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Workshop – Grant Writing for Social Change: How to fund a community-oriented history project for individual scholars and organizations


Transitioning into the post-pandemic world has brought up new challenges for individual scholars and organizations committed to social change. In times of a growing economic crisis, we are being faced with major climate changes, rising inequalities as well as the emergence of new conservative and totalitarian forces undermining the rule of democracy in all parts of the world, including Canada.The need to develop innovative research and community-based solutions that would tackle and situate those issues in a broader historical and political context is now more important than ever. This workshop is for everyone interested in learning more about grant writing for social change. We will talk about the concrete steps to take in order to write a winning grant proposal, the difference between grant writing and fundraising as well as prospect research and the various types of grants-makers through which a community-oriented project can be funded.

Wednesday 19 October 2022
12h00-13h30 Eastern Time

English-Language Workshop

Andrea Prajerova is a researcher, writer and educator, passionate about advancing the issues of women, youth, and 2SLGBTQ+ people through an intersectional, anti-racist and anti-oppression lens. Her expertise lies at the intersection of multiple areas of interests, including feminist monitoring and evaluation, sustainable fund development and critical health, gender and reproductive issues in globalized and historical contexts.

On Wednesday, October 19, 2022, the Canadian Historical Association was very happy to host the second workshop in its Virtual Roundtable and Workshop Series, 2022-2023. Addressing us from the unceded Algonquin territories of Ottawa, Andrea Prajerov (also published as Prajerová) is a queer feminist researcher, writer, and educator, who does grant writing throughout the non-profit and academic sector on behalf of women, youth and 2SLGBTQ+ people. She has a proven track record in fundraising, including tripling the projected revenue of one project to $2 million, and securing grants from the diverse institutional bodies, including different foundations and all levels of government. Prajerov gave a compelling and practical presentation on how to successfully apply for the grants your social justice organization needs.

Prajerov began not with any great historians, but with the character of harried, sex-starved mother Peggy Bundy from the 1980s sitcom Married with Children, who asks the perennial question, “Am I in Hell?” Prajerov asks if, with the rise in social injustice today, we really are in hell, and if so, should we abandon all hope? The answer is no – there is always hope, and with the right grants, we can work toward creating a more equitable world.

Prajerov notes that the philanthropic and funds-granting sector remains overwhelmingly white, with very few immigrants or Indigenous people represented on boards. She also notes that despite $80 billion held in investments by 170,000 non-profits and foundations in Canada, there has been a 44% decline in revenues over the past few years. But there are ways to take advantage of the existing grants, while also pressing for decolonization and change within the grant-producing bodies themselves. Prajerov reminds us that grant writing is more than just “cash to be grabbed” – it’s a gift, intended to help find a solution to a social problem. The grant-writer needs to create a narrative of how this gift will help solve a problem, and then cultivate a relationship with a grant-giving body to obtain that gift. “Money,” Prajerov says, “can be used as medicine to heal trauma and wounds.”

Prajerov recommends several sources for grants. SSHRC is the most obvious choice for academics, but you should see what is available at all three levels of government. Public and private foundations issue calls for proposals you can take advantage of – this is “usually unexplored terrain for lots of historians, and scholars” Prajerov says. What’s important is to create a relationship between you and the foundation, focusing on common goals. In “uncertain times, characterized by economic crisis,” Prajerov says, it’s important to explore all funding options.

How do we find these funders? Sometimes the simplest way is the best – use keywords in Google. There are tools like Foundation Search, Grant Watch, and Grant Connect, and if they are membership-only, you can often access them at a public library. To save time, Prajerov recommends making an Excel sheet with fifteen or so relevant funders, of which you should apply to the three most likely to approve your request. Choosing a funder is a lot like choosing a life partner, Prajerov argues. Use the “CIA Strategy” to see who you are most compatible with – C for connection, I for interest, and A for ability. You should also check outcomes. If a foundation only funds 5% of applicants, is it worth your time? Prajerov herself aims for foundations that grant at least 20% of application

Never waste time applying for grants you are not qualified for, Prajerov insists, and always fill the application out completely. Focus on your project’s potential impact – that is what funders are most interested in. Answer the 5W questions (what, when, why, where, and who). Before you begin, having something like an “advisory board” of colleagues and allies can be helpful, especially if you are concerned with communities not your own.

But always construct a narrative of hope, with clear short and long-term goals, that funders will want to get behind. This is the key to a successful social justice grant application.

The recording of the workshop is available on the CHA YouTube channel.

Transcript of the presentation