Don’t Know What To Say To A Funder? Use Your Top Two Superpowers To Find Out



Is This A Time For The Big Guns?

He wore a bowtie.

But wait, that’s not all.

A classic harris tweed cap, camel colored to match his burnished wingtip shoes.

A copy of my recent proposal covered with earnest comments sat squarely in front of him.

As his gaze lifted to meet mine, I wondered – Is this a time for the big guns?

We all do this.

A sudden or unexpected challenge can make the most experienced and confident among us knee jerk ourselves into a twitching heap of self doubt.  Believe me, when it comes to twitching, I am peerless.

What questions could this grant officer from a very prestigious foundation possibly have that would bring him out on a snowy unseasonably and unreasonably cold Saturday morning to conduct a site visit of my program?  Did I forget something important? What did I do wrong?

From the look in his eye there were quite a few.  My mind began a mental Google search for Brilliantly Clever Ways To Say Things.

I squared my shoulders and forced a casual and hopefully, confident smile.

I can do this…  I know exactly what to say…

He smiled back and began to speak.

I stared in disbelief.

From that moment on, I knew I had won.

What You Should Never Forget About Scary Situations

You are talented, passionate, endlessly creative.

You deserve to be doing what you love as you build a successful career as an artist, a creative professional.

People are drawn to you because of your energy.  People like funders and donors.

Even donors in intimidating bowties.

And we are really talking about people talking to people.

The trappings, the fancy offices, the clothes, the words… all these things we use to scare ourselves silly sometimes because we forget that.

That you have all the answers you need.

That you are the best candidate for the grant.

That at the end of the day, these people are looking for reasons to support you, not to tear you down.

And if you have done your homework, there is absolutely no reason in the world why you shouldn’t get the grant because you both share the same mission, the burning passion, the impact your work will have on people.

You are each other’s people.

Your Secret Weapon

Yes, this is a time to pull out the big guns.

Take a deep breath and shut up.

That’s right.

Use your ears and listen.

In a matter of minutes you will know everything you need to know to carry this conversation off successfully.

As he spoke I sensed his interest in what would make this program better, who else could benefit from it, how would it look in the next 3 -5 years?

Simply inquiring about what we do as someone interested in being a part of it in a bigger way than I had expected.

Aha, so that’s where this is going.

Definitely time for the big guns – my eyes.

So What Happened?

I waited a moment before I spoke.

“You have a piece of spinach between your teeth,”  I said.

He bolted out of his chair, papers fluttering to the floor as he staggered to the mirror.

“Whaugh innt yooo saaay humhink eeefore?”  he warbled wrestling the green speck from his teeth.

So much for jargon.

We talked.  We laughed.  We had a conversation, we walked around and chatted with the artists in the room.  My eyes and ears told me that he was not really looking for hard and fast answers to his questions.  He was looking for a place to build those answers together so I shut up and let the others in the room speak.  At the end of the visit, we answered his questions with something more valuable than a direct reply: we responded with the promise of potential as partners.

And yes, we got the grant, which is wonderful.

More valuable to me is the relationship I have with my new friend who, before he left, quietly crossed out my request amount and doubled it.

Here’s What You Do

First of all, it’s OK to allow yourself a few minutes to panic, freak out and palpitate if you must.

Taking deep breath remembering to smile while you do it is a big help.

But don’t be shy about using your superpower secret weapons to carry the day and to make a friend.

Listen.  Look.

You will learn everything you need to know.

You will see everything as well.

Like a piece of spinach.

Let’s do this,

2015-03-28 22.09.37










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.