Live Your Dream

Some Tips on writing a great Live Your Dream Grant Proposal

By Ben Beck-Coon and Anthony Nguyen

Cover Image By Shaheen Beg

Most climbers we know are dreamers. Climbing is pretty powerful dream-fuel, and if you're motivated opportunities abound to turn sleepy sends into reality. For those of us who aren’t sponsored athletes, however, the time and expense required to go from idea to execution on a dreamy climbing objective is often prohibitive. The American Alpine Club (AAC) is seeking to change that with Live Your Dream grants.

The Live Your Dream (LYD) program seeks to promote unforgettable experiences for climbers of all ages and experience levels. The AAC website challenges applicants “to dream big, to grow as a climber, and to inspire others,” which are ideas that most of you reading this article can probably relate to. If your stoke is already high, then please read on.

The big news is that you don’t need to be a professional climber or grant writer to have a good chance at being funded through the LYD program, but there are some things you can do to tilt the odds in your favor. The suggestions that follow are not hard and fast rules and are meant only as a guide to help you craft a successful proposal.


1) Know And Follow The Rules: Read carefully and thoroughly through both (1) the AAC selection criteria, and (2) any region-specific rules that apply to your geographic area. Then read them all again. The last thing you’d want is for your otherwise compelling proposal to be dismissed due to an avoidable error in process.


2) Be SMART: Using the right words is often more important than how many words you write. Most successful grants of any kind follow a framework for creating goals that are Specific – Measureable – Achievable – Results Oriented – and Time Bound (SMART):

SPECIFIC: describe as concisely as possible the Who, What, When, Where, and Why.

MEASURABLE: offer clear guidelines for how you will determine whether you’ve succeeded.

ACHIEVABLE: the goal should challenge you, but be possible given the knowledge, skills, and abilities that you and/or your team have or will obtain in preparation.

RESULTS-ORIENTED: talk about outcomes, not activities.

TIME-BOUND: use a time-frame that shows the tension between current reality and your vision.

A quick example should help bring the use of SMART goals into better focus:

NOT SMART – “Our dream is to do a big wall in Yosemite. My friends and I are going to aid climb Wings of Steel this fall. None of us have ever aid climbed before, but we just watched the documentary 'Assault on El Capitan' and are super-psyched to learn how between now and then. We have a great climbing community and have already talked to several people who said they’d help us out with gear and advice. We know it will be hard, but we’ll do our best."

SMART – “Our team of four (see bios) is seeking funding to complete our first big wall – South Face, Washington Column, in Yosemite National Park – in September 2016. Although we have never aid climbed, we have significant multi-pitch trad experience and have a detailed training plan (below) that over the next six months will give us the skills and experience we need to be successful.”


3. Be bold, for you: remember to dream big, but explain clearly how the grant will lead to progress in your skills and experience.

4. Tell a story: good stories have arcs, so use one (scene, rising action, climax, resolution).

5. Be authentic in your style and tone.

6.  Read and watch as much as you can about past LYD grantees.


For a small investment of time and a bit of writing, you could receive funding to live your climbing dream. Now is the time. The information in this article will put you ahead of the pack and your passion and imagination will do the rest. The online application for the spring cohort of the Live Your Dream grant is now open and more information can be found at


*Ben and Anthony are Philly-based climbers who spend a lot of time dreaming about the vertical world. They were recipients of a 2013 Live Your Dream grant to do their first big wall climb, Moonlight Buttress in Zion National Park. They’re happy to connect with anyone applying for the LYD grant and can be reached at