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Episode #028

How to Win Wildlife Conservation Photography Grants in 3 Steps


UPDATED: May 21, 2023


Don't let your passion project whither because of the practical details of money. Get these three things in place, and you're on your way to successfully funding your photograph project!


How to make applying for photography grants easier

Imagine this. You're driving down a beautiful highway. The road stretches out for miles ahead. You are filled with joy and inspiration as the music blares and the wind blasts by your open window.

Then, red and blue lights ahead. A guy in an orange vest holds a stop sign. Road block.

That's about what it feels like to launch into an amazing new photography project you're passionate about, only to discover a lack of financial resources to pay for it.

All this awesome creative energy slams to a halt because you have to focus on funding. You might even question if you want to keep working on the project at all.

YES, YOU DO! You very much do.

The process of finding funding doesn't have to be daunting. In fact, you can break it down into three steps.



You'll Learn


Step 1. Tracking Opportunities

Grants are one of the best ways to gather funding for your project. Finding them in the first place is important, sure. But even more important is having a system for tracking them so you can stay on top of due dates, requirements, and when you'll hear back.


Step 2. Gather Your Project Materials

Applying for a grant is not a speedy task. I don't blame you for procrastinating to the point that you're rushing to submit your application minutes before the cut-off time.

But, there's an easier way.

In this step I break down the essential items to have in a folder, ready to go, when a grant opportunity pops up.

No more last minute rushing – everything you need will be at your fingertips.


STEP 3: Tracking the Status

Now that you have your foundation in place, it's time to dive into the work of completing and submitting applications.

We dig into one powerful tool for getting applications submitted. We also dig into how (and why!) to track the status of your applications.

And that's it! The whole funding conundrum tackled in a three-step process.

You can SO do this!! Blast through that road block and continue on your inspiration-filled creative journey.


Episode 028: How to Win Wildlife Conservation Photography Grants in 3 Steps

Shownotes: ConservationVisuals.com/28

(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)


Jaymi Heimbuch:
I'm going to set a little scene here, so imagine this, you are driving down a beautiful highway just getting started on this road trip that you are really excited about. The road is stretching out for miles ahead and you are filled with joy and inspiration and the music is blaring and wind is blasting by your open window and you're on your way and then you see red and blue lights ahead and there's a guy in an orange vest holding up a stop sign. It's a roadblock and you're not going to be able to head down that path. That's about what it feels like to launch into this amazing new photography project that you are so passionate about only to discover that there is a lack of financial resources to pay for it. All of this awesome creative energy just slams to a halt because you have to focus on funding and you might even question if you want to keep working on the project at all, but yes, yes you do. You very much do. Please please, please do not let a passion project wither on the vine because of the practical details of money. We've got this together.

The process of finding funding does not have to be daunting and in fact you can break it down into three steps and that's exactly what I'm going to dive into in this episode. This episode is all about grants and I am going to walk you through the types of grants to look for and how to track them so that you can always be monitoring what grants are opening up when and be prepared. I'm going to walk you through exactly what to have in a folder ready to roll so that when a grant opportunity pops up you are ready to apply in seconds flat and I'm going to walk you through exactly how to track all of your submissions so that you can stay at top of the funding that you need and have money coming into your project as you need it.

Grants are a critical source of funding for conservation photography projects, but I know that they can feel confusing or overwhelming and you're not really sure if you qualify and you don't know when things are going on and deadlines are passing and all of that stuff, but I promise that after this episode is done, you are going to feel so organized, so on top of it and so ready to apply for funding for your photography project and together we're going to make sure that that passion project that you are so stoked on is something that you can pursue no matter what. All right, let's get into the details.

Welcome to impact the conservation photography podcast. I'm your host Jaymi Heimbuch and if you are a visual storyteller with a love for all things wild, then you're in the right place. From conservation to creativity, from business to marketing, and everything in between. This podcast is for you the conservation visual storyteller who is ready to make an impact. Let's dive in.

Hello and welcome to another exciting episode of Impact. Now before we dive in, I want to let you know that this episode is sponsored by Conservation Photography Courses. This is the only online education platform designed specifically for conservation visual storytellers and it's exciting times because enrollment is opening soon for the digital course Conservation Photography 101. This is my signature program for helping you master how to uncover, photograph and pitch a powerful conservation story. Now, whether you are brand new to the scene of conservation photography or you have some experience but you want to take your skills to the next level, you likely already know that you need a systematic approach to discovering and photographing fresh stories and a strategic way of getting them into the hands of editors. And that's what my signature online course offers. It is a roadmap for finding a compelling story, crafting storytelling images and writing an eye catching pitch to send to publications.

Enrollment for this in depth educational opportunity is starting soon, so head over to conservation photography courses.com to hop on the waitlist. That's conservation photography courses.com and when you join the waitlist you will be first to know when enrollment opens. All right, let's dig into this episode.

So as I mentioned, we can break down the process of grants into three basic steps. The first step is pulling grant opportunities into a simple tracking system. Okay, so you know how much I love spreadsheets and nerding out on details like that. And you also know how much I love ensuring that you are well prepared with getting started easily, right? So I have a free download for you. It is a grant tracker spreadsheet. This grant tracker spreadsheet already has all of the details that you're going to want to note down and pay attention to Azure searching through grants.

So it's going to really help you get started and most importantly, always have a single place to keep checking back on as you discover new grants or as you kind of keep track of old grants. So head over to JaymiH.com/28 The number 28 for this episode. And you'll find a button to download that grant tracker spreadsheet. Now we know that grants are one of the best ways to gather funding for your project. Now finding them in the first place is important of course, but even more important is having that system for tracking them. And that's really critical because you want to be able to stay on top of due dates and requirements and when you'll hear back about funding. So what often happens is as you're trying to fund a project, you need to have a few irons in the fire with grant opportunities because you may or may not win the grant and grants are opening and closing at different times of the year.

So you probably want to have applications into different grants throughout the year, right? So that can get really overwhelming and confusing. And using a tracking system is incredibly helpful. So not only does it dramatically cut down your overall time investment in how much you are looking for and monitoring all of those grants, but also the initial search for photography. Grants can feel tedious and frankly kind of annoying because they might have information laid out in different ways. They might have different requirements that you need to pay attention to. They might have different due dates that you really want to pay attention to. What's overlapping and when is this one for the spring? Is that one for the fall? So hanging on to all of the critical information that you find the first time that you discover that grant is incredibly helpful because sometimes what even happens is you find a grant that seems perfect and you don't save that webpage and you try and do a search for it and you can't seem to find it again, right?

Or you can't remember the name of the organization that hosts the grant or whatever it might be. The first time you discover a grant that seems like it may have anything to do with your project, put it into your tracking spreadsheet so that you do not have to waste time on digging through Google and trying to discover that grant again. Now. Another reason why this tracking system is really important when you're talking about grant research is you're going to have all of those important details for a bunch of grants on one single sheet so that you can compare and select which grants you're actually going to apply for and when all in a glance, because like I said, you know, grants have different requirements depending on who's funding them and what they really want to see. And so sometimes you might find a grant that doesn't seem like quite the right fit for your project or you don't think that you might qualify it, but as your project evolves, you might discover that, Hey, that's actually a perfect fit.

Well, if that is in your spreadsheet and you've got all those details, it is so easy to be able to add a glance, see what grants are perfect for you in that moment in your project. Of course you can also easily reference back to those random fines because there are all kinds of grants out there that you would never find if you didn't accidentally stumble upon them or hear about them secondhand or maybe a friend forwards you a link to an email, so you'll be able to have all of those like kind of random grants all in one place. This was a huge lesson learned in my project urban coyote initiative, and it's one of the first things that we really started to do when we got serious about finding funding for that project. So we created a grant tracking spreadsheet and every time we came across a grant that maybe even vaguely overlapped with our project's purpose and mission and what we were doing out in the field, we would put that inside the grant tracker spreadsheet and now even years after we added a grant to that tracker, we can go back and see, okay, is that grant still active?

Does it really fit into what we're doing inside of our project now? Is this the right time to apply for that grant? So incredibly helpful. And talking about urban coyote initiative reminds me that I really want to encourage you that as you are looking for all of these grants to add to your grant tracker spreadsheet, you look beyond photography grants. So urban coyote initiative is a project that yes, definitely has to do with photographing and filming urban coyotes, but it also has to do with coexistence and human behavior and safety of public and all kinds of other things that fall under the umbrella of urban coyotes and urban wildlife coexistence. So as we're looking for grants for that project, we're not just looking at photography grants or filmmaking grants, we're looking at anything that has to do with what it is that we're trying to accomplish through our photography as well.

So does your project fulfill the requirements for other grant possibilities like community improvement grants or grants for funding? The places that you're collaborating with like wildlife rehab centers or nonprofit organizations, or if you're working alongside of a researcher to document their work on a topic, you might be able to ask them about being written into their grants that they're writing. See there's an area inside of research grants called broader impacts and oftentimes when it comes to broader impacts, which means doing outreach or talks or visuals, photographers and filmmakers can be written in to that broader impacts area because they can be providing really important visual assets that that researcher will use. So it is very much worth talking with any researchers or scientists that you're collaborating with about what grants they're applying for and how you might be able to get written into their grant alongside them.

Okay. So this whole first step is all about digging into grant research and doing Google searches and figuring out where you're looking for grants and most importantly, pulling all of that information into your grant tracker spreadsheet. So as you're doing all of the searching for various grants that your project might fall under, you're looking for information like how much money does that grant provide? What is the due date for submissions? When do you tend to hear back about if you've won the grant or not? What are the requirements for submission? So in other words, is this a grant that only funds young photographers under 30 or only funds photographers in the state of Nebraska or only funds photographers who are working on human stories or there's all kinds of specificities about grant requirements and so you want to take note of those details. You also want to pay attention to any specifics about what the grant requires from you as the photographer, as deliverables.

So do they require you to maybe hold an exhibit or to do outreach work? Do they require you to have your project completed by a certain time? Are they only funding projects that are in the completion phase or are they funding projects that are in that startup phase? As you do your digging, note down as many details as you can and put that into the grant tracker spreadsheet and again, the spreadsheet that I provide as a free download on my website, it has a lot of these areas already broken out so that you can just plug in the information that you find. You can get your grant tracker spreadsheet at jaymiH.com/28 Just as a reminder. So this is all the research phase and now we're gonna move on to step two, gathering your project materials because as you discover grants, sometimes you discover that the due dates like tomorrow or midnight tonight, it's definitely happened to me multiple times into everybody I know where maybe a friend forwards you a grant that ends up being a perfect fit.

But guess what? It's due in three days. So if you have everything that you need in a single folder, you are well prepared to be able to apply for darn near any grant at a short notice. And not only does it mean that you can apply on a short notice grant, but I also know that sometimes you want to apply for grants, but procrastination is a very real thing. And you might know that there's a due date in six weeks, but that procrastination kicks in and all of a sudden you're rushing to submit an application like minutes before that cutoff time. Now here's the thing, you don't have to rush and you don't have to reinvent the wheel with every application. Make the application process as smooth and as easy as possible by having all of these materials ready to go. So what I want you to do is to create a folder on your computer or in a Dropbox account or in a Google drive or wherever it is that's convenient to you and keep updated versions of the most common things that all grant applications require.

And we're going to go through what each of those are. So number one, your bio. So almost every single grant application is going to ask for your bio. So have one already written and ready to go. I'm not going to dig into the details of what a bio is all about and how to write one. There are a ton of articles on the web that you can use as reference or as inspiration for how to write a really good bio. Just make sure that you have that ready to go. And I recommend that you have a short bio. So somewhere around 250 words or so. Just a really quick and easy, maybe three or four sentence bio ready to go. And also a longer bio because sometimes grants are gonna want to know a lot more about you and if you have a longer bio already written, it's easier to either just use that or to have a lot more material to pull from.

So number one, your bio number two is your CV. Now this is different from a resume. Resumes tend to kind of list experience and skills and it sticks to one or two pages and it's usually customized specific to certain job applications or reasons why you would need that resume. A CV. On the other hand, it lists experience and awards some publications and accomplishments and basically it is one document that lists all of the awesome that is you right. And it can be many pages long depending on how much you have in your history. And you want to have a CV because a lot of grants will ask specifically for a CV and if it doesn't and ask for a resume, well you already have everything that you need to pull into a resume right there on your CV. So it makes the resume writing process easier.

So you definitely want to have a CV ready to go inside your Google document or Dropbox or computer file, whatever. So number one, your bio number two, your CV number three is a 12 to 25 image portfolio from your project or if you haven't started your project yet, or it's in the early stages, a portfolio from a past project that shows your style and your strengths as a visual storyteller. Now, not every grant is going to ask for a portfolio, but most of the photography ones are, so you want to have something already curated, captioned, ready to go so that you're not digging through your Lightroom catalog or archives of random stuff in order to pull together those images. You're not sweating that in order to be able to apply for this grant. Now, if you do not have a portfolio from your project ready to go yet, I have a podcast episode waiting for you.

You want to head over to episode three which walks you through how to create a pitch ready portfolio with a five step process. So if you've never curated a portfolio or you just want kind of a refresher or an easier way to edit something that really works head on over to episode three. Now another episode that might be really helpful is episode seven, which is the six must have shots for a photo essay. So if you're working on a project and you really want to make sure that you're including the strongest images you might want to focus on, the storytelling elements of that project and episode seven is going to really help you out. So episode three and episode seven are going to help you to curate a portfolio for your project. Now again, if you don't have enough images from your current project, a lot of grants are going to accept a portfolio of a some other project that you've worked on. They just want to see your strengths and your style and really get to know you as a photographer. So it's okay to build a portfolio out from some other project and have that ready to go as well.

So number one, your bio number two, your CV. Number three, a 12 to 25 image portfolio from your project. Number four is your artist statement. Now this is different from your bio where your bio talks about you and who you are as a person and some of your history and that sort of thing. An artist's statement is specifically written about your project, so an artist's statement tends to talk about why you started that project, what's important, your approach to it and that sort of thing. Again, I'm not going to dig into a bunch about artist's statements. There's excellent articles on the web that walks you through exactly how to write an artist statement, but like your bio, you want to have both a 250 word version and a one page version ready to go inside of your folder.

And that way, regardless of what the grant is asking for, if they want something short and sweet or something more detailed, you have a version ready to grab and go. Now, alongside an artist statement, you might want to have a project statement ready to go. So this would be something that speaks specifically about your project itself. So it's not about necessarily you and your approach, but rather the project itself, the details, its purpose. Basically your elevator pitch for the project and again 250 word version and a one page version. Really smart to have, ready to go. So again, bio CV, 12 to 25 images in a portfolio that's curated, ready to go, your artist's statement and or your project statement. The next thing is any letters of support from partners or collaborators on your project. Now some grants will require this, some grants make it optional.

It's really great even if a grant doesn't necessarily it that you have this ready as maybe some supplemental material if they allow you to add in a few extras. Letters of support from partners or collaborators can go a really long way in showing that you are very serious about your project, that you have done leg work, that you are invested and the other people are invested in your project success. So letters of support, very, very smart to have. Ready to go. Now the next thing is a budget. Now I just did a podcast episode. It was episode 26 and in episode 26 I walk you through exactly how to create a budget for any photo project. And I've given you a downloadable template for a budget as well. So if the idea of having to do a budget for your project is just like, what the heck, I don't even know where to start.

Then head over to episode 26 and that's going to help you out a ton in making this feel, not at all overwhelming and something easy to do. And once it's done, it's in your folder, you're good to go. Your grant applications are more than likely gonna ask for a budget, so you might as well have it in your folder ready to roll. Now, when a grant deadline rules around, you can pull from this pile of resources, plug in whatever details the grants asking for and fire off the application with confidence and with time despair, which always feels good. Right? Okay. So really quick, let's run through it again. One your bio to your CV. Three, your portfolio of images for your artist's statement and or your project statement. Five. Any letters of support and six a budget. All right? You have this amazing folder with everything that you need for your project ready to go.

The third step is to start applying for those grants and importantly to track your submissions. So now that you have your foundation in place, it's time to really dive into the work of completing and submitting those applications. Now I'm a firm believer in setting blocks of time aside to accomplish tasks and even setting timers in order to stay really focused during that task. This is a pretty important part about filling out grant applications too because it's really easy to start it on an application and feel like a little unsure about something and so you put it aside and then you put it aside and then you put it aside and then you never get around to it. And there's also an important aspect of applying for a grant and being solely focused on that grant, not applying for a bunch of them at once just for that grant because you can really dig into what it is that that specific grant is searching for.

What is it that they want to fund and how do you frame everything about your project to be an ideal applicant? So really focusing in on that is important. So when it comes to applying, I recommend that you set a block of time and maybe even with that timer and you focus on applying for just one grant. And this sets you up for that sweet, sweet feeling of accomplishment that comes with completing what you set out to do. And that feeds the fire for the next focus period with that timer where you apply for it. The next grant. So you have a nice big fat check Mark next to your grant on that grant tracker spreadsheet. Now when you're setting the amount of time that you want to book for that focus period, it's going to depend on the length of the grant application of course.

So you might be able to set aside a 90 minute period or you might want to set aside a good three hour chunk. But if you have your basic materials in place, which we didn't step to, especially those statements and the budget, then most of the hardest work is going to already be done. So even if it's a fairly extensive grant application, you can budget just enough time to get things done without feeling overwhelmed. Now once you've submitted an application, you want to update your grant tracker with the submission date and the grant status. Now a lot of times grants will show either on the submission page or just after you submit, they'll let you know when it is that you're likely to hear back or when it is that they're going to roll out the grant. And so you'll know for sure whether you did or did not get it.

Now I know some places that provide grants, they don't even tell you if you got the grant or not. They just announced the winners kind of annoying, right? But at least if you know what that announcement date is, then you'll know to check back and see whether you got it or not. So once you submit your grant, update that grant tracker spreadsheet and you can keep checking back to that to make sure that you're staying on top of when you want to know about next phases of grants. All right, that's it. That's the whole funding conundrum tackled in three steps. So step number one is going and doing all of your grant research and as soon as you discover a grant, adding it in to your simple tracking system. So you can go and create a focus period that's just about researching grants and maybe do this for two hours every month or you might just pay attention and every time you see a grant come through, you're going to write, then add it into your a simple tracking system.

Now, whatever works best for you, as long as you are using one single spreadsheet to track all of those opportunities, you're going to automatically have so much more clarity and success when it comes to continuously applying for grants to fund your project. So that's step number one. Step number two is to gather all of those project materials. We went through it a lot, but just in case you're going to want a bio, a CV, a portfolio of images, your artist's statement and or your project statement, letters of support and a budget. Just have that ready inside of a folder and step number three, start applying and make sure to track those submissions. Now as you go through this three step system, you're going to find that you get yourself on this wonderfully rotating wheel of finding and applying for grants and that can help you to consistently bring in funding for a photography project, whether that's a couple of grants to fund something that's short term or an ongoing rotation of grants to fund something that is a multi year project, no matter what, you're going to feel less overwhelmed, less intimidated, less frustrated by the entire grant application process.

And I really hope that you implement this system because I want to make sure that no matter what roadblock might be in front of your project right now when it comes to funding, you have the ability to blast right through it and to continue on your inspiration field, creative journey. And if you need help, I've always got your back first of all with that grant tracker spreadsheet because I want you to already start out with a tool that makes it feel easy to dive in. So you can grab that at JaymiH.com/28 And secondly, if you're not already a member of my free Facebook group conservation photographers, I would love for you to come on in and join. It's a great community and it's the perfect place to ask about grant opportunities to share opportunities that you find and also to get feedback on the materials that you're crafting for your folder when you want to be able to submit really quickly to grants so you can find a link to join that free Facebook group, conservation photographers inside the show notes to this episode and I hope to see you in there. And meanwhile I will talk to you next week.

Before we wrap up, I would love to ask you to do one quick thing. Subscribe to this podcast. As a subscriber, you'll not only know when each week's episode goes live, but you'll also get insider goodies, like bonus episodes. You might miss them unless you're subscribed, and I don't want you to miss out on a thing, so please tap that subscribe button and I will talk to you next week.


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