Nonprofit Management Ninja Michael Clark: At the Intersection of How to Change the World & What Really Matters

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Think about it.

Leake & Watts Row New York, Graham WindhamThe Children’s VillageCSH, BronxWorksRed Hook Initiative Harlem RBI, Open Door Family Medical Center

At some point, all these companies told a compelling story that caught our attention — and held it.

And the more we talked about them, the more they got under our skin. Through clear stores about how they manage the great work they do, these groups won our confidence and the prestigious Nonprofit Excellence Awards.

Managed by the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New YorkThe New York Community Trust, and Philanthropy New York, and sponsored by WNYC, the Awards program gives organizations a FREE 360-degree review of their key management strategies in eight nationally-recognized key performance areas.

Winning organizations receive a total of $60,000 in cash awards and scholarships for Columbia Business School Executive Education Programs in Social Enterprise. Winners are honored at a special Best Practices Workshop & Awards Presentation.

What did these groups do to capture attention, enlighten, and inspire a roomful of grant reviewers focused on the practice of excellence?

Some say you can build upon best practices and grow your nonprofit through excellent programming.

That may be true, but only if the way you manage your organization follows a certain philosophy and structure.

But the truly great ones drink a different Koolaid and achieve remarkable success in serving their communities and achieving their missions.

How? By focusing on the work needed to create exceptional management practices.


“No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
Martin Luther King Jr.



How to structure your nonprofit management

Many years ago, Michael Clark embarked on a mission to make a meaningful change in the world.

He was passionate about helping nonprofits become better at doing their mission based work and making the lives of the people they serve better.

How? By focusing on the work needed to create exceptional management practices.

I feel as if I have been given a gift.

To read a stack of grant applications that can stack up several feet in the air?

To review, debate and argue over nuances in the criteria of 8 areas of nonprofit management practice?

To sit cookieless and overcaffeinated in a meeting with 40 other equally exhausted people?

Yes to all that, and more.


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I have been given the opportunity to be part of Michael Clark’s vision as a member of the selection committee and to learn from a master.

As Michael steps down from his position at the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee to begin a new chapter of life, I want to share some of the valuable wisdom we have all gained from working with him.

As Judy Levine so aptly said, “Michael did his work based on 5 principles.”



Michael’s consistent vision of recognizing and encouraging exemplary management practices among New York’s diverse nonprofit community.


His life’s work is focused on creating a better, more just world through the empowerment of its citizens.


Underlying all of his efforts is the knowledge and acceptance of what it takes to have lasting impact in this work.


Michael knows what really matters and believes in deeply held principles.


This program was created to spur the sector to management excellence.  During his career, he never settled for less.


Mix and shake well.


Now you can raise your potent drink to toast the accomplished and noteworthy career of Michael Clark.


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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.


Welcome to the Gig Economy

booking-the-right-gigIn a bright and open space nestled in a grid of streets lined with fruit trees and mom & pop shops in Astoria, a young man looked up from his laptop and stretched, eyeing his empty coffee cup.  As he walked over to the kitchen area, he fist-bumped a friend coming out of the presentation room who just pitched her newest service to a group of investors.  At the other end of the room, a cluster of prototypes covered the table.

Another day, another website. Another app. Another product.  And yes, dollars.

Welcome to the Gig Economy.

Some people took offense to Hillary Clinton’s comments about how Americans are making extra money in the so-called gig economy.

Meanwhile, many Americans are making extra money renting out a small room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car. This on-demand, or so-called gig economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation.

But it is also raising hard questions about work-place protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

Welcome to the artist’s life.

This is not a new thing for creative professionals.  This is what artists have always done to support themselves.


Not sure I agree with the part about creating exciting economies.  Most self employed or freelance workers going from gig to gig would not describe their financial situations as exciting.  Terrifying at times, yes.

Truthfully, I am happy this is now part of the articulated economic vision of a Presidential hopeful.  It is an important reality for so many people who are making a living like working artists and deserves to be part of a national conversation among potential leaders.

Work place protections – insurance, liability coverage, pension, benefits – these have always been elusive for the Starving Artist and Friends.  In addition to those, what about copyrights, intellectual property, royalties, commissions?  Are these included in the hard questions we need to ask ourselves?

What I hope to see more of are people like Howard Schultz of Starbucks and 20 big American corporations who have come together with a plan to find jobs for 100,000 unemployed young people over the next three years.

The effort, to be called the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, is aimed at the estimated 5.6 million Americans ages 16 to 24 who are neither studying nor working, and will offer full-time positions as well as apprenticeships and internships.

“We’re living at a time when for-profit public companies must redefine their responsibilities to the communities they serve and to their employees,” he said.

There are some big philanthropies involved in this effort including the Rockefeller Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation as well as many types of businesses.

It is exciting to have the focus of a Presidential candidate, businesses and foundations on where our economy is heading and the consequence of policies created around it.

You can read the entire transcript of her remarks here.

Let me know what kinds of workplace protections you would love to have to make this gig economy work for you in the comments.

I get to collar politicians and this is something worth pitching.

The Most Powerful Question You Need To Answer To Get A Grant




A million words must be shed.

Countless coffee urns and late afternoon cookie trays must be filled.

Hundreds of donuts, glazed like the eyes of the people plodding through a sea of grant applications, will be munched on until all that is left is a communal sugar buzz.

Many artists want to know how to write a rocking proposal that gets a grant and ask, “What can I do to impress a grant panel?”

Good question.

You always want to know how to stand out in a competitive field.

Are there phrases, preferences, passions or priorities you need to be focusing on?

Really good question.

But honestly, you would know all of this because you’ve already done your research, right?

There is a better question.

This is the most important question you need to get right because if you don’t, nothing else will matter.

Answer this question

What is the transformation my art will make for my audience?

This is the question Why?

Why are you making this piece of art?

This question is not about how many paintings you will make, or the materials you will be using for your sculpture or how many musicians will be performing.

Most artists default to answers like that without truly answering the far more important question – Why?

Before a funder will give you money for your project, they need to be convinced of the benefit of your project, the impact it will have on the people they care about.

If you are aligned with your funder’s mission, passion and audience, this will be easy for you.

In other words, sell Paris, not the plane.

Two artists, two answers to Why?

In a recent small group workshop, 2 artists brought proposals to work on.

The first artist described her project in great detail:  the number of paintings, how they would be installed, the subject matter and how it related to the history of the community.

“OK, that tells me what you will be doing,”  I said.  “Now tell me why.”

She paused for a moment, “Well, I am obsessed by a beautiful tree in my neighborhood and I want to capture it in a  series of paintings.”

The sentence hung in the air.

I asked my famous question,” What is the unique transformation your art will provide for your audience?”

I asked this question several times until she came to the answer – I created these paintings of this tree to remind people to experience joy and wonder in the beauty that exists in their everyday life.

She said that a few times and said, “It seems so bold somehow, but that’s exactly what I feel inside.  Can I really just say that?”

Be bold, be bigger

How can it be that artists, the cool people who take big, bold risks in their art, are so timid about telling people stuff like this?

This is exactly what I want to know before I know anything else.

Be bold, be big or go home

Here’s a hot tip: Grant reviewers are people.  And like anyone else, we long to be delighted and amazed.  

If I am not sold on the Why?, then What you do does not interest me.

The second artist had a project that had been turned down but she had called for panel comments so she knew where her proposal fell short.

“I did not show how my project would include this specific community,” she said.  “So I will use all locally found materials and place my finished art pieces in specific locations throughout this particular neighborhood.”

Again, I asked my famous question, “What is the unique transformation you art will provide for your audience?”

Her answer, after drilling down with this question several more times, was this:  My art project asks people to think about how they place value in things, what they keep, what they discard, and what they replace.

Nothing is more impressive than an artist who can square their shoulders with a light in their eyes and tell you why their art will rock your world.

All you have to do is answer the question.


Let’s do this!


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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.


The Cultural Equity T Shirt Project



How do you support artists whose work questions, argues, provokes, disrupts and refuses to accept anything less than an equitable cultural ecosystem?

This is the question that drove me to the 2015 Americans for the Arts Pre-Conference on Cultural Equity in Chicago.

I am looking for answers.

I am looking for some clear footing to build action steps forward.  Now.


Because I, and many of my friends and colleagues have spent way too much time talking, and not doing.

What I want answers to

Let me begin with some questions that came up in response to Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change: High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy, a report released by the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy (NCPR) by Holly Sidford at the 2011 Grantmakers in the Arts conference in San Francisco.

Questions such as:

  • Is equity about access, outreach, and distribution of philanthropic funds?
  • Or is it about the essential roles that art and culture play in public life and social well-being?
  • How does equity in arts and cultural funding relate to racial and ethnic equity?
  • What about equity in arts and culturally based economic development?

Discussing these questions led to more questions.  More questions, more talk.  More talk, less action.


In response to the following questions, I offer a series of T shirts that can be worn on select occasions such as budget testimony hearings or community board meetings…

What are we talking about when we talk about cultural equity?

In a session intriguingly titled, Art as a Force for Equity,  here are some answers, retorts and challenges offered by Chay Yew, Victory Gardens Theater, Maria Gaspar, 96 Acres Project, Jane M. Saks, Project&, David Feiner, Albany Park Theater and Sixto Wagan, University of Houston.

artflow_2015061520491Give the community radical access to creative process

Give people a place for:

  • access
  • equity
  • agency
  • reflection

Give art respect

Art is a distinct and powerful experience, dangerous in the most possible ways

Art is not a first responder. It is a second responder that provides:

  • sustenance
  • humanity
  • healing, teaching
  • an experience of beauty
  • a way to feel human, to respect human dignity

The challenge is: how do second responders shift paradigms?

Art has the power to shift the canon, to create something that would not have been, to create value for the unrealized

To realize the dream, speak the dream out loud. Again. Again, many times and with many people

Appreciate the merits of jumping first. Here’s a secret insight: people will follow if you do something first

What is the purpose of revolutionary artist?

This question was raised in a session titled, Partnership & Power, and met with responses from Pemon Rami, DuSable Museum of African American History, Masequa Myers, South Side Community Art Center, Bill Michel & Emily H. Lansana, Logan Center for the Arts, Rebecca Zorach, University of Chicago, Heather Robinson, Beverly Art Center and John Haworth, National Museum of the American Indian.


Art is the rehearsal for revolution

The purpose of the revolutionary artist is revolution


See me

“That was a good spreadsheet, I think of it often.”

What can the artists’ role be in the future of public art?

Within the Short Stacks: Artist Talks presentations by Sara Daleiden, MKE<-> LAX, Lauren Woods, Artist, Maria Gaspar, Artist and Jean Shin, Artist, the seed of a new MFA curriculum course emerged:

The Art of Shapeshifting

This crucial skill set not found in traditional MFA programs develops:

  • active mobility
  • flexing through cultural zones
  • focus on new mobilities vs cultural divides
  • placing the arts in decision making structures
  • how to build relationships with creative thought partners to do these projects

What is my opportunity as an individual artist for my city?

Finally, in his keynote presentation, Theaster Gates offers the following insights on the topic of Empowering the Voices Inside Communities Through the Arts:


The Power of Two

Art is a spiritual conduit for humanity

Art can make new questions emerge in public dialogue

You need to get little bit out, a little Bootsy, a little Sun Ra

Can we be inside and outside our studios?

“I’m never lonely.”

Steve Colbert: You’re turning things into art I didn’t have to think about.

Why? Art makes things visible, legible – like your consciousness, and puts it in front of people

You do the life

Then it is on people

That’s what that does

Wear your passions proudly people.

Hoong Yee

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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.

How To Write A Grant In A Hamster Wheel

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After weeks and days of a winter that just won’t let go, nothing brings home the promise of spring and new beginnings than a smack in the head from the universe.

That’s right.  I just got drop kicked into a hamster wheel of deadlines of Things That Must Be Done Now and true to my Number 1 Daughter DNA, I dug in and worked my tail off.

Until I fell off the hamster wheel.

Sidelined with a hoarse cough that racks my entire body, a pounding headache and the inability to remain vertical for any length of time.

And through it all, confident that everything going out will be killer.

Here’s the secret:

The slow death of a hamster wheel comes from smart organizational skills.

Need your latest 900 or audited statement?  No problem.

What about the latest press pieces about you and work?  Piece of cake.

And what if this proposal is similar to one you just wrote?  Cut & paste.

A file on my computer named Knowledge Management is what keeps me sane.  It keeps me nimble and quick to seize unexpected opportunities because I know where I can get my hands on what I need.  Fast.

Here’s what mine looks like:


This is a big file.  I keep current and prospective funders in here with a chronological list of proposals.  I further break them into these categories:

  • Foundation
  • Corporate
  • Legislative
  • Family
  • Other

Having all of your proposals filed accordingly creates a Swipe File for you – a place where you can lift, cut and paste text that you wrote for one funder that you could use for another.


Keep all of your pieces chronologically.


Keep a scanned copy of your materials here.


This is a great place to get quotes from .

Tip:  Always ask and always follow up with a short list of bulleted points you would like them to speak to.  Otherwise you will end up with something well intentioned but unfocused and often not useful.

Work Samples

Many of you have big files and store your work on other servers like Vimeo.  If you are like me, you probably have a huge list of passwords because you’ve forgotten what it was and had to reset it.

Tip:  TAKE THE TIME to note the new password in a secure file!  You will save yourself so much aggravation by doing so. 


This is a good place to store any kind of assessment tool you use like an audience survey, questionnaire, program evaluation form.  You can also keep anything you find that you think works well here and adapt it.


Boiler Plate

I keep my mission statement, list of board members, data such as audience attendance, demographics or trends, a chronological file of audited statements and annual reports, one page fact sheet here.  This is where I also kee

Tip:  Keep your electronic signature here.  It comes in handy when you are doing e grants or need to email signed documents and reports.


The key is to respect your information by updating and maintaining it on a consistent basis.

Believe me, all you need is your Knowledge Management file to slow down that hamster wheel to your own pace.






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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.