants have more prestige it's another one of those third party validations somebody out there in the foundation world, the nonprofit world in the museum world the art world decided that you were the one so my personal preference is to try to go through grant grant funding rather than crowdfunding. The other thing about grant funding over crowdfunding is that if you read a lot about kick started a lot of the crowd funding you spend a ton of time trying to promote yourself to build that kickstarter and that's a great exercise. It is very good for this next life and drunken promoting your careers and stuff, but that becomes a full time job in itself a foundation like the macarthur foundation in fullbright foundation one of their jobs is to promote the people who get they gave the money to sew a you get the money and be they're going to do the promotion for you so all things be equal that's a better way to go it doesn't mean you always can but that's my why start with foundations and nonprofits and organizations first and I have actually to date not yet done a crowdfunding thing or kick start a thing just cause I can't see the benefits okay um one of the most important things and I'll talk a little bit later in this segment when we go into budgeting about the idea that your budget for either your grants for your kick starters should be broken down into smaller sub fungible units which is a very elaborate way of saying a lot of times either with your kickstarter or with a foundation project we'll request thirty thousand dollars to do ten trips to the middle east and they'll come back to you and say, well, now we're only gonna give you twenty thousand dollars will give you seven trips if you break it down into smaller pieces if you think in smaller units you're more likely to be able to manage your budget, you're more likely to be able to respond to a potential funder who says our budget limit is this it's kind of like the if you tell him thirty grand or nothing they're gonna tell you nothing if you tell him thirty grand but let's talk and then you break it down into smaller and smaller units, you're much more likely to start a dialogue where they might actually say yes, so that's the idea of thinking about your budget and small fungible sub units really, really really important thing pay attention again and I know I'm repeating myself too how other successful projects are more often driven by the topic than by the photography one of the things you want to get into the habit of doing from now on it's every time you go somewhere and you see some kind a successful project just like you've been critiquing photos wanna pull out your iphone you want to look up the foundation you want to find the photographer's name where do they go to college? What was what was their route how did they get that and you want to pay attention that and if you really break it down you're going to find that most of time you're funders your outlets and the actual thing that the both of them are talking about arm or around the topic than they are around photography if you are going to do a kickstarter on kickstarter and indiegogo on all these other ones when they say this is how you khun successfully get the money the number one thing and I know this is obvious but look at the kickstarter in excruciating detail this was their pitch but then what are the things that they give you when you when you find a kick started you get something what's the word for you get you have to is there a return on investment? No, non, I'm blanking on the term, but when you funding, when if I agree to give money to a kickstarter, you have to give me updates and you have to give me a certain things along the way back and return for them, and possibly even the finished book or whatever else. And so the ideas did not just see the initial pitch, which is enormously important, but what are all the other things that successful projects to do? What deliverer, bols what's the calendar? Was their calendar reasonable? This's not think even safe here? This is not a seminar on, um, crowd funding or kick starters, because I haven't done when I'm not an expert on it, but I'm just concerned that a lot of people think, oh, I just put a video up and people would give me money, the successful ones if you go into them and really, really great detail our justice, harder work as anything else that's all, um, this is not a crowd sourcing crowd funding. Crowdsourcing is a job in the sense you have to go to all this promotion and create that video that pitches it, and then you have to, um keep sending stuff to the people who crowdfunding you to keep them updated, and then you actually have to do the project, which doesn't mean you shouldn't crowdfund but it's just be aware it's not like you just do the video put up there and everything is happy. It's not that easy, alright it's called fulfillment of the benefits that's eternal looking for you owe people certain things. If there's a certain dollar value donation on the kickstarter, people expect prince or postcards or something like that, and that becomes part of your job. Nothing against kickstarter but it's, just one of those things it's going to end up eating your time? So if my experience has been the ground grants a there's, more credibility be they have their own promotional structure, and so those were two my benefit? All right? If your project involves traveling or working in different communities, use social media to post issue travel and shoot. I think I talked about this before, but my foreclosures shoot in tallahassee was right out of a facebook post in a couple of other ones like that, and I have a relatively large, not huge but relatively large social media following, and so I can promote people where I'm going, what I'm doing doing this thing and so people can give me updates on that, um it can also be a great way to find locations subjects in the last segment we were in essence I think it was the last thing the first thing we were crowd sourcing a title for cindy's project and somebody out there in the webbers came up with it so that's the kind of thing in terms of thinking of trying to go out to that whole network of people and sharing what your doing maybe not tipping your hand giving the whole thing away but this is what I'm thinking about any ideas for location than it is for people shout out to my soon to be found new friends in oregon somebody actually wrote me yesterday after the pitch and said I would be willing to talk to you about possibly helping get inside foreclosures in oregon which is a state of not photographed him and so that made pitching yesterday worthwhile but it's it's what we do in this new social media universe and so that's something as an option for you as well um I understand the importance of what I call competitive advantage which is this thing about what can you do that nobody else can do not obsessing about somebody stealing your idea? Um one of the questions I talk people talk a lot about is what can you outsource locally or nationally cia concentrate on what you do best and outsourcing is typically over sending these jobs overseas what I outsource, for example, is the key wording is in stock photos, you have to write keywords, the most mind numbing thing I could do. I'm gonna sit on a chair so I don't fall asleep it's to start writing the words because I fall asleep. So I've outsourced mikey wording it's a better use of my time to pay some people who happen to be in india to write the key words from my photos. I'm not saying it necessary to do this, but it's all about this thing of what you good at? What gives you the most value? What's the best use of your time? What are you gonna maybe have somebody else to do to think about that way? Because you're competitive advantage, especially when you get further down the road is going to be in a certain subset of really good photography and there's a lot of other things you push by the wayside? Um, another question, which I can't give you an answer, too, but people say there's self publishing versus bringing money to a publisher, and of course, south publishing is blurb and some of these other outlets for making your own books, and I go back and forth on that because, yes, you could spend ten thousand dollars publishing your own book, but you might also do justice successfully taking that ten or fifteen thousand dollars to a conventional publisher who does all the other stuff you trading off some control over it but then you maybe getting a better distribution network and these are none of these are things like I'm saying this is the answer this is how you have to do it, but I'm putting it in there in terms of all this different thinking that you should be thinking about and so the connection to all of this being if you go and you see some project that you look at you say hmm that's interesting. How did they fund it? How did they do the book? Do they self published the book? Did they do the book through a conventional publisher? Um how did they find their subjects? Did they use social media to do this into that? You want to look at all of that stuff? Justice analytically as we talked in the last hour about how do you critique a photograph? How do you break down a photograph? How do you work a situation it's all about looking at with it, just passing this passionate engagement like I was talking about earlier, so I promised you I was going to alternate between photos and text. This is a story that I shot in two thousand five know a little before that now little for that two thousand two thousand, actually I recently moved to rhode island, a friend of mine who was a photographer, had become an editor after sierra club, and he told me that they were doing an assignment on deep sea fisherman in gloucester, massachusetts, so I get to go out deep sea fishing with a bunch of, uh, fishermen outside of gloucester, massachusetts, for a few days. It was really fascinating experience. I discovered a bunch of things I was reminded the fact that I get motion sick, so we go in the deep scene after a couple hours it's turning to click, click so I did this for about a week. I really don't know if I did the best job possible, but it was an interesting experience, and I met a real bunch of really interesting guys and they were talking about the lives of fishermen, and a lot of what they were saying, ironically, was some of the same things that I heard the farmworkers talking about as well. So I'm eventually gonna merge the fishing work and the farm work into one project, which I'll show you just a bit. But I mentioned it because this is one of my stops on the way and that whole thing of always being open to putting different things together you hadn't originally had together so now we're back to the tech stuff. Sorry, but it's really important? Um, about the same time as I did this, I had the opportunity to be on the reviewing end of a grant and if you ever get there, it's a fascinating experience on the model, a lot of levels, and this is a very short summary of what I learned from that particular pross sis in the grant is actually from something called the alexia foundation for world peace. I know one of those things that's worth looking at. I'm not sure in terms of directly funding things that you're doing, it doesn't automatically relate, but they do give up money, they sponsor projects and stuff and it's a foundation that you want at least how on your your radar. So we had eighty eight applicants, and this was pretty typical of most of these things in that the people who were reviewing we're looking at the applications first in the photo second, and we talked about this before, but it is really true. If your applications don't you written application doesn't get past the four judges, then you're not going to get into the looking at the pictures pile and that's where you want to just eat what you want to try to get to. Okay, so the judges read all the proposals in advance on their own and remember, this is back in the battle days of paper actually got an envelope with a stack of eighty eight one page proposals and I read five or six and then I'd put it down because you get kind of numb mentally and then I read five or six and I kept you know, in pilot out pile and then eventually we met and we voted on how many images to look at and the written proposal like in this case like in ninety five percent of the time ninety percent I'm the written proposal is reviewed first the photographs we looked at second how many of the eighty eight do you think made it into that final twelve? I got one vote for twelve bid me lower higher then I thought you split the difference. The answer is eleven. You should have split the difference. You were really doing pretty one twelve twelve, right? Just a little. What is that one ate that's uh, something like twelve percent of the people made it into the look at the pictures pile. So that means seventy seven people save seventy seven never even got really serious consideration. Okay, not that those are necessary the numbers you're up against but let me take you through some of the things that I noted people messed up on these were a few of the years these aren't all of them but these are the glaring, most obvious errors that people did one not one a number of them we were giving out the the abc grant if you will and they sent us their submission to the d e f grant they didn't even send us the right thing it's actually I was stunned out of eighty eight people probably five or six sent us the wrong thing I mean, six or seven percent of the people aren't even awake, okay? Ah a sizable portion of people actually had not read the criteria and they were sending us stuff I don't know they're like doing it in bulk or something like that send them all out and see what sticks on the wall and so they didn't meet the funders criteria rules and this is my experience judging the alexia though I've heard from other people who judge many of these things that these air pretty common errors people just don't read the actual rules they don't look at who won last year real simple thing ruling one who won last year who won five years ago. The election is unusual because they actually post both the project proposal and the winners work so you can see who won last year and if you look at it, if you read the proposal, you see the interchange between what they're aspiring to fund and what they have fun and you can understand this is the range of where you want to submit and if you're outside the range of wasting everybody's time um the reviewers job in my case on that day but the reviewers job in all cases to say no if you work for a foundation you read all these stuff you really you're basically your goals to say no as fast as you can not that you're a bad person but every time you say yes it means you're gonna spend the next five years living with that project and then the last one is and this is a new thing in the last couple years the reviewers increasingly want you distract your project with a one sentence summary so we had a hard time getting it down to one page now you have to be able to pitch it in one sentence okay? And you can't do a lot of one sentence but that sentence is going to move me from yeah I've got eighty eight on my desk let me at least give this serious consideration or if they lose me the first sentence you're completely stuck all right? So another thing on the basics of the grant reviewing process try to find out how the work is actually viewed in this particular case at the alexia the year that I judged it was the battle days of color slides and they had five slide projectors set up and so they showed five slides and then five slides and then if I slice and the woman paige paige, you did a really good job knew that, and so she made little essays five at a time five times five at a time and that idea five at a time is not how they're all judged everyone is judged differently, but the question is, how are they judged? And that strongly influences your chances one way or the other? I will tell you these days ninety five percent of them are judged the same way, which is their sent off to reviewer like me or my wife and were typically on our own frankly, on a laptop, often time on an airplane, you know, we're doing it in complete sort of a vacuum, and so you need to think about if this photo's a little subtle, if they can't get it, they're not going to try it all. It really needs to be spot on for somebody you know, imagine me reviewing this. I've got a hundred submissions, I'm on airplane flying from province ford island, seattle I got eight hours unless it's just really spot on, you're likely to end up in the out pile um, if you can attend the judging of any kind of grant review panel of any kind or the reviewing panel for an exhibition to see what reviewers air drawn to or tripped up by you will learn to hunt okay, I don't know enough about the state of washington in some states the state arts council grants reviewing his open I've been a juror in ohio in a couple of other states and remember the ohio one because they had a sitting at a table and they had kind of a academic amphitheater and we were we were miked up and it was simply we would say, well, this person didn't do this up they're out, and if you were sitting up in the audience you learned really fast how fast and easy it was to stumble into the out pile. So if you can't see the judging of almost any kind of thing, a grant review panel on exhibition selection really, really can be educational alexey foundation wishes when I was talking before his one at syracuse university, I haven't been there recently, but in the past it was open with the idea of teaching the students exactly this. So you want to find out how the work is reviewed and if you can find out, is there some opportunity to see the review? You will, eh? You'll learn a lot be you'll be horrified at all the little mistakes that you and other people made and you won't make him next time so the stuff that I just showed you earlier of the fisherman was initially an assignment for the sierra club and these fishermen kept using the same thing they kept talking about um how'd they backtracked? The most dangerous profession in the in the u s is deep sea fishing. Second most in your profession is farm work those the two most dangerous professions and so I've been working for on farm workers for years on the project in the second do it turned out to be the second most dangerous and then fishing apparent is the most dangerous and these guys were talking about over and over the fisherman mostly about the danger the risk and I kept hearing something that echoed in my head as cheap food at the cost of cheap lives and so actually ended up making up an exhibition of posters that were a little bigger than that where I have that tagline and that I have statistics and quote and laura one of your questions julie julie, one of your questions radio was about if I don't appear to have the credentials okay and I want to circle back to this is a good time to talk about this. Um one of the ways you get the credentials, of course, is the subject matter expertise, but the other way you get to credentials is to do one or two small grants for projects and people see that you've done and you don't do anything stupid and I'm only being half sarcastic but the foundation world is legion with stories of people who gave away money to people who went off and did things that were stupid rather than what they were supposed to do and I mentioned this because this is one of my earlier grant project and it was funded to what's called an r f p and you actually write the those letters down it stands for request for proposal and r f p is the exact opposite of what most grants are r f p s were when actually organizations and foundations put out a request for proposal that's what it stands for they're saying we want people to submit to us on the conventional grant model foundation model is you know keep stay away stay away on our hp and the r f p for this and the connection was the r f p was that they wanted artwork that was of relevance to life in new england and that was going to be exhibited in non conventional venues so I took the farmworker pictures on one side pair to them with some fishing pictures here and then I made up these posters which are a little bigger than this there about five feet tall and we exhibit them in grocery stores and shopping malls nonconventional atmos not unconventional presentation location and um regional interest in new england and it became part of a dialogue about this question of cheap food at the cost of cheap lives and our f peace and I'll show you our source a little bit later for howto find r f p c are of peace or one of your entry points because an r f p s to the opposite of what we're doing the opposite of therapy is somebody saying we'll take submissions from anybody and if they can get past these other hurdles, we're going to give it a try and the one thing about ninety nine percent e r f p s they're very cheap five thousand or less but it's five thousand in theory you know, a year or two from now we'll be talking you'll had one or two are if piece each one of you and that puts you you know you've moved up the pyramid so high because some stranger's gave you money, which is what that's a third party validation. So this was one of my first r f p projects and so these roses that they're about five feet tall that actually printed on canvas they actually graham it's in the corner and would like I said, we're putting up in grocery stores and shopping malls they're not fine art prints are not beautiful objects, but for the purposes of the kind of work I do and the discussion I want to create it was much higher traffic in the shopping malls and grocery stores, and I would ever get a gallery environment, and so for me it was it was a pretty successful project and if you remember, the top one is from the pesticide project, I showed you the bottom one in its original context from the fishing project, and this is a classic example of one of those the only way you make things work, you make prints and you put him on the table is how do you find the resonance between the two images? You can't do that digital you just put him on the table, you like the table? It was here before you shuffle them around, you make some pairings, you go away, this is really important. By the way, as you should never try to do a project in this mother much depth for more than an hour, go do something else, have a coffee, take a walk, come back and look at it again. At the end of that, you'll end up with the stack, and then what I did was I made these pairings much smaller in photocopies, and I showed them around her friends just like this and that's how he settled on this exact set, so I want to talk about the availability of grants there are grants that I'm going roughly define his artistic they're grand succumbing to roughly define as journalistic and there are grants that I'm gonna roughly define as topic specific and my wife has had better luck on the artistic rants these air just a few there not by no means is a complete list artistic ran's tend to be very concept driven and artistic trend driven and they're usually focussed on the most cutting edge in art and one of the problems for better for worse is they increasingly are for all media. The good news is photography is now art the bad news is photography is now art so that's sort of the upside downside the middle grants, the journalistic rants a few of them there are many more out there the gene smith grant getting grant the alexia grant the's usually require a background or track record in journalism and are typically for photography and increasingly new media slash multimedia on dh then topic specific grants like the car that I had the fulbright and I'm mostly interested in this because as I said, they can't be that intersection between your interest and the funders sweet spot what percentage of the grant money is where and where have you had a hundred dollars what percentage is which roughly you did really well in the last one by the way yeah nobody's gonna try you want percentages for each gosh um ok, I'll go with you no one's going to go with forty five percent for topic specific. Forty five okay, and we'll split the difference on artistic and thinking, okay, but I'll stop here, but the idea is that you're saying you get close by the way, the topic specific is the larger one. Anybody else want to make any numbers guesses or this is rough, but my experience and I tracked this a lot between my wife, bio himself. My peers is roughly ten percent of the money that's out there is for the artistic rance roughly roughly ten percent in eighty per cent of your money is topic specific. Okay? And willie sutton, the bank robber. I've got this right. Why'd you rob banks that's where the money is. Why do I go to topic specific grant? Because that's, where the money is good, remember the competition problem in the first two unless you have more in depth artistic imf museum shows conventional definition of fine art career path like my wife has, you're going to have a challenge up there? Unless you have more of a journalistic background like I have, you're gonna have a challenge then the other one. The bottom category is much a more money and be much more open ended. These next few slides and these are in the paperwork that you get the pdf forget and they're really worth going through all of these. You want to really look at all of this stuff you want to understand who is who are getting guggenheim's? Why does the pollock krasner foundation give out a certain amount of money? Aaron siskind foundation actually is photographer specific, which is unique it's one of the ones you want to look at new york foundation on the art obviously state specific most state arts council's also give out grants and then there's a listing at the mcknight foundation of different regional grants as well. This is by no means inclusive but it's some of the research you want to do these are the journalistic grandson again, they typically require a background or a track record in journalism and are increasingly for new media slash multimedia and you really don't want to go through these understand pretty much all of them. I'd have to check but improvement all of them a show you won in the past and most of them have their project proposals. So in what you've gotten you get from this class or block my project proposals, the more people's project proposals you look at the better versed will be in writing project proposals he also want to go look at those and then, um I talked about my unsuccessful effort to get on audience engagement grand from the open society institute. But you do want to look at that because both your projects at some point in time when you reach a certain point in time, there may become this question of his organization. I can partner with to put it out there, and one of the things you might do is you might go to something like this for his foundation. Say, I've got mental health group or demand dementia group, and they're going to do this this and this to get it out there, and then I'm going to do this is this to create it. And if you can put those two together and they're not terribly interested to go back to your question before about the credentials. If you can get past one or two projects to simply show that you've got the access you can photograph successfully, you can create the narrative, and then you can find a partner group and work with them. You're roughly on level of anybody else.

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Ratings and Reviews


First off, I was a photo assistant for a few years to a photographer who did numerous multi-day workshops. This was my first time as a student sitting in on a webinar that actually kept me interested. Sometimes I'm turned off by the pace of the teacher, his or her voice, or the manner in which they disseminate the information. But this was truly fantastic. David showed lots of his work in a way that was NOT egotistical in any sense (something that does happen quite often). I was utterly impressed by the quality of his work, the wealth of knowledge he has on the world, culture and politics, and how he shoots "on the go". All of those qualities are essential parts to creating a great photo essay/story. I came into this seminar needing inspiration and in the end I have more ideas than I know what to do with. David's work is truly magnificent; his photo stories pertain to people and their struggles, which really could be something any one of us could go through at any point, but he shows it in a way that is beautiful - either beautifully desperate or beautifully destructive - instead of in an exploitative way. On a side note, he also offered up a lot of great information having to do with funding, exposure, workflow, time efficiency, income streams, releases... you won't find this a lot with other photographers. You will find the "go find the info yourself" attitude. This has been my problem as of late with photography - we don't work together as artists, we work against each other competing for what, I'm not sure. David's seminar seemed to embrace photography as the art form it is, and shared with us the tools that we as artists need to really understand and utilize in order to get our story out there. A story it seems he really wants to see/hear. Just an amazing "Thank You"!!!!

a Creativelive Student

I have purchased a number of classes on Creative Live. This class taught by David Wells is one of the best. David is a thorough teacher, personal and connects with his students. Along with his superb and inspiring imagery David talked about his experiences in getting funding, his workflow, developing his stories and distributing his work. David is talented, generous and an excellent teacher. Highly recommended class.

Anjani Millet

Just completed the course. Fantastic, practical information on everything from grant writing, finding foundations, proposal development, even how to shake hands overseas. I am not sure where else I would have found this information for photographers. So appreciate it. One friend asked if this would be worth watching for anyone outside the US and the answer is a definitive yes. Very happy I purchased, and already starting to implement.

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