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.


How a Blog Transformed Air Travel

photoHow a Blog


You had me with the full can of soda.

“Yes,”  Allison Steinberg smiled and dotted the i and crossed the t of the seven word mantra of JetBlue.  “We bring humanity back to air travel.”

And that means we get the full can of soda.

How many people, how many times a flight, have wondered about that moment when the air hosts and hostesses see saw their drink cart through the aisles.  How very smart of JetBlue to recognize the big picture of that little moment.

Allison Steinberg is the Senior Media Analyst at JetBlue Airways and the author and editor of JetBlue’s BlueTales blog.  Her presentation entitled, “Leverage a Company’s Blog to Increase Your Brand Awareness” was one of the morning sessions at the 4th Annual PR and Media Relations Best Practices Summit presented by Lawrence Ragan Communications, Inc. at the Con Edison Headquarters Union Square in New York on Tuesday, April 9, 2013 where she shared insights for getting and tailoring content unique and valuable to audiences and how to use your blog to make your messages credible and consistent.


Why blog?

Of course a blog will do all those bloggy markety things like “create brand awareness”, “increase customer loyalty”, “step up SEO”, etc.  By publishing relevant, timely information that gives readers the “why” behind the “what, many marketing mitzvahs will tumble your way.   Some are:

  1. you will educate you customers on your product and services
  2. you can entice reporters to go to your blog as a source
  3. you can grow niche audiences of customers, business partners, reporters, employees and industry geeks


How does Allison do this?

“The blog is the center of gravity,”  Allison stated, almost maternal in pride and tone.   She spoke about the different kinds of stories you could find on the blog.  Stories about what’s new ( a new airport), behind the scenes (just how in the world does that carousel luggage thing work?), a human interest angle ( a customer story), updates for the media (facts & figures, info rich stream of information about an event or crisis).  The one that piqued my interest was the “Day in the Life” story she does that follows a JetBlue employee.  Don’t you wonder about what happens during the working hours of a pilot, ticket agent or mechanic?  Personally, I am intensely curious about the people who figure out how to make those cookies.

Allison also does a series called, “Unpacked” where you can discover delightful bits of airplane arcania like “How do you choose new cities?’ or “What is turbulence?” which is something that takes on enormous significance especially when you are in it.  She says it creates informed customers.

Here are some of my favorite takeaways from her presentation:

  • Set a cadence.  The informal voice engages more than a press release.
  • Encourage everyone on your team to mine for information and visuals.  “Wing Woman”, a column created by a jetBlue employee has become a very popular blog.
  • To be an ongoing media hook, insert yourself as a credible source into a media story.  I am not sure which story she was referring to but I believe this is a good way to manage crisis communications.


What about you?

“Adapt, reuse content.  Mix original reporting with some behind the scenes stories, how to’s, announcement of new products.”

For example, JetBlue did a pre-press release story on the blog about the American Airline merger.  It was released on Valentine’s Day and featured an image of a heart candy with a message that read, “SINGLE & LOVING IT”.  An instantly recognizable candy with a twist to its traditional messaging of “BE MINE” and “I LOVE YOU” to mirror the tongue in cheek, sly wink of a story that reasserts the pride JetBlue has in being independent and all that it does to set itself apart from the pack.

A sweet ending with the full can of soda.


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Hoong Yee