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A Grantwriting Grasshopper Gets A Grant

 

Mikki & Me

“Mom!”

Instinctively I brace myself, reach for my car keys and health insurance cards.  Even at 27, my daughter still has that effect on me.

I relax my curled fist and sink back into my chair releasing my inner soccer/softball/surfer mom, wondering if it is too early for happy hour.  How about simply content hour?  Untroubled hour?

“I need to learn how to write a grant.  So when I’m a psychologist I can write grants to do stuff like research or write books.  But for this assignment,”  she continued.  “I want to write a grant for you.”

Interesting.  Children are interesting.  Emerging adults who want to write grants for their mothers are very interesting.

OK, she got me.

“So, let me ask you a couple of questions:

1. What do you need right now?

2. Is there an artist or artists I can work with or help?

3. Can you use the funds now?”

Great questions.  And great approach.

I felt honored in a way that she chose to write a grant for me.

 

What did she do?

Like #artboss mom, like daughter, she knew there was a bigger game.  She took all of my grantwriting advice carefully, contacted the grant officer, clarified everything that needed to be clarified, went back to the artist to fully develop the proposal, checked with me regarding technical and logistical details, put together a clear narrative, solid budget & work samples and poof!

She created a simple grant request to Poets & Writers to support a reading by a local writer who was extremely grateful and quick to point out that “the kumquat doesn’t roll far from the tree” in praise of my daughter’s efforts.

Let me be very clear about something:  I did not ever lay eyes on her actual proposal.  For this experience to be truly meaningful, this grant had to be the one she cut her teeth on so I forced myself to not interfere.

Off it went.

“Wow, that was a great lesson.  Even if I don’t get the grant, which I hope we do, I get it.  I know how to do what you do, Mom,”  my daughter has an unsettling way of condensing my life into chunks of stuff she casually tosses over her shoulder as she goes through life.  However, in this case, I don’t mind at all.  I am very committed to the belief that the ability to write grants is a valuable life skill for creative people with the desire to make something better.  Now that she possesses that skill, the world will be better off with one more new skilled grantwriter.

So what happened?

Her professor gave her a good grade in her grantwriting class.

Three weeks later, we were notified that her grant was approved!

We will proudly be hosting a reading by Audrey DiMola in March.  Stay tuned!

And you?

I am very proud of what my daughter set out to do and what she accomplished.

If you are still doubtful about your grantwriting skills I encourage you to be inspired by her experience.

Follow the mindsets & strategies I talk about to get this life skill into your creative toolkit.

In a way, I think of you all dearly as kumquats.

 

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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.

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The Little Known Secret To Grantwriting Mastery

Has this ever happened to you?

The second email was half as long as the first and twice as clueless.

Would I stop my world and round up a group of people for a big name institution to study, to ask questions about their ethnicity and to convince them that this institution is relevant to them culturally…

Their important institution, like many others, is being haunted by the spectre of being passed over.  Of being ignored by growing number of people who are interested in experiencing new things in new ways.

“Of course, you see how valuable your help is to us,” I nodded and noticed they did not see what value this would bring to us.

I promptly filed this one under D.

Doomed and Don’t Get It.

How about this?

A man from another large institution walked into my office and told me how frustrating it was that no one in the area knew about them.

He had taken the time to find out what our mission is, who our audience is – they were similar to his organization’s. Was there a way we might work together?

He also gave us a donation to our fundraiser.

What I learned

I am sitting with a funder who has kindly agreed to go over my request.  But within the first few minutes it is apparent she is in a huff about something.

“Let’s start,” she drummed her fingers impatiently and looked at her watch. “I have quite a few meetings to get to today.”

“You have my most recent comments?”

She frowned at the papers I gave her.  “This is not in the correct format.”

I apologized.  Nothing was going well.  In a strange way, that relaxed me.  What was happening was out of my control at this point.  So, I listened politely to her pick apart my proposal, line by line.

Several pages later, she was still at it, now throwing valuable tips and better ways to answer the questions.  I noticed she was more animated, eyes shining when I asked for clarification or technical explanations.

Then it dawned on me.  She had to be in charge of the meeting.  Was she terribly busy?  Probably, but she rattled on about details, challenges – everything about every project with such enthusiasm that a picture began to form in my mind.  An image of her sifting through stacks of proposals, each one drawing upon and informing her field expertise which must be intellectually satisfying.  I also suspect that there is less opportunity for her to actually talk to, to rant, to respond to the person on the other side of the table – someone like me – about what she thinks are important things in a proposal.

I have had the opposite experience as well. A grant officer who is more of a bureaucrat than a person passionate about the mission.  I was grateful she was the latter.

How to give

It is obvious which approach works best.

The first case is more common  which just goes to show you how thoughtless people can be when it comes to asking for things.

Here’s the secret

Asking begins with giving.

Everything is a balance of give and take.  Every conversation, the well behaved ones, is a considerate balance of speaking and listening.

What do you give?

You can start with these:

Attention

This is the most overlooked and valuable thing you can give someone.

Try to remember the last time you had a conversation with someone without your hand on you cellphone.

Paying attention to someone is telling them, “What you say is important.”  It validates their contribution to the conversation, to the world, whether it is preliminary chit chat or the meat and potatoes of your discussion.

Focus

Looking into someone’s eyes as they are talking to you can cause 1 of 2 immediate effects:

1. A heightened sense of urgency in sharing which also causes people to share more lest they hit a space in the flow of conversation. And if you are respectful and perhaps, jotting down a few notes as they are speaking, they will come to see you as someone who truly gets it, someone who has made the effort to seek their valuable advice.

2. Tremendous discomfort if the person is really an ax murderer from Utah. Not likely, so go ahead and hold that person’s gaze.

And make sure your phone ringer is off.

Solutions

My Jewish mother in law, who taught me many useful things, was always a guest who brought a gift.  The man who gave us a donation gets it.  Fundraising is an ongoing challenge and he came with a solution in hand.  He knows I will work hard to achieve our common goals.  The group in the first example brought only an outdated sense of entitlement and the assumption that increasing their audience numbers would be a good thing for us.

Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is not to scream, “Who made you Elvis??”

 

unnamedAbout 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. Sign up to download her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.

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Are You Sure You Really Want That Grant?

 

“What?”

Startled gasp.

“Are you sure?’

“You’re joking!”

“Didn’t see that one coming!’

Silence, followed by the muttering of unrepeatable words.

“Give me that letter,” I scanned the sheet of paper like a heat seeking missile.

“They must have sent this to the wrong Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer.”

Everyone waited patiently, bracing themselves for aftermath to fizzle into an afterthought.

 

The Look of NO

Yes, dear reader.  This is what NO looks like when it lands in your mailbox.

Actually, this is what everyone sounds like when NO lands in your mailbox.

I did not get this grant and just like you, it is not a happy face occasion when you get turned down.  In fact, it is downright impossible to smile convincingly when you are gritting your teeth.

Disbelief stiffens into denial which can’t help itself and eventually gives in to the temptation of curiousity.  If not me, who?  And why?

“Get me the grantee list!” I barked over my shoulder as I punched the number of the grant officer on my phone – to thank her for all of her help first – of course. And then to get the panel comments.

 

Getting to YES

Yes again, dear reader.  This is what the journey from No to YES looks like.

“On it.”

“Who are all these people?  And just look at these projects!”

“I can’t figure it out.  Did we answer the same questions?”

I waited for my grant officer friend to pick up the phone, questions carbonating in my mind, my fingers drumming impatiently.

“Oh hello, I know why you’re calling,”  she said, her words sliding with practiced ease and just a touch of well worn courtesy for probably the millionth time since the grant announcement.  “I want you to know that your proposal was ranked very highly in this year’s pool which was very competitive.”

“Let’s see, you ranked very well in meeting the first criteria standard, an impressive 76.  Considering the scoring break was 83, that put you in the top percentile.  Where you fell behind the other applicants was in giving the grant panelists more context around the outcomes you describe which dropped your overall average below the funding cutoff.”  

I scribbled her recitation of the panel comments pausing only to ask for clarification around their arcane scoring system.  “Now going forward, your scores could improve significantly with more detail in your deliverables and consequent impact…” 

“So, what you’re saying is that I should give more detail for panelists who don’t know me from Adam,”  I asked.  “About who we are and why what we do is so important.”

“That is what the panel comments come to in a nutshell,”  she said.  “Especially if you want to go in a new direction which you say you are.  How do we know you are going to be successful?  What does that look like?”

 

Are you sure you want to get to YES?

And that, ladies & gentlemen, is where NO began to veer away from NOT YET and eventually land at NOT FOR ME.

It is perfectly alright to end up at any one of these points as long as you keep moving forward.  This, for me, was  a NO that became a NOT FOR ME.

As I look back on this, I see that was the best choice because she and the panel could see we were moving in a new direction which is fine, but the lack of compelling detail forced me, the dragon lady of compelling detail, to realize that there was an undeniable reason why.

We were not the perfect fit for this grant.  For this funder’s mission, goals & outcomes and success.

That is why we could not describe the outcomes or the impact convincingly. We could not describe what success looks like because we could not envision it.  It was impossible for us to make the overwhelming case why we were the best candidate for this grant.

We were a square peg in a round hole and the panel picked up on that.

Not getting this grant meant a major upheaval in our budget and our programming plans.

But I knew we would emerge from this experience feeling lighter and less stressed about doing things in a space where we are new and not quite at the top of the leaderboard.

“Thank you for sharing these comments with me,”  I said, noticing how much more relaxed I felt.

I was actually relieved not getting the grant.

Choosing your NO

Here are 3 crucial mindsets you need when dealing with a NO:

Sometimes NO is a NOT YET.

Some funders have an unwritten policy about never funding a first time applicant, preferring to observe you for a while before actually cutting you a check.

 

Sometimes NO is a NOT FOR YOU.

You may have written a grant proposal to a foundation that truly has no interest in you or what you do.

Yes, there are people out there like this.

This is valuable information coming via process of elimination.  A time consuming one to be sure but valuable over the long run.  Move on quickly.

 

Sometimes a NO is really a NO THANK YOU.  REALLY.

This is your call.  To know when to walk away from something.

I have been turned down by foundations who keep inviting me to reapply and then turn me down again.

My thinking, based on 15 years of being on grant review panels and listening to the chatter around the watercooler, is that some funders like to say, “We got over 300 applicants this year!”

If your gut is telling you that you are more valuable to a funder as applicant pool wallpaper, walk away.

I am walking away from this one.

 

 

Are you ready for your next big grant?  Let’s talk about it.  I have more ways to help you get grants to create your rich life here.

 

unnamedAbout 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. Sign up to download her free Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.

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3 Things Grant Panelists Wish You Would Tell Them

 

 

 

Back when I was a struggling starry eyed author, I made one single decision that changed my life.

I listened to the voice in my soul that said,

“You story is what the world needs to hear.  

Now.”  

And I started to study what I needed to be successful.

And perhaps even more importantly, what obstacles I needed to kick out of my way from being successful because I knew what was at stake.

My success?

That was just a part of it…

I now had more than a goal – I had a mission.

I was driven by a newly focused passion to fulfill my mission to share stories about what connects us as people with the world.

That started me on a path of personal development as a creative soul that has never stopped.  Along the way, I’ve been successfully published and built a happy life never straying from that single mission that guides me every day.

It wasn’t always fast or easy, but it has been an amazing journey.

And here’s the interesting thing…

Over the years I have met hundreds of successful artists and creative people.  Do you know what EVERY SINGLE ONE of them share in common?

They are all serious students of success armed with a powerful mission.

 

Why this is so important for you

The fact is, you have to get your inner game together before the outer success comes.

To gain success in creating a rich life, you need give the world unique value only you can create.

 

How do you start?

Writing a grant is the best way to begin.

Consider it “a shot across the bow” into a world of foundations and philanthropies who exist soley to make the world a better place by giving away money to people with passionate missions like you.

Not to workshops…

Not to exhibitions….

Not to projects….

People fund people.

That is, people with passion in their soul for a mission that matches perfectly with their own.

If that basic chemistry is amiss, the workshops, exhibitions and projects are meaningless.

I have worked with hundreds of artists after sitting on international, national and local grant review panels for over a decade and I know what works and what doesn’t.

Successful artists do certain things right.

And when they get a grant, they move up to the next level.  They do what I call “grantstacking” to build successful careers and lives.

 

Are you an artist looking to grow your career?

Have you ever written a grant?

Did your grant proposal get turned down?

Here’s how to study for success

I want you to be the one clutching an award letter in your hand.

You deserve to have the money and support for your creative project.

Why?

Because you are an artist with a vision that can change the world.

The same world that foundations, philanthropies and yes, even the government wants to make better.

The same world that wants my stories.

The world that wants what only you can create.

The Most Important Question

Of all the questions you have to answer in a grant proposal, the one that is not always obvious but is the most important one you need to nail is this:

Why?

This is your mission speaking.

And the second most important question is:

Why now?

This is urgency speaking.

Even if you do not see this clearly spelled out for you, answer it.

The answer to Why? is why you are the best candidate for the grant.

This is the answer a grant panelist needs to guarantee that your proposal makes it into the Yes pile.

Your answer will show that you know exactly what the funder’s mission is and what is important to her.  That your missions are aligned.

You will make her confident in your ability to successfully carry out your project and achieve your shared goals.

The answer to Why now? is that you recognize an urgency, a need, a moment and you have a vision for something amazing to happen.

Yes, we need information.

Your proposal will include a lot of that.

But on a deeper level we need inspiration.

Consider this when you put your proposal together:

A stack of proposals towering over a bleary eyed, under-caffeinated group of grant panelists.  A handful will be really great and immediately rise to the top.  Another handful will be really bad and get eliminated.  That leaves a lot of proposals sagging in the middle.

You want to be in the the fistful of winners.

The secret sauce

“God, I just want to be unexpectedly delighted,” sighed one of my fellow grant reviewers at the midpoint of a fellowship panel recently.

“Can you be more specific?” I probed, secretly delighted myself because I, too, was feeling the fatigue of wading through a sea of faintly inspired proposals.

“There’s this great quote by J.D. Salinger –

What really knocks me out is a book that,

when you’re done reading it,

you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours

and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.

- well, that’s the kind of feeling I look for in a great proposal.”

That has to be one of the best definitions of delight I have ever heard and it really captures the essence of that unmistakeable quality of a great proposal.

How are you going to use this?

Some of you may be newbies at writing grants. 

Many of you are busy and quite overwhelmed thinking about doing another thing like writing grants.

Some of you wonder how you will stand out from your competition if you are not well known.

If this is you, it is great to be you!

You can use these 2 questions to drill down to what your core mission is as an artist and why you need the grant now.  Your answers will position yourself not as an applicant, but as a partner to your funder.

What do funders really want?

Some of you don’t know where to start.

Mission is the bedrock of your inner game.  It is what you build your passion on and what attracts success.

Start by defining and refining the answer to Why? and Why now? to bring your personal creative mission into crystal clear focus.

This internal journey will probably take the most time and effort but will be the most powerful message you can create for yourself.

A little research about recent grantees can tell you a great deal about what a funder’s mission is and what they are passionate about.

If that resonates with your answers to those 2 questions, you have a good prospect.

One last, but very important thing…

You are competing for a scarce commodity: attention.

The one thing that will startle people into giving you another precious moment of their time and attention is –

…unexpected delight.

Convince me you are the best candidate for the grant, persuade me that the time is now…

Startle me with a bit of imaginative thinking, or simply delight me, and you are golden.

You people are amazing artists, you know how to do this better than anyone.

 

Hoong Yee

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What I Heard at the Grantwriting Watercooler in the National Endowment for the Arts

I should have known better after the cab screeched into its third U turn in the shadow of the nation’s capitol.

“I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine…”  I chanted through gritted teeth just like I always do when I am in gridlock hell in Flushing or in crosstown traffic on 34th Street in Manhattan. Of course it was raining, foggy and puddled along 7th Street.

I really should have known better after I looked up at the address and was informed by a cheerful Salvation Army Santa that I was at 400 7th Street NW, not SW.

I flag another cab.  No, I actually jump in front of a meandering stream of traffic ( you can only do this in places like DC.  DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME).

Then I pile into a startled cab and head to the other end of 7th Street where I end up in front of a huge, defiantly beige marble and glass edifice populated by Special Forces people in khaki uniforms and hats that blended into the color of the lobby so through the foggy windows they looked like moving heads, hands and feet with no bodies.

Well, that’s kind of artsy I am thinking to myself as I am ushered by several of them through a series of very serious looking metal detectors and double glass doors.

“Turn left and wait to be allowed access,” barked the woman at the first desk without looking up.

“Thank you,” I said to the top of her head and began my second journey through high level security land.

To my surprise, the folks at the National Endowment for the Arts like their new digs.

Very 21st century work environment, reasonable and tasty subsidized food service, Metro station close by…

I like making my annual NEA visit.  In fact, I like visiting all of my funders.  To me it reminds all of us that we are people doing this work..

I also learn a lot about what is going on in their particular world.

 

Here’s what I learned on this trip:

The new chairman, Dr. Chu, is really getting out in the field to visit artist communities, especially tribal groups.

There is increased interest in getting more new groups into the Challenge grants.  This past round one third of the awardees were new applicants.

The big question is how do you get the word out to as many groups as possible across the nation about this and other grant opportunities?

We talked about how often there is great work being done by artists and groups who may not be able to write a competitive grant application – how do we make sure they are heard?

Some grant makers do interesting things like invite applicants to be part of their grant review in a “face to face panel”.  I am told that this process brings complete transparency to the review and allows artists to truly present themselves.

A reminder to make sure to give as much detail and context as possible.  Other panelists may not know you or your work at all and will need you to paint a compelling picture for them.

What does this mean for you?

The takeaways I recommend you focus on are these:

  • Every funder seeks to have the widest outreach as possible.  Show who you know.
  • Be relentless in your research. There are many grant opportunities that may not be well marketed on the website by their funders so dig deeper.
  • When you are writing your application, assume you are writing for Martians who have just landed on Earth and know nothing about you, what you do or where you live.  Clear context and compelling details are crucial in making you and your project come alive.
  • Conversations on the national level echo on the state, city and private level. Chances are, other funders share the same interests, concerns and priorities.

 

On the train back to New York, I thought about the NEA in its new highly secure surroundings and at the same time, peeking over the glass walls to see as far as they could to find artists to be part of their world.

Artists like you.

 

Are you ready for your next big grant?  I have more ways to help you create your rich life here.

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