Grants Frequently Asked Questions

How come some projects receive partial funding? Why don’t applicants get the full amount that they requested?

At RISCA, each panel decides within the given budget whether and how much to fund each application based on the panel review process. Following guidance from our Council, RISCA’s panels typically award the highest scoring applications their full request, but the majority of applicants that do get funded only get a portion of their request. We receive far more applications than we have funding for, and in order to fund projects around the state we partially fund more projects.

For example, in Project Grants for Individuals (PGI), the most competitive of the project grants, we typically see around 50-55 applications requesting approximately $125,000-$150,000 each grant cycle. In contrast, PGI panels fund approximately 20-22 projects with $42,500 available to award. In the past few years, panels in this program tended to fully fund only the one to three top scoring applications.

In terms of grant request amount, what is the best strategy to ensure I am funded?

Ask for the amount money you need to complete your project, assuming ideal conditions. If you can accomplish an awesome version of your project with the maximum grant request in the program you are applying to, go for it. This is where your budget becomes really critical. When panels making funding recommendations and are considering partial awards, they will look at your budget in order to provide you with a partial award that will allow you to meaningfully complete your project. An accurate and thorough budget will ensure they accomplish that task!

What happens when my project gets partially funded?

RISCA does NOT expect you to execute the full project as proposed with a limited budget. You can scale back the project based on the new budget or spread the project over a longer period of time, and apply for another grant for the same project at subsequent grant deadlines. We do require you to keep the project as similar as possible to the proposal and update the appropriate RISCA program director via email with the changes – this should be a simple description of the changes, not a full new application.

The amount of money my application was awarded is not enough for me to do even a partial project. Can I decline the grant? Will anything bad happen?

You can absolutely decline the grant for any reason: the amount awarded was not enough to make it worth your while; the project has changed substantially since the application; you are unable to complete the project for any reason; or something else comes up. You simply decline the grant on the Grant Agreement form, and/or email your program director. This will have absolutely no impact on future applications, and any panel evaluating future applications will not know you declined a previous application unless you disclose that in the proposal. If you are unable to execute the project for any reason, we encourage you to decline the award – and to communicate this honestly with your program director. We are here to help and support you, and sometimes that means supporting you as you decide a grant or project is not in your or your organization’s best interest.

How is my application reviewed and decided on?

As a government agency, all of our grants are awarded through a panel process. RISCA staff members do NOT have any input into who gets grants or how much they are awarded. You can see a breakdown of the review process (and why it takes so long). Read the process of what happens in that murky time after you hit the submit button on your RISCA grant application, and before you get a letter in the mail with the results (and why it takes so long).

Who is on the grant panel?

For Project Grants in Education, Project Grants for Individuals, and Arts Access Grants, the review panel consists of five Rhode Island residents from around the state with some engagement in the arts community – as an artist, arts administrator, community advocate, educator, etc. For each panel, we recruit with an eye to diversity in: artistic discipline; arts experience; geographic location; community engagement; age; gender; and race. This means we will never have five white female actors from Coventry on one panel.

If you are interested in serving on a panel, feel free to let us know by filling out this form: Each year, RISCA needs the time and expertise of approximately 100 panelists.

What is your one top grant writing tip?

In short, fully read and then follow the directions. This means closely reading the guidelines for the grant you are applying for, directly answering each question on the grant application, and make sure your follow the formatting and file submission requirements. Todd’s bonus tip: make sure the numbers in your budget match the numbers in your narrative.

This budget form is super confusing. How can I get some help? 

In the last two weeks before the grant deadline, this is the most frequent request program directors get. First: Yes, you MUST use the provided budget form. Second: Yes, we will help you fill it out line by line. We strongly recommend you attend one of our grant workshops – there is a whole section on the budget forms. You can also make an appointment with your program director or come to one of our many drop in grant support hours. View the video of RISCA staff explaining in detail the grant and budgeting process. 

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