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AAC Grant Writing Tips

Posted on: January 23rd, 2013 by The AAC

By Abbey Smith 

Each year, the American Alpine Club gives $100,000 in grants to the climbing community to support the progression of the sport through exploration, development, research, and conservation. 

If you’re looking to apply, the applications for the AAC’s 13 different grants may seem simple, but take it seriously. This is your one chance to sell your idea to a panel of knowledgeable and discerning judges. 

Here, members of the AAC’s grant committees provide tips on how to produce a strong grant proposal:

Do your homework. Thoroughly research the location, season, travel, history, and current political situation of your objective. Cameron Burns of the Zack Martin Breaking Barriers Grant committee says, “Don’t assume that goodwill will result in a positive response from those judging the grants. That’s not the case at all. There’s a lot of competition for the money.” Build a solid foundation with hard facts. 

Be direct. Each grant requires a different set of responsibilities and selection criteria. Carefully read the application and focus your proposal to meet the explicit guidelines. “Be specific about the objective, logistics and why it matters—both personally and to the climbing community,” recommends Sarah Garlick, member of the Cornerstone Conservation Grant Committee. “Use photos, maps and/or well-written and specific descriptions to convey your dedication to the project. It’s always helpful to have a friend or colleague read your application before you send it in too,” she adds.

Hari Mix, A 2012 Live Your Dream Grant Winner descending Korzhenevskaya’s summit ridge

2012 Live Your Dream Grant Winner Hari Mix.

Be concise. The grant committees have a lot to read. “Less is more,” says John Parsons, of the Zack Martin Breaking Barriers Grant Committee. He advises to “Provide the data requested by the grant and nothing more. The reviewers get exhausted parsing through superfluous information. For example, an exhaustive resume for each teams member is not necessary on the first pass of information. Make the application easy to read and easy to understand. Objectives and the capability of the team should be obvious. If the AAC goes to an abstract methodology, then the committee members can request the data they need from the finalists.” 

Be realistic about your objective, skills, time, budget, resources, and deliverables. 

Garlick says applicants commonly make the mistake of “…Over-inflating their project or background. The people who read these applications are climbers too, and this is a small community. The best proposals are grounded and realistic.” 

To make your proposal stand out of the crowd, Burns says, “Make sure exactly what you’re going to do is thought-out properly—very specific, concrete, tangible, and that you have the resources to get it done. I don’t like huge grant applications where the applicant is trying to do too much and therefore risks failure.”

Get personal. Express your passion and dedication through your writing. “A grant proposal is strong when you can feel the enthusiasm of the applicant being conveyed through their words,” says Eddie Espinosa of the Cornerstone Conservation Grant Committee. “Undoubtedly there is a lot of competition, but a more compelling and well written intangible component will separate a great one from a sea of really good ones.” 

2012 Live Your Dream Winner Cody on the summit of Pingora. Photo by Reggie Walters

2012 Live Your Dream Winner Cody on the summit of Pingora. Photo by Reggie Walters

Be honest. Parsons says he looks for “…Applicants and team members that are capable of fulfilling the grant criteria. Assure the grant is honest rather than a scam to fund a trip.”  

For the betterment of society. Grants aren’t vacation money; they are meant to support climber’s endeavors to explore, preserve, and progress the sport of climbing. Lowell Putnam, member of the Research Grants committee, reminds applicants to “Show how it will benefit the Club and its members.” 

Deliver a complete package on time. The grant committees receive dozens of applications throughout the year. Don’t risk your proposal getting separated or lost in the shuffle. Submit all the necessary components of the application together and electronically in MS Word or PDF format with a valid electronic signature by the due date.

Refer your friends. “Our selections are only as good as the candidate pool we get,” says Paul Gagner of the Lyman Spitzer Award committee. “There have been some perceptions that the same professional climbers receive the grants every year. While at times there has been some truth to this, it is only because of a thin candidate pool. There are lots of non-professional climbers and women doing amazing things out there. We need to encourage them to apply!”

Apply for a one of the AAC’s many grants today. If you have a dream, we just might fund it!

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