This is very good advice and deserves elaboration. Having put myself through school by applying for grants, and currently supporting much of the work I do photographically through obtaining grants, i am all for them and I cannot stress enough the need for photographers to develop their writing skills in order to create concise, literate, and compelling proposals. I know many great photographers who cannot string a decent sentence together, and it invariably hurts them in these competitions. In addition to reiterating the need to keep rewriting your proposal, making it better, I would also stress two more basic points, bulwarks of freshman composition courses: learn to summarize your argument forcefully and tersely in one paragraph, and learn to open up your essay with a bang. Try to say something that grabs your reader´s attention from the very first line. Remember that these poor buggers have to read hundreds of proposals, all of which start to sound pretty similar after a short time, and you need to stand out from the crowd. One advantage of the Alexia Foundation website is that they actually reprint the winning proposals from year to year, so you can study them and try to understand what makes them good proposals in the eyes of the judges (though, frankly, the writing is not always so concise or pointed as to make them exemplars of the kind of proposal the judges claim to be seeking). Another beautiful example of proposal writing may be available to ICP
students: at the Eugene Smith Pittsburgh Project exhibition I noticed that they displayed a copy of his Guggenheim proposal, which is not just a strong proposal but a wonderful example of Modernist literature. I swear it sounds like James Joyce. And it serves to make a good point here about the different types of grants: the Guggenheim is a more scholarly affair, so you would expect them to entertain a rather more literary or academic proposal, unlike say the Alexia or Gene Smith prize. That is not to say that you could not use the same work to apply to all these different foundations, but you need to tailor the application to the form required by each different organization.
And that leads me to my last point. On LS we have tried to pull together a list of different grants and awards available to photographers, and eventually we should have a complete list not only accessible through the calendar but also listed in terms of type, etc. If anyone out there comes across possible avenues of funding, please take the time to post the info, and try to add it to the calendar, not just on the regular postings. Photographers should bear in mind that grants come in all shapes and sizes, and that one shouldnt look just for grants directly related to photographic activities. There are scholarly grants, writing grants, mixed media grants (lots of places nowadays are offering money to exhibit work that makes use not only of images and text but also new digital formats, etc), in short one shouldnt limit oneself in the search for possible funding. You can approach corporations, for example. And there are plenty of places promoting ethnic and other such “identities”. I once found a source for Swedish Americans. The most complete resource that I know of to research the various foundations is the Foundation Library over on Fifth Avenue around 16th street, and alot of information is available on line.