The Little Known Secret To Grantwriting Mastery

Has this ever happened to you?

The second email was half as long as the first and twice as clueless.

Would I stop my world and round up a group of people for a big name institution to study, to ask questions about their ethnicity and to convince them that this institution is relevant to them culturally…

Their important institution, like many others, is being haunted by the spectre of being passed over.  Of being ignored by growing number of people who are interested in experiencing new things in new ways.

“Of course, you see how valuable your help is to us,” I nodded and noticed they did not see what value this would bring to us.

I promptly filed this one under D.

Doomed and Don’t Get It.

How about this?

A man from another large institution walked into my office and told me how frustrating it was that no one in the area knew about them.

He had taken the time to find out what our mission is, who our audience is – they were similar to his organization’s. Was there a way we might work together?

He also gave us a donation to our fundraiser.

What I learned

I am sitting with a funder who has kindly agreed to go over my request.  But within the first few minutes it is apparent she is in a huff about something.

“Let’s start,” she drummed her fingers impatiently and looked at her watch. “I have quite a few meetings to get to today.”

“You have my most recent comments?”

She frowned at the papers I gave her.  “This is not in the correct format.”

I apologized.  Nothing was going well.  In a strange way, that relaxed me.  What was happening was out of my control at this point.  So, I listened politely to her pick apart my proposal, line by line.

Several pages later, she was still at it, now throwing valuable tips and better ways to answer the questions.  I noticed she was more animated, eyes shining when I asked for clarification or technical explanations.

Then it dawned on me.  She had to be in charge of the meeting.  Was she terribly busy?  Probably, but she rattled on about details, challenges – everything about every project with such enthusiasm that a picture began to form in my mind.  An image of her sifting through stacks of proposals, each one drawing upon and informing her field expertise which must be intellectually satisfying.  I also suspect that there is less opportunity for her to actually talk to, to rant, to respond to the person on the other side of the table – someone like me – about what she thinks are important things in a proposal.

I have had the opposite experience as well. A grant officer who is more of a bureaucrat than a person passionate about the mission.  I was grateful she was the latter.

How to give

It is obvious which approach works best.

The first case is more common  which just goes to show you how thoughtless people can be when it comes to asking for things.

Here’s the secret

Asking begins with giving.

Everything is a balance of give and take.  Every conversation, the well behaved ones, is a considerate balance of speaking and listening.

What do you give?

You can start with these:


This is the most overlooked and valuable thing you can give someone.

Try to remember the last time you had a conversation with someone without your hand on you cellphone.

Paying attention to someone is telling them, “What you say is important.”  It validates their contribution to the conversation, to the world, whether it is preliminary chit chat or the meat and potatoes of your discussion.


Looking into someone’s eyes as they are talking to you can cause 1 of 2 immediate effects:

1. A heightened sense of urgency in sharing which also causes people to share more lest they hit a space in the flow of conversation. And if you are respectful and perhaps, jotting down a few notes as they are speaking, they will come to see you as someone who truly gets it, someone who has made the effort to seek their valuable advice.

2. Tremendous discomfort if the person is really an ax murderer from Utah. Not likely, so go ahead and hold that person’s gaze.

And make sure your phone ringer is off.


My Jewish mother in law, who taught me many useful things, was always a guest who brought a gift.  The man who gave us a donation gets it.  Fundraising is an ongoing challenge and he came with a solution in hand.  He knows I will work hard to achieve our common goals.  The group in the first example brought only an outdated sense of entitlement and the assumption that increasing their audience numbers would be a good thing for us.

Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is not to scream, “Who made you Elvis??”


unnamedAbout 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. Sign up to download her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.


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