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?”
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!
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.