Givers Fund Grants
Due Date: October 1, 2021
The SFWA Givers Fund is a pool of money set aside for SFWA to support other organizations’ efforts to promote writing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and related genres–the speculative fiction field. We do this through grants for organizations, entities, and projects that hope to contribute to that field.
Givers Fund grants are outward-facing, and they raise awareness of the speculative fiction genres in some way–you define that way in your application. The Givers Fund supports organizations, activities, and public interest programs that further SFWA’s mission. What is that mission?
The purpose of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is to promote, advance, and support science fiction and fantasy writing in the United States and elsewhere, by educating and informing the general public and supporting and empowering science fiction and fantasy writers.
If you or your organization’s passion project fits that bill, proceed to completing a grant application! You’ll notice after clicking that there are separate applications for nonprofit organizations and all other groups–make sure to read through the FAQ or watch the webinar below to learn about the different standards for each category.
Of course, nothing is so easy as “Just Complete Me,” so here is a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Givers Fund grants. These should help you decide how to best present your project and make sure that this grant is the right one to support your efforts. And remember: We want your application to be successful! So please ask if you need additional clarifications before submitting it. Givers.firstname.lastname@example.org is ready to take your questions.
We also have a great webinar up on Youtube that covers these same questions and includes many more detailed examples from Oz Drummond, SFWA’s comptroller, and Nathan Lowell, SFWA’s chief executive officer, on what they look for when they’re processing applications.
FAQs on the SFWA Givers Fund Grants
Who is the ideal applicant for a Giver’s Fund grant?
Any 501(c)(3) or similar organization (e.g., municipal organizations, churches, any entity considered to be there for the public good in some way, foreign charities or not for profits) with a program related to the speculative fiction genres. Perhaps a library that wants to lead an SF/F reading or writing program. Maybe you’d like to supply books to a local school or fund another year of your free seminar series for speculative fiction writers. Whatever the program or entity, it must have a strong SF/F orientation.
Must applications be submitted by a SFWA member?
No. Members often find the grant applicants or help an organization or other entity apply, but membership is not required. Anyone with a favorite SF/F group that promotes SF/F can encourage or help that organization apply.
Do applicants need to be registered as nonprofits or can they be more loosely organized groups?
501(c)(3) and similar organizations have an easier vetting process, but anybody can apply. Givers Fund grants have gone to individuals in the past, though rarely. More regularly, they do go to groups that organize readings series, conventions, and the like. If you’re in doubt, ask! As Nathan puts it in the webinar: “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we can give out every penny we have in the pool this year, and have it go to as many different people to do as much good as possible.”
Can a for-profit organization apply?
They can, but they have a very high bar to get over. The grant can’t benefit the organization’s owner(s). In fact, it cannot benefit any individual–the funds must be used to pay for expenses, not to generate profits or income, whether for the applicant, a speaker, or any other individual or business.
Can an individual writer apply to support their own work?
They can apply, but unless “their own work” is offering a course, a workshop, or some other public-facing effort, the chances that it would be funded are slim.
Rephrased: We won’t support you while you write.
In addition, the grant can’t support the writer in terms of income. It can support expenses, even ones previously paid from the writer’s pocket for the project, but a grant along those lines would have to meet a really high bar to be awarded.
What sort of expenses can Givers Fund grants be used for?
The easiest way to think of it is “We pay for things, not people.”
Reimbursable business expenses supported by receipts are the usual types. Examples are receipts for travel, the various expenses to run a not-for-profit workshop (though not paychecks for the facilitators), event rental fees, advertising expenses, web hosting expenses, software expenses, scholarships for in-person workshops, electronic readers, and copies of books for reading groups.
What sort of expenses are off-limits?
Payments to writers for articles or fiction, honorariums, stipends, speakers fees, et cetera. Givers Fund grants are not intended to create taxable income for the recipient or for any individual involved with the project. The grant may enable you to free up some money to pay individuals directly, through covering other costs, but it cannot be the source of that income, nor will explaining that potential work-around aid your application.
Also, we don’t pay for an organization’s legal fees to become a 501(c)(3), nor do we pay start-up expenses for a new effort, and we don’t support contests.
So an organization could apply for funds to rent event space or pay for Zoom hosting fees, but not to pay a speaker an honorarium?
How much money is typically awarded to a grant winner?
Our available funding pool varies from year to year, and no single grant can get more than 10% of the pool. Typical grant awards are $1,000 to $2,000 USD, though some projects have received more. The grant committee awards as many grants as possible in a given year, making it rare that any one grant application will receive all the funds they apply for.
Are there any tips or best practices that make an application more likely to win a grant?
Advocate for a good cause that benefits the field. Include a decent budget breakdown. Apply for an ongoing project or event that has a track record the committee can review in literature provided with the application or on websites. If you’re applying on behalf of a new activity or project, it behooves you to partner with an established 501(c)(3) organization that can sponsor the project and be the actual applicant, as they are more likely to have that track record established.
If the project serves a broad public audience, usually for free, it’s good bet. Workshops for current or new SF/F writers, reading series, public library programs, convention activities: these are most heavily favored applications, especially when run by a charity or similar organization. But there are always exceptions! We have funded projects as varied as archival work to protect and promote the speculative fiction genres to a science fiction musical theater production!
What are common errors or mistakes you see in applications for the Givers Fund grants?
Claiming to be a 501(c)(3) when you’re not. Asking for money to pay people or oneself. Asking for a grant that doesn’t focus on the speculative fiction genres. Making specific mention of a SFWA member or Board member who will be teaching or appearing at the event–that will not make the application more appealing. Rather, it’s more likely to cause issues as it creates potential conflicts of interest. Not having “your ducks in a row,” meaning that your entity is not in good standing with the IRS or its state registration. Failing to provide basic information about the entity’s structure and location.
Also, the primary goal of the project should be uplifting the speculative fiction genres. If your project is intended to also uplift marginalized populations, that’s great and it should be mentioned–but as a secondary goal. The Givers Fund was not established specifically for that purpose. Thus, it’s best to emphasize in your application how the project advances SF/F overall, and then add commentary on how it also advances representation of marginalized populations in the speculative fiction community.
What are some of the organizations that have been awarded Givers Fund grants?
An “Astronomy for Writers” program at the University of Wyoming. The science fiction musical we mentioned earlier. Con or Bust. The Art and Words show in Dallas. The Speculative Literature Foundation. A summer camp for creating short films. Alpha, Clarion, Odyssey, and Turkey City workshops. Reading series in Denver, Iowa City, and more. The African Speculative Fiction Society. The Dream Foundry. The list is long and rich.
What’s the process after someone sends in their application?
- We vet the application for applicability and completeness.
- If they’re incomplete, we’ll make a good faith effort to reach out to get the missing information.
- Completed applications passing Steps 1&2 are reviewed by the CFO/Comptroller for due diligence to ensure the entity is in good standing with the IRS and state authorities and is what it claims to be. We then review the provided support documents to ensure the project has an SF/F orientation.
- The vetted applications go to a committee who decides who gets how much. This generally involves balancing wanting to give something with knowing we can’t grant the whole amount.
- The committee’s decisions are passed to the SFWA Board to be approved by vote.
- Grant acknowledgment and rejection letters are sent.
- Once all recipients return the acknowledgement letter, grant funds are released by the CFO and paid out by the Comptroller.
When will the Givers Fund grants be awarded this year?
By year end. We try to make it before Christmas. Grant funds are paid out in January or by early February.
So let’s say someone applies by Oct 1 of this year and does not get the funds. Should they re-apply next year?
Depends on the reason it wasn’t funded. If the committee didn’t award anything, then chances are good that the same result will happen again. If in doubt, applicants should write us at email@example.com. Or they can ask a Board member.
Can recipients of Givers Fund grants re-apply?
Yes. Many do.
What should a grant recipient do if their project falls through? For instance, a global pandemic interrupts their well-laid plans…
They should contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Chances are the funds can be postponed to another year, or may be used for a virtual, instead of in-person, event. If the changed plans are within the same structure as the original request, something can likely be worked out.
Where does the funding for the Givers Fund grants come from?
The Givers Fund was created through a contractual arrangement with Humble Bundle about five years ago. Almost all Givers Fund dollars were received from Humble Bundle in prior years, when it featured SFWA as a charity about twice a year. Any donor can give specifically to the Givers Fund to help replenish the fund.
What are the responsibilities of a grant winner to the program after being awarded the funds?
The IRS requires that SFWA obtain and retain a report from the recipients after the event, explaining how the funds were used. We like it when they take pictures and send them to us. SFWA also wants to promote their SF/F events and projects.
We wish you and your projects the best of luck as you apply for a Givers Fund grant. And don’t forget–ask questions! As Oz puts it in the webinar, “These are good projects, these are positive things…and giving the money away is the whole goal!”