Don’t Miss A Deadline | Find and Track Applications

Don’t Miss A Deadline | Find and Track Applications

How to find and manage application deadlines to support your creative practice.

For most working artists, the path to completing a project means one thing: submitting applications. It is rare to be able to fund a project through a single source, which means you will probably find yourself applying to a wide variety of resources, including exhibition or publication opportunities, open calls, fellowships, developmental labs, and/or residences, among other grants over the course of your career. That’s a lot of deadlines! While the number of applications may seem daunting, the work becomes more manageable when you break it out over time as part of a consistent routine.

This post will walk you through several strategies to help you find and manage application deadlines—from developing a routine to creating and updating a submissions calendar and database with a free template to download. You’ll need the time saved to write the applications, follow up with fellow artists and/or potential supporters, and most importantly, do what you are meant to do: create. 

Develop a routine to work on the business side of your creative practice

What does it mean to work on the business side of your creative practice? This phrase refers to any activity outside of creating work that moves your career forward. Activities may include creating a portfolio website and launching a digital marketing plan, following up with professional contacts you met at an opening or industry event, and for the purposes of this specific post, finding and tracking applications. 

The amount of time you spend working on applications will be based on a number of factors and existing responsibilities, including where you are in your creative work as well as any job(s) you hold outside of being an artist and/or caretaking duties, and will most likely fluctuate over time. It’s important to set aside dedicated time in your calendar for the work of building an artistic career so it becomes a routine. Be ambitious but realistic in your goal-setting. 

Finding opportunities

You can search for most artist awards and programs online through national resources, such as NYFA Source or NYFA Opportunities & Services; the newly-developed search platform, Rivet; and the Alliance for Artist Communities Residency Directory as well as discipline-specific resources such as Common Field, Poets & Writers, or Theatre Communications Group. In addition to following your local arts council, there are a number of regional nonprofits that compile deadlines and share them with their followers, such as Chicago Artist Coalition, FreshArts in Houston, and the Leeway Foundation in Philadelphia. 

Many organizations use the online platform Submittable for grant applications or ongoing submissions. With a free account, you can use Submittable to track your current and previous applications and discover new opportunities based on your previous submissions. We still recommend creating your own submissions databases as explained below. In addition to using online directories, you should always check the funding credits and acknowledgments of projects, books, or performances of artists whom you admire, particularly if their work is similar in style to your own. In addition to signing up for key organizations’ mailing lists and following them on social media, you can set up free Google alerts for grant announcements that you are particularly drawn to.

Application tracking

As you delve into your research, you will quickly find that your list of potential grant applications is not only long, but that the deadlines are spread out throughout the year, and in some cases, the deadlines may be as much as 2-3 years away depending on organizational grant cycles. It is for these reasons that we recommend two tools to aid in your applications: (1) a grants calendar and (2) a submissions database. 

Most recurrent grants are offered at approximately the same time each year. If the deadline hasn’t yet been announced and you can’t find information online, reach out to the institution to confirm that the timing hasn’t changed. Once you have a sense of the timing, set a reminder for yourself at least two months before the expected deadline to check the application requirements and begin working on your proposal. If the deadline hasn’t been announced at this point, adjust the reminder to two weeks ahead, and keep changing it as necessary. For applications that require materials or sign-off from other sources, such as letters of recommendation or partner agreements, you’ll need more than two months to work on them. 

What should you use to set your application reminders? There are a variety of free task management tools, such as Asana, Todoist, or the iPhone Reminders app, that all enable you to create a task and receive an alert on your phone and/or email at a specific date and time. Alternatively, you can mark both the application deadlines and 1-2 months prior to the deadline either in your paper calendar or your online calendar as events with notifications. If you don’t check a calendar regularly, you can pre-schedule an email to yourself with a reminder about the application. 

In addition to a grants calendar, we highly recommend creating and maintaining a submissions database using either Excel or Google Sheets, which is offered for free up to 15 GB. This database will enable you to quickly view the status of all your applications as well as provide an overview of eligibility requirements for upcoming deadlines. 

Suggested fields to include in your submissions database are:

  • Organization Name
  • Application Deadline: note that rolling applications accept submissions year-round
  • Contact Information: website is often sufficient, but you may want to include a mailing address or program officer name
  • Application Type: online app, mail, open submissions, project proposal
  • Type of Opportunity: grant, residency, publication, or educational program
  • Amount of Award: cash grant, stipend, and other benefits
  • Status of Application: submitted, awarded, passed
  • Eligibility Requirements: location, discipline, or other demographics specific to the grant, such as gender or ethnicity. This is also where you would include key characteristics of the grant’s intended audience and scope, such as grants for social practice, public service components, and/or environmental concerns. You might consider creating separate fields for these categories as your entries grow. 
  • Applications Requirements: resume, portfolio, cover letter, etc. You could include each requirement as a separate field and mark an X as you check off each item or you could note key requirements that require advance planning, such as letters of recommendation. 

You can download our submissions database template for free using this link, selecting “File,” and then selecting either “Make a copy” or “Download.”

What’s left? Applying! This step is, of course, what you should spend the bulk of your project planning time working on, and with these simple strategies for finding and tracking applications, we hope you now have more time to do exactly that. 

– Maria Villafranca, NYFA Coach and Consultant

You can find more articles on arts career topics by visiting the Business of Art section of NYFA’s website. Looking for more application tips? Check our “The Art of the Application” blog seriesSign up for NYFA News and receive artist resources and upcoming events straight to your inbox.

Image: Kwesi Abbensetts (Fellow in Photography ‘16), A Kind of Masking 2, 2015 

Amy Aronoff
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