By now you know you that getting a grant is all about convincing your funder you get it.
You want to outshine the rest of the applicants in the pool with your proposal.
You want her to sit up and take notice of you.
She can’t believe how perfect you are for the grant, how in sync you are with what is important to her.
How easy it is to talk to you, how aligned your missions and passions are.
It’s almost as if you were twins separated at birth.
She places your proposal reverently in the Yes pile with a smile….
Sound good to you?
Of course it does!
Does it really happen?
Of course it does! More often than you think.
I just served on a panel for a huge public art commission where this happened.
All of us voted to award an artist who was talented and very strategic in how he presented himself as the best candidate.
Was his proposal well written?
Yes and no.
His proposal may have gotten him in the door, but it was his personality and communication skills that kept him there. In his artistic presentation, he actually told a story that his CV and artist statement could not.
Here are four key takeaways from this successfully funded artist:
1. Have a Stunning Pitch
I love when artists talk about how they think.
Sometimes it is tempting to recite the project narrative or the first few sentences of your artist statement, emphasizing your skills and past successes. However, a personal and evocative pitch about your project that connects you and the person who will actually engage with your work can be a powerful way to describe the impact you will make.
This artist talked about how he envisioned a space for people to experience joy through color everyday. He spent time at the designated site and watched how people rushed through the space without looking around them inspiring him to create an art installation that would surround them with “enchanting color”.
Like everyone else on the panel, I had already visited his simple and elegant website which was up to date and easy to navigate. I read his artist statement and learned a great deal about him and his past work.
Later on, one of the panelists commented that he spoke only about the benefits the artwork would bring to the community, not about himself,
He didn’t have to.
2. Speak in Testimonials
When you shop online, don’t you scan the buyers’ reviews and user testimonials to help you decide?
The panel review is not so different – in fact it is incredibly powerful to share your skills and reputation through the mouths of others who have noticed you.
This artist simply cited the words of praise he received – particularly those that came from key community members in the designated area. He actually spent time in the area getting feedback from residents about his proposed piece. For example:
“I like the energy of the colors you picked, they remind me of my country.”
“Feels like I’m getting hugged, by all them colors.”
“Can I have it?”
It makes a statement when others, and in this case – people in the target community, appreciate your skills.
3. Show Great Work Samples
Each artist brought work samples.
Some were renderings, some were models, some were powerpoint presentations.
They brought the vision of each artist to life.
But why stop there?
The artist who won the commission showed us a rendering – not especially inspiring.
He pointed out the patterns of color, he talked about how it would look during the day and during the night – not too original a concept.
We started to wonder if we were going to be disappointed.
But then he paused and said, “Let me show you exactly what I mean.”
He propped up a 2 samples of his work against the window and the room went silent.
We were immediately drawn in to these beautifully presented pieces. All of us jumped up to walk around the pieces and to experience the intensity of the colors.
He had us.
Because his work samples allowed us to glimpse that experience of joy.
4. Boost Confidence
At some point after the presentation, the we asked about his willingness to be flexible about things like colors, budgets and timelines.
Most candidates are not prepared to use this question to their advantage—they take the easy way out by simply saying, “Yes.”
A better approach? This artist admitted he went over budget in his overall big picture design. Then he shared the steps he took to find other fabricators who would work with him to achieve his creative vision for a lower cost.
In doing so, he showed us that he recognized an important problem, he corrected it and was able to show us that he would be easy to work with in producing the piece.
Bottom line? You are more than a proposal sitting on top of someone’s desk but it’s up to you to prove you are worth funding.
Make our questions work for you—not against you—by sharing a creative and confident message about who you are, why you’re the best candidate, and the unique value you will bring to the project.
So yes, these are the things this very talented and experienced artist did that landed him the commission that you can do for your next proposal.
What is holding you back?
Don’t know where to start?
Don’t know how to find the right funders?
Don’t know what funders want?
I have a lot more to share with you about being a grantwriting rock star…