He looked familiar but I wasn’t sure why.
Did I meet him at an art opening, maybe a recent reception? Why couldn’t I place him in my memory?
His eyes landed on my puzzled brow and he broke into a huge smile, the kind that can light up a room. “Your ratios! Your percentages! They changed everything for me.”
If you are one of those people who inevitably chides people like me who possess less than a photographic memory for remembering everybody I have ever met, you might try this little technique of mine:
To put a name with a face, use an equation. Numbers don’t lie.
With those magic words, I remembered immediately who he was.
For some people, especially people who are artists trying to build their creative careers and get their work out there, the process of getting grants is not at the top of their list of gratifying artistic activities. It can be an extremely frustrating and mystifying process. How do some artists get those grants that boost them to the next level bringing them cash awards, recognition and prestige? Do they have connections, the right words, were they let in on the secret handshake?
What about you?
Foundations give away over $4 billion dollars a year. They exist to do exactly that – give away money. There are many successful artists who write grants so they can afford to spend more time creating their work, practicing their craft and building up their careers by leveraging the recognition and prestige that comes with each award. There has never been a better time than now for you to be one of them.
Narrative, budget, work samples, criteria… It seems like a daunting task to make sense of all of it.
What do funders want to see? What are the right catch phrases to use? And what really happens once you Hail Mary your grant proposal out into that black hole? It all seems so mysterious when you don’t know how it all works.
Let me pull back the curtain and give you a peek at what goes on once your proposal lands on the table to give you an insight that can help you Get To Yes with your grant budget.
OK, enough teasing. I am going to tell you exactly what ratios are and how they can be game changers for you.
The Positioning Behind A GET TO YES Grant Project
Before you pick up your pen, pick your positioning
I like to teach artists a powerful strategy I call positioning. It is one of 3 cornerstone mindsets of grantwriting concepts I teach in my Grantwriting Roundup course to set them up for success. Your grant budget is one of the most important components of your proposal. It is the structure that supports your project and it is here where grant reviewers can see your proposal’s strengths and weaknesses.
Here’s how positioning works:
It’s Saturday night and you are looking for a great place to have dinner. You drive around and you see a restaurant that looks interesting. However, there are no cars in the parking lot and there are hardly any customers inside.
Across the street is another restaurant. Business is booming, the tables are full.
Which place would you go to?
People are influenced by something called social proof. We will follow the wisdom of the crowd, in this case – the busier restaurant. Think about it: who wants to be the guinea pig, or take a risk being the only customer in a sea of empty tables?
Grant reviewers are no different. We want to see who else is on board in your project and we don’t want to be the only funder. In fact, we prefer being the last dollar in, not the first.
In most cases, funders will not fund more than 50% of your project.
You want to find other sources of funding to support your project so that your grant request is less than half of your budget expenses.
1,500 Donation from a local bank
2,700 Sale of artwork
500 Community grant
2,300 Grant request
The grant request of $2,300 is 23%, way below 50%.
And if you have some overhead in your project, you want to show that you are spending at least 65% of your money on your programming and 35% on your administrative costs.
This is one of the most common mistakes artists make in their grant budgets. It sends up a red flag and that can be a deal breaker.
You can do this.
Two simple ratios:
If you can keep those ratios in mind as you create your budget, you will be way ahead of the others in the applicant pool.
Position yourself as someone like a busy restaurant with lots of customers. Like a winner with lots of supporters.
What do funders want?
They want to be confident in you to put money into your project. You can easily reverse engineer your proposal to give funders what they need to green light your grant proposal if your budget aligns with these 2 ratios.
Need help remembering this?
- Position yourself like a popular restaurant Everyone likes to hang out with the good news and be where the buzz is.
- 50:50 Show you have other money, other supporters, other raving fans. At least over 50%. I can already see some of you pursing your lips and thinking, “At least over? How much is that percentage? You know what I mean – enough to be able to say, “Hop on the bandwagon!”
- 65:35 There is no reward in grant heaven for martyrs. Are you asking us to believe that you can write your play, cast it, sew costumes for the cast, paint the sets, and sell tickets? The opposite is true. You will gain more respect by building in line items for people to do these very necessary things at 35% so you can do what you are best at doing at 65%.
- Sell confidence What are grant reviewers really looking to fund? The best artist? The best written proposal? The answer is: Funders want to fund the best candidate for the grant, someone who they are confident can deliver what they propose to do.
So there you have it.
Add these strategies to your grantwriting skill set to create a powerful and persuasive budget. Numbers don’t lie.
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.