Grantwriting, Fundraising & Driver’s Ed

You ask me about how to write a grant.

You ask about fundraising.

My question to you is: Can you drive a car with no gas?

You have something that you are passionate about, something you believe deeply in.  It may be something you feel you were meant to do and share with the world.  

It can be a series of paintings, a book, a play, a desire to make the world a better, a more beautiful place.  Something you are uniquely positioned to do.

Maybe you are building your practice, you may be in a MFA program or both.

The most important question you have is: How will you create a life around making art or your passion project that can sustain you?

Which brings me to grantwriting and fundraising.

Learning how to write a grant that gets funded or creating ways for people to donate money to you is like learning how to drive a car to get someplace.  It is understanding how to navigate the world of foundations, philanthropy and donors.  Conceptually, it is not too different from mastering the rules of the road behind the wheel of a car.

Picture yourself in the driver’s seat after you have just learned how to drive.  You will need a few things before you get going:

  • A destination – do you know where you are going?
  • Directions – what is the best way to get there?
  • Gas – have you got what you need to power your car?

The same is true in grantwriting.  Knowing how to put together a competitive proposal is only part of the process.  To turn that proposal into a successful grant award you will need to do a few other things:

  • Give the funder what they want

Think of it this way: You want something, they want something.  A grant, like most human interactions, is a fair exchange between people. Give funders what they want first before you start asking.  Do your homework. Answer the questions clearly.  Respect word limits. Address the criteria. Granting an award to someone is like saying yes to the right partnership. Understanding what is important to a funder and positioning yourself as the one who can deliver that is what you give in exchange for a grant award. Make it about them.

Tip: Always give first.

  • Give the funder a place to jump in

Why just ask for money?  If you create an experience where you can invite the funder to see themselves as a part of beyond funding it, you will open up the door for so many other ways you can work together.  

Tip: Give something bigger.

  • Give the funder confidence

What do you need before you invest your money or your time into something?  You will probably do some research and talk to people you trust.  

A grant review panel is no different.  They will be looking closely at your background, your letters of reference.  They will scrutinize your budget to see if your numbers reflect fair market values. You need to give them everything they need to give them the confidence to invest grant dollars in you.  

Tip: Create trust

Approach your grantwriting and fundraising efforts with these mindsets and you will get much more than success and confidence in achieving your grantwriting goals.  Get to your destination and enjoy the ride.

I am an Artist and… an Interview with Guy Ventoliere

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This article originally appeared in Huffington Post
Does an artist have to starve in order to make a life in art?
In this series of interviews, I am asking people who have, by their own definition, a successful creative career.  They have built a life around conscious choices and values that looks very different from the standard idea of what an artist is.
What their lives look like may surprise you:  they are artists in studios, part of city agencies, owners of manufacturing and real estate companies, artists-in-residences in all kinds of places.  
What is common to all of them is this: they are happy.
I believe there is great wisdom behind the in flight safety message that instructs you to put your oxygen mask on yourself first.  In this situation, you clearly will not be able to help anybody else if you cannot take care of yourself first.
The same is true in life.
You cannot build a successful creative life if you do not take care of yourself first.
Guy Ventoliere is an artist with a unique and successful career path that has earned him the name of “the theatre whisperer”.
He has harnessed his skills as an actor and in many other areas of theatre and business to grow a successful artistic career and now helps others do the same.
How do you self-identify?
“You are at a cocktail party and someone asks you who you are. What do you say?”
It depends on who I am talking to. I usually say I am the Director of Sales for a large audio visual company.
“How do you answer that question for yourself?”
I am a Renaissance man. I want to know how to do everything. A lot of artists will say things like, I can’t do numbers and taxes… I’m an artist.

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As Lopakhin in “The Cherry Orchard”

For me, the opposite is true. I can do anything because I am an artist. I direct, act, and I know most of the technical elements of theatre like lighting. I have built sets and props for many plays for places like Lincoln Center. I know fundraising and development and how to direct children’s theatre. The paintings on my walls I have painted and the furniture throughout my house I have built.  And I have had a very successful career in large enterprise account management and sales.
I started out as a stage carpenter with very little experience. I was teaching kids, doing my carpentry, acting and directing. Then made a drastic turn and became the director of development for a nonprofit in the arts. I didn’t know anything when I started but eventually managed to double the budget. How did I do that? I communicate well with people and I’m not afraid to fail. That is so important.
Acting and art is about honesty. About being truthful on stage and in life.
I hate the term “starving artists”. Many people have more than one job to make it. Artists can also supplement their needed income to survive. Sometimes we have to embrace a life of multi-careers so there is food on the table. You don’t have to starve. Look, I’m an actor and a sales guy. I do different things because being an artist allows me to think creatively and critically, embrace the diversity around us and to do the variety of jobs one may need to do in order to survive. And being an artist allows us to do these things well.
When I was in telecommunications, I was the top sales guy with a higher client retention rate than all my other coworkers who had more education and experience than I. My boss threw a surprise party for my 40th birthday where she wrote a note about me that read, “Thank you for reminding me to always hire sales people with an arts background.”
Many artists close themselves off, they don’t have a lot of world experience and they stay isolated with their art distrusting things like corporate America, stock brokers, men in suits, and CEOs.
My experience in corporate America has been different. My last CEO was an opera buff. He was so happy to see that he had an actor and a director in his employ that he allowed me and my girlfriend to expense tickets to DC to see a production of “Romeo & Juliet” with him and his wife. This CEO loved and appreciated the arts. I have never come across people in business that looked down on me  because I was an artist.
I have always been able to direct and act on the side while holding down a full time job. I never wanted to be a waiter so I could go on auditions and wait for my big break. I wanted to work 9 to 5, have health insurance and stability and have my nights free to rehearse theatre. Feeling secure allowed me to have the finances and freedom of mind to explore and explode artistically.
There was a time I was given an ultimatum by one of my bosses to attend a conference in the summer during the Hip to Hip Theatre season that I was involved in. I was saddened by this but did not hesitate to choose theatre. Management grew to understand doing this theatre work was important to me and only enhanced my capabilities at the job. I am always one of the top sales people at my job, the top out of about 200 during my heaviest season of theatre actually.
Now, I use the various aspects of business that I have learned and what I do to help other artists and arts organizations. This past month I facilitated an interview with the Public Theatre for our dramaturg at Hip to Hip and provided the needed equipment to the American Bard Theatre’s production of “Visionary Voices”. I also got them an intern to help with costuming. I helped transform a cafeteria into a theatre for Riverdale Children’s Theatre Company while also playing the cat in “Suessical” along with all the pre-season work that needs to get done for Hip to Hip including meeting with several possible interns for our upcoming season.
What are the benefits and challenges of being an artist and…
One of the benefits of what I do is the extreme diversity of communication I have with all kinds of people, from CEOs to inner city kids. People come to me as an “idea guy” because of my varied experiences in the corporate environment, knowledge of art and theatre. They know I can step in and help. Someone at The Nicu’s Spoon Theatre Company once called me the theatre whisperer”. The term stuck.

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As Richard II in a Nicu’s Spoon production

Another benefit is happiness. I am always performing, I am always involved in a play, I always have an outlet. In the past 2 years, I have done 8 plays. Money is never a challenge for me. I am always able to help others and to donate back my stipends when working with a struggling theatre company.
One challenge I have always faced is that work sometimes interferes. For that reason, I have always sought out jobs that allowed me to work around my theatre and my art. Not waiter jobs. Good old 9-5 jobs.
What are you working on now?
I recently became the Chair for the Nicu’s Spoon Theatre Company and I serve on the board of the Unity Stage Company. In addition to all that, I am the Managing Director for Hip to Hip Theatre and I am proud to say that we have been successful in reaching our goal of performing in every borough. In our first year, we had an audience of 600 people. We now serve 8000 people per season in 14 parks citywide. Our next goal is to increase that to 10,000 people.
I just closed “Cows of War”, an adaptation of “Peace” by Aristophanes as part of the Hunter College MFA Playwrights. This past summer I did “Hamlet” at the Brick Theatre and “The Tempest” for the Shakespeare Forum and Identity Theatre in Manhattan. I am currently working with the Riverdale Children’s Theatre Company’s (RTC) production of “Suessiscal”. RTC is ranked one of the top 8 children’s theatre companies in the country.  I have also started preparing for the role of Cassius in “Julius Caesar” in May and have had several meetings and read-throughs for an original play called “Sweet Sixteen” that will be appearing off-Broadway the last quarter of 2017. I am also slated to perform in a series of plays this summer for a very well-known and prominent theatre company but I am not allowed to speak about it until it is announced.

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In the role of Doctor Caius that won Best Supporting Actor for Queens Kudos

I am working on my graduate degree in drama which is both theory and criticism. Next semester I have a reading list of about 1000 pages in of very dense critical theory, 31 plays from Greek to contemporary genres. I am required to submit five 750 page responses, a 10 page paper with a presentation, and a 20 page paper. And that’s for 1 class.
Where can people see more of your work?
Managing Director/Actor – Hip to Hip Theatre Company – http://www.hiptohip.org/
Board Member – Unity Stage – http://unitystage.org/
Chairmen of the Board – Nicu’s Spoon Theatre Company – http://www.spoontheater.org/
Advisor/ Teaching Artist – Riverdale Children’s Theatre Company – http://riverdaletheatre.org/
Acting Member – Identity Theatre – http://identitytheater.com/
And my future website currently in development – Simplyguy.com
What advice can you give to emerging artists and people with an inner artist?
Don’t be scared about your next meal. Go for it. I was so concerned about working to make money it inhibited me from really going the distance.
On the flip side, it has allowed me to do what I want to do, and that is good too.
Pitch in! Help where you can.  There is no room for STARS. Help out and paint something, sew costumes. This is all about collaboration and teamwork. Pitch in other areas.
I can’t stand actors who don’t contribute in other areas when they are working with a group that is already understaffed or underfunded. For younger artists, knowing all the aspects of your profession can only help you.

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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.

If You’ve Lost Your Creative Mojo, Ask Yourself: What Would Stravinsky Do?

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Confession #1:  I love wearing yoga pants

Confession #2:  I love/hate doing yoga

Because of yoga, I can stand on my head.

Upside down, I feel closer to Igor Stravinsky (he was never able to compose unless he was sure no one could hear him and, when blocked, stood on his head to “clear the brain”).  This is a man who heard a new musical language and composed the groundbreaking ballet and orchestral work, Le Sacre du Printemps. Its premiere, at the Théâtre de Champs-Elysées on May 29, 1913, conducted by Pierre Monteux, had such a shattering impact on every musical tradition that, to many people, it was the sacrilegious work of a madman.

Stravinsky composed the work in a rented house in Clarens, Switzerland, in a tiny room with just enough space for an upright piano, a table and two chairs.  He had many of the same obstacles that you have: limited time, money, creative blockage, self doubt.

It is comforting to see that great artists wrestle with the same challenges we all have to do the work they are passionate about.  Everyone does it differently: some artists need a challenge before they start creating, some artists need to create something as a challenge.

“Time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.”  Franz Kafka, in a letter to Felice Bauer in 1912.
  

Kafka is one of many novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who have somehow discovered ways to overcome the many (self-inflicted) obstacles with (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do.  Some do it by waking early or staying up late; some meditate; some self medicate with doughnuts and drinking vast quantities of coffee, or taking long daily walks.

Time is one of my challenges.

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”  Leonard Bernstein

In theory, that should work: I have a plan and never quite enough time.  I know adding commitment and self discipline will bring about the best results.

What has worked for me are the following:

Get up early

Write or draw for 90 minutes before work

End with an unfinished sentence or sketch

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck … That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.”  Ernest Hemingway

Make a short list for tomorrow

Stand on my head if coffee is not close by

Thank myself

 

This becomes a habit after a while.  I find myself waking up without an alarm and getting sleepy earlier every night. The world is a magical place at 5:00 am between the moon fading and the sun rising.  You may be the only one awake in your home but can take comfort knowing you are in good company with other creative minds doing what they love to do.

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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.

Battle Your Demons in 3 Simple Steps & Take Back Your Power

 

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An artist told me that one of the best things his chiropractor ever did for him was to tell him to ask one question whenever he felt stressed.

“Ask for something.”

What you ask for can be something you probably don’t think you have the right to ask for.  In his case, it was time.  He was at the beginning of his career and said yes to almost every project that came his way, even if it wasn’t the right thing for him.

His fear of missing out on an opportunity or not knowing how he was going to pay his bills was a relentless anxiety that drove him to the point of becoming so stressed with pains in his body  that he went to see this chiropractor on a steady basis.

Many people are paralyzed by options.  Rather than be completely present in the choices they have made, their eye is constantly on the horizon wondering if they made the wrong choice or worse, they say yes to everything because they don’t know how to say no.

This will inevitably result in overwhelm and a good measure of self doubt that can often trigger physical pain and discomfort.  

When we’re anxious and stressed, it’s easy to look at all of the tasks that lie ahead of us and become overwhelmed. At times, we’re stopped in our tracks and completely shut down. We have reached our breaking point. At this point, anxiety is very high, and our ability to cope seems very low. The good news is that we have the power to prevent ourselves from breaking.  Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Big stress

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When overload hits, it feels like the walls are caving in on you.  Despair and helplessness usually follow and if you are like me, the knot in your stomach can make you crumble.  Left alone to our already overworked imaginations, we picture a scenario that grows bigger and darker with no way out.

At this point, your fear can really do real harm to your mental and physical well being and the one person who is allowing it and who has the power to stop it is – you.

Which is why the question the chiropractor recommended is so important.

Ask
“It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.” -Lena Horne

This artist asked for more time.  He was drowning in deadlines.  He could not possibly deliver high quality work at the promised times and he needed more time.

When he did ask, it made a tremendous difference.  In fact, it changed his world.

He realized it is OK to ask for help.  It is not a sign of weakness or amateurism or anything bad he had imagined in his head to ask for what you need.  In his case, people were willing to give him the time to complete the project because they believed in him and they were invested in the success of it as much as he was.

Something else changes in your relationship with your fear when you raise your hand to ask for help.

You are no longer a powerless victim.  You have taken one step to overcoming your gremlin.  You have claimed your agency to changing the power dynamic.

Once you have done that, you can take another step.  And another, until you have taken back your castle and banished the gremlins.

Make a list

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You will need a lighthouse to guide you out of the storm.  This is something you can do by sitting quietly, taking a few good deep breaths and writing yourself a list of just 3 things you can do to make things better.  Not 5 or 10 things, just 3.  It is more important to give yourself momentum with a few small successes in the beginning.  Cross each thing off your list as you do them and really celebrate each one.  You can add more things once you have completed your first 3 if you need to.

Why this works

The combination of putting out a request for help to the world and building your lighthouse changes the energy of your situation.  

You are attracting people to rally around you, not as a helpless victim, but as someone who is pushing ahead with a goal.  People are good about being helpful and actually want to be part of a bigger goal if you ask.

Having your list of things is a powerful weapon in your hand you can wield against the gremlins beating you up and your path to success.

Do this

I recommend you follow these steps as soon as you start feeling stressed:

  • Acknowledge the gremlin

“Ah, there you are,”  you say to the demon pushing the walls down around you.  “I see you and I know what you are doing.”

Size up the gremlin in practical terms without allowing your fear and imagination to make it bigger than it is. Once you do that, you will know exactly what you are up against and what you need to do to overcome your challenge.

  • Ask for help

 

Remember, people are helpful by nature.  Let everyone around you know what you need and how they can help.

  • Make a list

Write yourself a short list of 3 things you can do right way to solve your problem.  Completing these things will get your momentum going and restore your confidence in your own power to change your world.

Life is full of gremlins.

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But they are no match for you, your people and your list.

 

How To Make Time To Be An Artist

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Wendell Berry’s studio

This article first appeared on Huffington Post

Tell me if this happens to you.

There is a new book out by a break through author and you think to yourself, “That could be me.  I wonder how she did it.”

You stand on line at a book signing and as you move closer to the author, you feel more and more frustrated holding that book in your hands while your book, the one you have always wanted to write, is still an unwritten dream.  As she autographs your copy, you make the same promise to yourself that you always make when you find yourself face to face with someone who is actually doing what you are longing to do, “OK, today I am going to write my book!”

The problem is that promise will have to fight its way through a laundry list of Other Important Reasons Why You Can’t to get you to sit down and do your work.  Here are the most common ones:

  • I’m too busy
  • I have no time
  • I have a big job
  • I have other priorities
  • I can’t get started

At this point, you know that you are the only one who can champion that promise through.

Without your help, that dream will remain what it is – just a dream. And you will always be on the line with the rest of the dreamers, another fan seeking an autograph, not the writer who has written the book.

Writers and artists have lives that are not that different from ours.  They have to live somewhere, put food on the table, and take care of themselves or their families.  They also have a passion to be creative, to make art and to get it out into the world to share with others.  How do they do this?

Artists actually have two passions.

The passion for their art which is the one that fuels their dreams and imagination.  This is what many people experience when they read a book or see a painting that touches them.  You see yourself in that work of art and you feel their creative spirit igniting your inner artist.

The other passion is their practice.  This is the part that is not so glamorous or exciting.  It is the alarm clock set for 4:45 am, it is the daily struggle to put a few good words on paper, to fight distractions, the will to create something faithfully, to acknowledge and thank yourself for the effort without judgement.

To show up.  Every single day.

The power of combining these two passions is formidable.  It will strengthen your creativity with focus and from this will come your book, your painting, your opera.

You will also be experiencing the benefits of an artistic life: creating joy and living an intentional, purposeful life.

Three simple steps to set up your practice

“You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen. “

Joseph Campbell on having a “bliss station,“ in The Power of Myth

Over time, you will find you are actually building a body of work.  You will also notice elevated levels of happiness in your life because you are doing something about that dream of yours and spending time working on what you are passionate about.

This practice requires commitment and perseverance.  By showing up every day, you will gain a strong sense of purpose. Sharing it with others will give you joy. This is the essence of a creative life.

These three steps that lay between you as the fan and you as the artist.

Set your alarm

Find one hour a day.

Think about your typical day and find one hour of time.  Set an alarm, a calendar reminder, an alert or anything that will remind you it is your time for your practice.  

This should be a time that you can come to everyday and do your work. For me, this is that magical hour from 5:00 – 6:00 am. I set two alarms for myself.  One is to wake me up and one is my internal clock to be mentally prepared to fight my desire to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep.

Clean your desk

Keep your space clear.

This is your sacred space.

I believe the only things you need are your imagination and your tools.   For me, that means absolutely nothing on my desk, no sounds, no distractions.  No phones, Facebook, alerts.  No internal editor – myself.  I even turn all of my text white so I can just write without interruption.. Something I cannot do easily because I am so easily tempted to self edit as I write.

Sit in the chair.

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Show up.

I have a friend who has a hard time getting himself to practice the cello.  He will walk into the practice room and walk around circling the cello before sitting down to play. Once he is sitting in his chair and practicing, time will fly and he wonders why he wasn’t doing this earlier.  

Sometimes getting past “circling the cello” and just sitting your chair is the most difficult challenge.

Make something

What terrifies me is the blank page.  

For you it may the empty canvas, the silence in your head.

You may also have that other pesky fear: of not being perfect.

Your job is to put something down on paper.  Get the story, the dance, the symphony out of your head and into the world.  It will look like a mess.  

Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” Salvador Dali

If you are struggling with your work, here’s a piece of advice I find helpful:

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“Procrastinate.  If at first you don’t succeed, give up immediately, move on to some other task until that becomes unbearable. Then move on again circling back around to the first problem.  By now, your subconscious will have worked on it, sort of like sleep, only cheaper.”  from Ten Bullets by Tom Sachs

There are many dreamers in the world with a work of art one alarm clock away from becoming a wonderful reality.

Set yours now.