• Blanche Israël

Ah, translation. The perennial, quintessentially Canadian quandary. Almost every organization could use a little more of it, but many fail to dedicate sufficient resources to it. It is so important to certain bilingual funders, though, that some of them will go so far as to pay your translation bill in order to receive your application in both official languages. And if you don't take them up on that, they are stuck with translating it for you. So the question is, which one is in your organization's best interest?

By overseeing the translation of your grant, you retain control (sweet, sweet control) of some of the most important parts of your application. Think about how much time you spent, at some point, wordsmithing your mission. A translator has to do much of the same work to reproduce it in a new language, and many tiny choices have to be made. An advantage of hiring your own translator is that you can go through the finished version (even if it is with your grade 3 French), pick out some of the important elements, and get your translator's help with fine-tuning it.

Translation can be a powerful tool in your arsenal.

For instance, last year, I worked on producing copy for a project called The Unsilent Project. The word "Unsilent" was made up and therefore has no translation, but its essence was about speaking out and being a bit defiant. So I invented its French couterpart, "Le projet Insilence", which is reminiscent of "insolence" and also incorporates that same feeling of "not silent" or "anti-silence", just like the original project name had done. The funder's translators will not have the creative license to start playing with naming in this way - this can only be done internally. By hiring your own translator, you get to work with them to develop your messaging in a more thoughtful way.

The Canada Council offers up to $2,200 to cover the translation costs associated with core funding applications, depending on the category. At Proscenium, this will get you over 15,000 words, or 30+ standard pages. This also gives you an opportunity to test the translation process if you are thinking about increasing your French presence in your other communications. Council will give you a 2-week grace period after the deadline of your application to get this done, so it doesn't have to interfere with the hullabaloo of last-minute submissions.

Another major pro is that you will end up with a copy of the grant text (which often includes your mission, your history and other lasting information about your organization) that you can use elsewhere, like on your website and in brochures.

If you're facing the to-translate-or-not-to-translate question, Proscenium has got your back. Per-word rates start at just 13 cents and are based on layout, timeframe, and complexity. To receive a quote, share your word count and deadline with us.

Committed to your success,

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  • Blanche Israël

Updated: Oct 17, 2017

A couple of years ago, I was sitting in the office of the cool indie arts organization I was interning for, waiting to press 'Submit' on a grant I had been working on for some time. I had sent a draft of this one final attachment for it to colleagues days prior and was waiting for their final edits. The application was due at noon.

The draft sat in everyone's inboxes. I figured there would be no changes, but I held off sending just in case. And then, the comments and questions all came in... at 11:55 a.m.

My hands shaking with adrenaline, I clicked the button at about 11:59:59, got a spinning wheel for what seemed like a full minute, and then, mercifully, got an approval message. I fell to the floor, my heart pounding.

I love the thrill of a good grant submission as much as the next chick (no? not a thing?), but there is a reason it's not admissible as an Olympic sport. Waiting until the last minute is like a magic formula that summons any number of grant demons - broken printers, crashing servers, wrong attachments, having the wrong funder's name emblazoned on the cover page, realizing that you need a signature from a board member who is outside the country, you name it. I was never a superstitious person until I got into grant writing.

That's why you should always take note of a funder's deadline, mark it in your calendar a week earlier, and then promptly coax yourself into forgetting the real deadline.

This week, I submitted a report that isn't due until 5 weeks from now. It was nice and uneventful, just the way it should be. Last year, I submitted an application for a coveted special one-time fund at the first of two deadlines. The early deadline had a fraction of the competitors that the second deadline had.

The grant was awarded.

The funder's rules don't always have to be your rules, and that applies far beyond just the deadline. An application that takes charge by fitting the questions to the project will always be stronger than one that tries to fit its project to the questions.

Not sure what I mean? Book a free Proscenium video consultation to chat about your next grant application, no strings attached.

Committed to your success,

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  • Blanche Israël

Updated: Oct 17, 2017

If you're in the cultural sector, be it as a freelance artist or as an administrator (or both, as many of us are), chances are you've heard someone in the industry kvetch* about the following two things:

1) Funding cuts

2) How much they hate grant writing

It's no secret that funding for the arts, especially when it comes to funding for individual creators and artists, is constantly evolving. At any given time, artists are either worrying about funding getting cut across the board, or about the art form they practice no longer being "sexy" to funders... or both. But this can result in a grant writing no-no that sets the wrong tone for your readers.

Grant applications, no matter the size or the purpose, always have at least this question or a variation of it:

Why should we give you this money?

Depending on the funder's interests, they may want information about your artistic merit, your reputation, your track record with completing projects, or recognition of your past work. But the many possible variations of that question are there to find out why you stand out.

What the question is not asking, and unfortunately what people seem to gravitate towards when answering this question, is:

Why does this grant exist?

It can be tempting to talk about sector-wide funding cuts, the precariousness of the field, and the injustices caused by changes in government spending. But remember the first rule of grant writing: you have to put yourself in your reader's shoes. And the reader is a) probably aware of the situation and b) choosing between applicants who are all in the same boat. The reviewer who is reading your application, as a rule, agrees with you that the arts deserve funding. That is why they are sitting somewhere trying to decide how to divvy up whatever pie they have available. And, like any human being, they are forming first impressions subconsciously and are going to gravitate toward an optimistic story.

So, here are some quick fixes that will help strengthen your next application:

1) Keep it positive.

Instead of saying: "Due to recent work falling through, I am no longer able to dedicate all my time to my art. This grant would help me take more auditions that I currently cannot pursue due to the day job I was forced to take."

Try something like: "I am keen to pursue more auditions in order to access new opportunities that will help kickstart my career."

2) Position yourself as the exception, not as the norm.

Instead of saying: "Like many organizations, our funding was reduced unexpectedly in the midst of the most recent recession, which caused a one-time deficit from which we are still trying to recover."

Try something like: "Our organization has consistently stood out, even during economically challenging times. While many organizations like ours struggled for years after the recession, we righted the course within a single year and have been able to gradually correct our one-time deficit, which we are on track to eliminate by 2019 or sooner."

3) Thank, don't guilt.

Instead of saying: "My art form is dying and artists like me require external funding to be able to pursue this as a career."

Try something like: "Funders like you are driving my art form. Thanks to you, artists like me are able to breathe a new life into the sector and find new ways to share our passion.

In short, turn that frown upside down. Feeling too dejected to put a positive spin on things? Proscenium always looks on the bright side. Find out how we can help.

Committed to your success,

*You need the word "kvetch" in your life. "Gripe" just doesn't cut it, don't you agree?

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