Meet Your Primal Pleasures: Food, Sex, & Philanthropy


How many time do you hear this story:  a successful, single person reluctantly does some good cause because “everybody in my golf club who went to help those poor refugees came back feeling so much better about themselves and said, ‘You should check it out.’”  

So instead of packing his skis to meet his buddies at Jackson Hole to go skiing, he hops on a plane to some war torn part of the world and rolls up his sleeves to help refugees.  

To his surprise, he discovers that this “act of giving” actually made him happy.  

It was a fulfilling experience.


“If you have only two pennies, spend the first on bread and the other on hyacinths for your soul.” – Tweet that!

Arab Proverb

Then there is the story of an older woman who is on a tight budget and has several health problems.  

She lives close to her daughter and is very involved on her community board and sings every Sunday in her church.  

With her husband, she volunteers for collect donations for disaster relief causes.



The older woman has some advantages working in her favor.

She has less stress in her life and is loved and respected by those around her – all things that make us feel good about ourselves.  

Happiness is the other side of the coin of service such as volunteering and being part of a team.  

Another strong link to happiness is a loving family, as is inclusion in social groups.  

Studies have found that focusing on wealth, material gain and careers are less likely to lead to happiness than focusing on doing good, helping others, spirituality or religion, family and friends.  

While some of us might go with the successful, single guy, the older woman is probably happier.


We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we giveTweet that!

Winston Churchill



Studies by neuroscientists show that when research subjects are asked to think about giving or helping, the parts of the brain where selfish, primal pleasures like sex, touch, comfort, connection, safety and love are housed light up like a Christmas tree.

One thing that can contribute to your happiness is to be among other people working on cause that is bigger than yourself.

By giving.

Giving makes us happy.  

“The most selfish thing you can do is to help other people,” says Brian Mullaney, who founded Smile Train.  

Giving to this organization not only helps thousands of children born with cleft lips and cleft palates, it makes him and everyone who gives, smile, too.

Giving to the arts is often considered frivolous but it is no different than giving to support clean water or cancer research.  

At their core, the intent of all philanthropic causes is to make the world a better place.

To make it possible to create something that inspires the soul can bring people together around a goal that elevates our common humanity as well as our individual life experience.  

To give to the arts is to get closer to your inner artist.


It takes each of us to make a difference for all of us – Tweet that!

Jackie Mutcheson

This actually makes giving one of the most selfish things you can do.  



The other side of the coin of giving is asking.

Amanda Palmer, the rock musician, crowdfunding star, and popular TED speaker knows all about the art of the ask.

She has asked thousands of people in the street for money performing as a living statue in a wedding dress.  

On tour as a musician, she relied on her fans to give her places to stay and to sleep.  

When she struck out on her own leaving her record label, she asked her fans to support her new album on Kickstarter which became one of their most successful campaigns.  

As an artist, she has reinvented the new rules of give and take and created unprecedented ways for people to give her money, support and love.

Her actions will inspire you to rethink your own ideas about giving, asking and art.

Remember this as opportunities to give come your way.  

Not only will people who need your help benefit, you will too.

While giving to charities may have a flawed record in making the world a better place, it has a perfect score in making us feel better about ourselves as a supporter, a volunteer or as an artist.   

The art of giving is the secret to happiness.

It is as basic a human pleasure as food or sex.

2015-03-28 22.09.37







Hoong Yee


About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.

How Your Aunt Millie Can Make You a Better Grantwriter


There must be something in the air whenever people begin to write grant proposals.

Something that lands on your shoulder and hisses in your ear, “Don’t forget your proposal p’s and q’s!”  

If you obey this little voice, you will end up with a grant proposal that looks like a wall of text jammed with information about you using ten dollar words that read like a matter-of-fact summary of dry facts.


twitter-2Jargon is the pig latin of snobs – Tweet that!

Most people believe this is how to write a grant that will get funded.  

Why anyone would think that is beyond me but after reviewing grants for many years, this is what I see.  

What that kind of proposal is guaranteed to produce is what I call “panelist rage” which is quickly reached after the stage called “panelist fatigue”.  

Once that kicks in, you have a slim to none chance of regaining ground and getting that grant.

Here are 3 things you can do to win over a grant panelist:


1. Make it passionate

If you are putting together a grant proposal for a project you are passionate about, start by writing a short paragraph of 3-4 sentences that captures why you feel it is urgent, important and essential.  

Don’t feel like you have to start at the beginning of the list of questions you will have to answer.  

This paragraph will most likely become part of your project description but it will keep you on track as you write your proposal.  

I call this “pulling in the grant panelist”.

When I am looking for a book to read in a book store, one that I will actually pay money for, I have to be hooked by either the jacket blurb or the opening sentences.  

These are the places most people go to if they are curious to know more about the story and ultimately, buy the book.

As a grant panelist, I often find myself doing the same thing when I read a proposal.  

I look at the opening of the project description which usually sags with self consciousness, lack of urgency or sounds dry, factual and regrettably, forgettable.

Almost as if they were repeating this amongst themselves and not to a group of people who may have never heard of them.  

But if you imagine yourself telling your favorite Aunt Millie about your project, you will have to use your imagination to make it come to life for her.

You want her to feel the same passion that you have.

Write down what you would say to here even if what you are describing is not in chronological order because what is key here is to make Aunt Millie feel the urgency you feel.

Go ahead and write what you feel has to be said first, and you can fill in the stuff you should include later.


1. Make it about Aunt Millie

Fiction writers talk about creating an experience, or a dream state for the reader.  

In his book, The Art of Fiction, John Gardner talks about the “fictional dream” and how the writer must use the power of writing – language, plot and voice – to keep that reader in the narrative flow of that dream.  

Think of the person who can tell a long joke and keep everyone at the edge of their seat waiting for the punch line.

What she says, how she says it, the timing are all crucial elements to the success of the joke.  

This dream state, or the experience your project, has to become something Aunt Millie can imagine herself being in.

You will want her to sit up a little straighter, clutch her pearls, and say, “I can see myself there.”  

Leave space in your writing for Aunt Millie or a grant panelist to invest some of their imagination in to become part of your project.

Successful grantwriters use the same strategies as fiction writers to engage grant reviewers as they make their case.


3.Make it universal

Philanthropy is all about making the world a better place, one person at a time.

Even if the grant proposal you are writing is about creating a piece of art or writing music, the underlying intent is that work will contribute to making the world a more beautiful place for people.

Many artists will spend more time describing the art than the change the art will make.

One way I like to describe doing this better is this:  


Sell Paris, not the airbus – Tweet that!  

Focus on the destination, the dream of being in the City of Light, April in Paris, baguettes and cafes.  

Once you have hooked people into the emotional pull of that vision, how they get there is not as important.  

Tell me your project will open my eyes to a different way to see colors, or show me a new way to move through light and shadow.  

Change something for me that will make life better.

Artists have the power and the vision to do this.  

By keeping these three things in mind you will make a fan out of Aunt Millie and you will create a proposal a grant reviewer will love.


2015-03-28 22.09.37







Hoong Yee


About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.

Make Art or Make It Happen: The Rise of the Artist Administrator – an interview with Kendal Henry


Kendal Henry

Have you ever found yourself waiting on line to get a book signed by an author you love and wondering to yourself, “How did she create her book, her career and make a life doing all of that?”

I think about that all the time.

When I talk to artists about what their biggest dream is and what their biggest challenges are, this is what I hear:

“I want to make a life that I love around making art.”

“I don’t know how.”

This is not good. For the artist or for all of us in the world who need artists.


The path I followed, which I do not recommend to anyone without a trust fund, led me through a master’s program in piano performance from which I emerged with a framed diploma and 32 Beethoven Sonatas committed to memory.

As an artist, I struggled to make a life as a musician.

As a grantmaker, grant reviewer and employer, I cannot remember a single time when a person’s education degrees influenced my decision.

The other path I followed I do recommend:

Unleash your inner artist administrator – Tweet that!

I am the Executive Director of the Queens Council on the Arts. It dawned on me that I was more than that a few years ago when I was unexpectedly asked by Marion Godfrey, from the Pew Charitable Trust to play a Willie Nelson song. “Could you play ‘Crazy’? Bob isn’t around and I need a pianist.”

Her request may sound like not such a big deal, especially for someone who has been playing the piano all her life, but it was. And it made me mad that I had let my practice lapse to the point where I really wasn’t confident at all about saying, “Sure, I’d love to!” Especially in a room where everyone was an arts administrator looking forward to relaxing after a full day of conference sessions. Everyone except Bob, the Executive Director of Americans for the Arts who, I discovered later, plays in a garage band. Yet, they were playing, singing and letting their musician flag fly. And afterwards, many of them told me that they considered themselves artists first. The path they chose as administrators in arts organizations was intentional: a way to support their art making and as a way to make art happen.

I had an opportunity to talk about being an artist administrator with Kendal Henry, an artist and curator who is currently the Director of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art Program and adjunct professor at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.

As an artist, he has worked public art for over 25 years, creating art as a tool for social engagement, civic pride and economic development.

“I am an artist.”
“My discipline is collaboration and my intent is to show people how to work together.”

For Kendal, the art he makes is an experience. “The art itself is an artifact, the result of the experience.”

Kendal believes that the most successful public artworks start with the question, “What is the artwork to achieve?” and takes into account the audience and surrounding environment in the creation of that artwork.

He begins his process with a conversation among everyone who is a partner or collaborator. This includes the artists, people from the community, the municipality or council, other organizations. The question that he poses is “What do you want to do?”

Wearing both his artist and administrator hats, his process is to go into new communities to get a sense of how they define themselves, what are people thinking, what is the energy on the street like.

In a temporary art project he completed in Vladivostok, Russia, he gathered people to have conversations about what was important to them.  There was great frustration around the development and construction going on in the city and the people said, “Give back our sky.”

Working with the community and materials that were easily accessible and plentiful, Kendal created hammocks for people to relax in and look up at the sky.

“Community building is the art.”

His approach is always that of a visitor, or an invited guest. As an artist or as a facilitator, his ability to listen and to understand what people are saying is crucial. “To listen for what is not being said is also very important.” These skills are what create true impact whether you are in the role as an artist or an administrator. “I apply my artist skills in my work as an administrator.”

“I like to create art festivals.” Festivals give Kendal a chance to collaborate with artists. For example, he was invited to be an artist-in-residence in in a town near Melbourne, Australia where he created a festival. The role of the festival was to introduce a community to public art and launch a public art program. 17 artists participated, each receiving a $1,000 fee and materials. True to his process, the festival began with conversations where the collaborators talked about their desire for a public art program, their frustration in reaching local artists, problems plaguing their community such as drugs, police brutality, homelessness. The festival became a platform where many of these conversation points could become visible.

“The act of organizing the festival was the art.”

At one point in the process, some of the artists wanted to create pieces around these issues that were potentially offensive. Moving seamlessly from artist to administrator, Kendal suggested ways to engage people who were not happy with the art and address their concerns with short and long term solutions. A better way to describe his role is “catalyst”. As a catalyst, his art is to get people to talk to each other.

“Coming from St. Lucia to New York at the age of 14 gave me the perspective of an outsider. Knowing other cultures make you a better person. I work in many third world countries and industrial places and the work always comes back to the most important things – what is is to be alive, being safe, being loved. I am humbled every time I am in a place where things we take for granted here do not exist. This becomes part of my approach – to build collective knowledge that allows people to do something about this with an art practice, using what you already have.”

“I don’t separate my artist skills from my administrator skills. It was a ‘Eureka!’ moment for me when I realized that I didn’t have to.”

“At my day job at DCLA, I work with artist/finalists who are about halfway through a 6 week process to create a proposal. I like to learn about the artist. To encourage them to create a proposal that relates to their body of work. Very often, once an artist is told they are getting $100,000 to create something, they go into shock and try to make something to please other people. I am there to tell them what we want is the ‘authentic you’. Here my role changes: I am acting in the role of an administrator with the sensibility of an artist.”

This, in a nutshell, is how I summed up the artist administrator ratio for Kendal:

Administrative skills is knowledge to get art stuff done – Tweet that!

As an artist, 80% is art, 20% is administrative.
As an administrator, 80% is administrative, 20% is art


“My next project is the the Art Prospect Public Art Festival in St. Petersburg. I was invited as an administrator and became an artist. Contemporary public art is new in Russia. The idea of 50 artists taking over a community is unheard of. This year’s theme is “Dialogue”. We will connect with other groups such as consulates to bring artists from all over the world. There is a 10 day artmaking process and the festival itself takes place over a weekend.”


“It was becoming all about me. The guy who just got here, the guy from New York. I’m more of a behind the scenes person. I wanted everybody to stop promoting me.”

For those of you who are curious, here are 2 examples of Kendal’s recent work:


Global Art Lab Workshop



The Papua New Guinea Arts Incubator


“I have a young person working for me who has interests in lots of different areas. I told him that if he can’t find a job that he likes, make it up. There is a lot of theory out there. I get impatient with all that speculation and what ifs. Just do it and see what happens.


image by Hugh McLeod

Write your own name tag, your own story, your own narrative before someone else does it for you.

I am working on creating new names for myself with one of my artist friends. What I came up with is, ‘cultural engineer’.
What do you think?”

For me, the name I like for myself is “keyboard strategist”. That covers everything I do from playing late night jam sessions to writing. Stay tuned.

Can you see yourself as a cultural engineer or another new name that best describes you?

Think about all facets of what you do to make your art happen. When you look at yourself as an artist, what you may see is an administrator.

2015-03-28 22.09.37







Hoong Yee


About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.




Money and the Starving Artist: The Zen of Conscious Cashflow


30 funders in the room with combined assets equal to the GNP of a third world country walked into a room.

Hmmm, sounds like the beginning of a bar joke.

OK, make that 30 New York Grantmakers in the Arts walked into a conference room at Philanthropy New York, way above the Times square bustle, buskers and the Naked Cowboy hustling tourist dollars in exchange for an only-in-New-Yawk cultural experience – to talk about money and starving artists.

And we listened to Amanda Clayman, a financial wellness expert, Esther Robinson of ArtHome and David Thomson, a multidisciplinary artist, talk about how to build a healthy financial ecosystem for artists.

As in, yes, starving artists, freelancers, and people with variable income.

Code for: financially fragile.

To be more precise, we are talking about artists who need to build assets and credit scores with confidence.

If this sounds like you, read on. If this sounds like someone you fund, this means you too.


Kay Takeda, David Thomson, Esther Robinson, Amanda Clayman

Some Big Challenges for Artists

DT: Artists don’t have a comfortable relationship with language around money. They don’t receive business training in art schools or how to engage in consistent financial management the way they engage in their own consistent artistic practice.

AC: Artists don’t know how to define or value stability, solvency and security for themselves. It is usually a point of financial stress that brings these issues to the door where they are treated and managed as a crisis “in the moment”. It is a discrete problem to be solved. In these situations artists need to be strategists, not victims. The challenge is they often have underlying attitudes and beliefs around money – anxiety, shame, uncertainty. They need to build a resource toolkit, flexibility and confidence.

ER: Most Americans are financially illiterate and believe in “the white knight” myth. Most artists are undercapitalized with $0 retirement. Millennials have high debt load and 30-40 year olds are facing skyrocketing costs in rent. Artists are most similar to activist and faith based practitioners in their relationship to money, purpose and passion. They are also most likely to be freelance, with 1099 incomes, no savings and low credit scores. How do you maintain your sense of purpose while building sustainability?

Some Big Questions for Arts Funders

  • Here are some questions we are asking each other as funders who care about making a true difference in the life of an artist.
  • Where does philanthropy impact an artist’s life?
  • How can we help artists build access and equity in their overall financial portfolios?
  • How can artists who have variable incomes structure a sustained financial life?
  • What else is out there in the ecosystem?
  • Can we create a large scale support ecosystem that is culturally equitable?
  • What does progress look like?

What Can Funders Do?
AC: Artists have bought into this bohemian myth that it is cool to be “a starving artist”. But that is just a defense mechanism that dignifies the poverty they have created for themselves and to minimize the guilt they have about caring about $. The other delusional myth they believe in is “the white knight”. That someone will come and save them.

OK, so what is my responsibility? What am I going to do? We all have to ask this question of ourselves.

Here’s what Amanda wants to do:  I want to teach artists a healthy process and to detach from the results. To tolerate financial stress, gain skills to create –

Confidence in negotiation

– and identify options or where they can go for additional resources, like being a referral system.

I want artists to:
Think “cashflow solvency, not credit”
Think long term
To become artist/strategists
To be present with your money
To speak money in a different way, as a system
To build confidence and flexibility in your financial practice
To change your underlying attitudes and beliefs of anxiety, shame and uncertainty
To have sustained interactions in monthly mastermind groups

ER: As funders, can we build an ecosystem or a constellation or resources?

“Hey, I’m just the chick with the pamphlets.” – Tweet that!

Can we bring about a systemic change?
Can we have more compassion? I believe grant panelists have to be generous people. They have to be because they will suffer from the “tyranny of volume” reading hundreds of applications.
Can we make it easier for grantees? Let us validate No for unsuccessful grantees. Perhaps we can build a community of grantee cohorts.

Can we support the gaps collaboratively?

Here’s what Esther wants to do:  I want to work with artists in building assets and improving their FICO scores. Artists are part of the gig economy so it is important and also inevitable that you have to diversify in order to survive and to build your financial base.

DT: Longevity is something I like to talk about using the metaphor of giving a person a fish or teaching a person how to fish. In this case, the artist doesn’t need to learn how to fish – the artist has to learn how to fish. Accumulate, stock, add value, commoditize the fish.  Isn’t that a great image?

Here’s a quote I think we would look great on a checkbook cover:

“Teach me how to monetize the fish” – Tweet that!

What is One Thing Everyone in the Big Room Can Do Right Now?
Some of us are doing things that work. Most of what we are doing are modest in scale compared to the actual reality artists live with. Our data sets are small, our workshops, gatherings and number of success stories scarcely make a dent in achieving financial solvency for artists.

Could we all go back to our boards and get approval to support the financial sustainability of artists?
I wonder.

Could we all go back to our process and make one or two small changes?
More likely.

Here are two suggestions that I like:
What if we asked for artist fee – separate from production costs? All of us.
The artist is invisible in a project budget. Setting a priority on the artist fee would start to change the behavior of artists so they think about their value in a capitalist market. Artists are in financial trouble because they have a validation crisis.

What if we supported community of artist grantees?
People benefit from workshops, studies prove this to be true. Over time, sustained interaction of mentorship of enlightened peers is the most effective way to bring about a change in attitude and confidence.

What Can You Do?

OK, now that you know being a starving artist is really not an admirable career goal, you can begin to think about changing your personal relationship with money so you can be control of creating a more confident financial position.


Here are 3 takeaways from today’s session to start you off:

  1. Learn to speak the language of money.  Language is power.  It will name things and give you control over your money in a system that you will become more comfortable and confident in.


  1. Think cashflow solvency, not credit.  Build assets with the same focus as you build your artistic practice.


  1. Ask for help. Change your underlying attitudes and beliefs of anxiety, shame and uncertainty.  Start by contacting experienced financial professionals like Amanda and committed practitioners like Esther.  And definitely follow David.


There is no silver bullet in doing this work as an artist or as a funder.

There are, however, silver linings and more specifically, people who have brought a great wealth of knowledge and compassion to share and are slowly building a solid base of resources for all of us.

Big thanks to Philanthropy New York for hosting us and to Kay Takeda, Director of Grants & Services for Lower Manhattan Cultural Council for bringing us together around this big challenge which cannot afford to remain invisible.

Or a punchline.

2015-03-28 22.09.37








Hoong Yee


About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.




What a Cakebox Can Teach You About Getting a Grant


A mentsch is a nice person.

Everybody should aspire to be one.

For many reasons.  One of which is, people will like you.

And some of those people will actually fund you because they like what you do and – they like you.

An artist, leaning defiantly against her easel, asked me, “Why does this matter?  My art speaks for itself and that is what people will buy.”

I suppose that may be true if you happen to be the only artist within a hundred mile radius of barren nothingness and people are dying for something to smack them out of oppressive boredom.

However, here in Queens and New York City, people will step on your art to get closer to the person who not only speaks for their art, but adds unexpected value.

What is unexpected value?

As my dear Jewish mother-in-law, Mildred Phyllis Krakauer would say, clutching her pearls gazing upwards:

“Never show up without a cake box in your hand.”

Think about it.

What can a cake box do?

Well, it speaks volumes about the person bringing it:

  • that they thought about it
  • that they took the time to get it
  • that, if my mother-in-law had anything to do with it, it was probably the hostess’s favorite and from the nut-free bakery in New Rochelle, God forbid anyone has a terrible allergic reaction
  • and if my mother-in-law did indeed bring the cake, it was from the Harbor Bakery in Rockaway Beach – home of the most amazing chocolate meltaway cake and guaranteed to make the hostess look like a rock star!

So tremendous unexpected value has been built here – for everyone.

Who wouldn’t want Mildred on their guest list?

How you can add value in your grantwriting

“But what can I do to add value to a funder?”  wailed the artist with the talking painting.

I get this question a lot.

You are a creative person, you can come up with ways to amaze, delight and help people.  You know what to do.

Actually, the question you should be focusing on is:  Why should you add value to a funder?

Do not underestimate the power of a generous spirit.  Adding value is one of the primary power strategies I truly believe in and teach in THE GRANTWINNING BOOTCAMP.  You can get your hands on my FREE MASTER GRANT STRATEGY WORKSHEET to get you started in getting grants to get your work out into the world.

But I suggest you start by adding value.

Clearly, this requires a different kind of cakebox.

Here’s how one of our grantees did it:

Recently, as I was leaving a packed must-be-there must-be-seen event, a woman waved me over to a camera and asked me if I could say a few words about the arts in Queens.  She captured a quick soundbyte with me and bounded over to her next interviewee.

Was this her event?  No.

What was she doing this for?

All of the interviews would eventually be edited down into a tight little video for the organizers of the event to use in their marketing, on their website, and to share with their audience.

Who wouldn’t love to have someone do that for them?  To actually shoot the footage, edit and make everyone look good?  As a gift of added value.

Who do you think becomes instantly top of mind for people?

katha-kooky-at-the-step-and-repeat 2

Check out Katha Cato and the Queens World Film Festival, one of our 2016 Queens Art Fund grantees and definitely top of mind for me.

She is a mentsch to be reckoned with.

2015-03-28 22.09.37








Hoong Yee


About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.