unnamedThree words

Please squash the temptation to say – Tastes like chicken.

The three words I am talking about will open up a rare opportunity for other people to rave about you.

To speak to how qualified, how experienced, how perfect a candidate you are for this grant award.

So, when your eyes light down upon these three words, seize the moment and size up your contact list for the best people to do this for you.

What These Can Do For You

Think of your proposal as a well designed building, a stunning piece of architecture sitting on a hill.  You put your heart and soul into creating a house that will appeal to the right buyer.

But your building is one in a long string of buildings and for the reviewers, the house hunters, every one begins to look the same as the day get’s longer and daylight fades.

How do you stand out?


Flick on the switch and bathe your building in flattering floodlights that illuminate the most appealing features of your structure.

Let your letters of reference shine a light on your unique abilities, experience and passion to be the best house on the hill, the best candidate.

Letters of Reference

Here’s what the reality looks like:

You proposal is wedged in a towering stack of proposals, each one jockeying for position on the Yes list.  Every one passionately pitching a project, a commission, a chance to create something amazing.

And all in your own single voices.

Now who do you think will attract more attention:  you talking up your project or a crowd of people talking you up as you are talking up your project?

This is what letters of reference do.

Some funders require them.  Some do not.  When you are given the chance to submit one, use it well.

Some people argue that, of course, your letters will be glowing and flattering because they come from people who adore you.  Why read them?

Your project has to stand on its own, no letter of reference will affect the quality of your proposal.

Actually, I read letters of reference more out of curiousity – Do I know any of these people?  What else can I learn about you from them?

Letters are really just more stuff for me to read as a grant panelist so why do I take an interest in them at all?  And why should you?


Several foundation deadlines are rolling in and around this time I get many requests for letters of reference from artists applying for grants.

Usually I ask them to write the letter for me to review and this has given me a chance to see that many people do not wield the power of this to its full potential.

What do I mean by wield the power?

Wield means write.

That’s right, you write the letter.  You control the message and we all know what the message is:

I am the best candidate for this grant.

Put as much ammo as you can to support this statement.

Remember, this is not about you.  This is about your impact.

You can start by including a sentence that talks about the tremendous benefit you and work bring to your audience.  If you have done your homework, you and your funder will be passionate about serving the same audience.

Have another sentence that describes the change or transformation.  This is your vision made visual through someone else’s words.

Include a sentence about how this person knows you.  They could be:

  • past collaborators
  • project partners
  • past grant recipients
  • other donors

These are awesome references and their words not only build your case, they build out you as a formidable candidate.

Think carefully of the picture your references  will project about you to the grant panel.  This is not the time for your mom or your best friend to help you.  This is not the time for your college art professor to talk about how talented you are.

Be sure that your references add value to your case positioning you as the best grant recipient with the best project that reflects the mission and audience of the funder.

Here’s What I Have For You

I just added a new Grantwriting Roundup bonus for you…  it’s a by invitation only webinar that will cover the art of the reference letter and other key strategies I use to create winning grant proposals that  you can use to boost your artistic careers with prestige, positioning and money.

This webinar covers a lot of ground and will include examples from some of the most successfully funded artists  in 2014.

This webinar and a free PDF Sample reference letter is available for you when you sign up at this link:




Hoong Yee

P.S. Here’s an Advanced Tip:  Set up a folder and name it Swipe File.  Having one place where you can have all of my templates at the ready will make grantwriting less time consuming and much easier.



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.







Hip to Hip Theatre Company has received a whopping 12 Queens Arts Fund (QAF) grants since 2009. Their focus is on presenting free professional performances of Shakespeare’s classics in Queens parks all over our vast borough. Artistic Director for Hip to Hip, Jason Marr, kindly took a moment to answer some questions for us about Hip to Hip and how QAF has helped shape their growth as the premiere producers of Shakespeare in the park in Queens.


Jason Marr (center) performing with Hip to Hip on the Long Island City waterfront

Jason Marr (center) performing with Hip to Hip on the Long Island City waterfront

Hip to Hip has received several QAF grants over the years. What has been the most immediate, positive impact of receiving these grants?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, QAF helped us really get in the game. In 2009, the first year we received funding through QAF, we doubled the size of our programming and quadrupled our reach. In fact, even applying had a positive impact on our young organization because it pushed us to really examine our administrative structure, our short-term and long-term goals, and it allowed us to dream bigger. I am happy to give a lot of credit to QAF for helping us focus and expand our mission to include the whole borough of Queens.

Have your QAF grants opened up any opportunities for Hip to Hip beyond just the immediate impact of getting that sweet, green cash money?

Absolutely. Funding begets more funding. The most obvious opportunity funding from QAF opened up to us is avenues to other funding sources. When individual donors and foundations look at your organization and see that a local arts council is on your list of supporters, it gives you an advantage because they see that the organization is already on the road to sustainability and accountability. In other words, having QAF’s “stamp of approval” makes you a safe bet for other funders.

You perform at several public parks throughout the vast geography of Queens. Can you describe the impact your programming has had on each of these communities?

An important part of our mission is to bring professional cultural activity to those who would not otherwise have access to it. In order to achieve this, we do three things: (1) we try to target communities that are underserved; (2) our programming is free; and (3) our programming is held in public parks. Of these three, it is the “free” and “public parks” that makes all the difference, because we reach more than just the folks who may have seen our poster or received a flyer from a local civic organization, but we also reach a lot of people who just happen to be in the park that day. During a performance of Hamlet in Flushing Meadows two years ago, a group of teenagers on bikes stopped in their tracks when they stumbled upon our show in progress, and I’ll never forget the look of surprise on their faces, and I’ll never forget how they slowly laid their bikes on the ground and became engrossed in this live cultural community event.

Because we run a borough-wide tour, one of our biggest challenges is really connecting to each of the communities. Last year, we launched an outreach campaign that partnered us with the Community Boards in each of our target communities, which in turn partners us with over 100 civic organizations.

How is the 2015 season looking?

2015 promises to be our biggest and brightest yet. For our ninth year of programming, we will be touring our children’s workshop “Kids & the Classics” and our professional productions of The Merchant of Venice and The Merry Wives of Windsor to ten parks all over the borough from July 22 to August 16, and we anticipate reaching nearly 8,000 people.

QCA presents the Jamaica Arts Leaders Program

Create a new arts community in Jamaica!


The Queens Council on the Arts (QCA) is looking for visionary artists & thinkers to be part of the next big arts scene unfolding in the southeast Queens neighborhood of Jamaica. Join us at JCAL on April 8, 6:30-8:00pm to learn more!

What is this all about?


The next exuberant art scene poised to become the most exciting and vibrant destination site of Queens.

And we want to be sure that artists are a central part of this growing community.

The Jamaica Arts Leaders Program is part of the creative movement to revitalize Jamaica through the arts and to become part of the important conversations that will affect the future of this community.

Who is this for?

Artists, performers, musicians and creative thinkers of all disciplines are invited to apply to participate in the Jamaica Arts Leaders program.

Hosted at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL), this initiative is dedicated to developing local arts leadership in Jamaica through creativity and focused collaboration among artists like you.

Selected artists must live in Jamaica and commit to 6 monthly sessions with local artists beginning in April 2015.

Artists selected for the Jamaica Arts Leaders Program will also gain access to QCA’s Build Your Own Business workshops that are designed to develop your creative careers through grantwriting, marketing and fundraising strategies for artists.

Here’s what you do next:

Attend our last info session on April 8, 2015, 6:30pm – 8:00pm at Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning, 161-04 Jamaica Ave, Jamaica, NY 11432.

Complete our application (JamaicaArtsLeadersApplication) and return it to us at artservice@queenscouncilarts.org by April 8, 2015.


SPARC residencies are underway at 11 senior centers across the borough! The program got off to a great start with a kickoff event at the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs including professional development activities and a panel discussion on SPARC engagement and outreach strategies.

Here at QCA, we were joined by City Council Member, Jimmy Van Bramer, Borough President, Melinda Katz and Cultural Affairs Deputy Commissioner, Eddie Torres to acknowledge and celebrate the 2015 SPARC artists (among other grant recipients).


Image: SPARC artists and friends at QCA event (from right to left) Henry Holmes, Hilary Ramos, Irina Wen and Ian Wen


SPARC Artists Henry Holmes, Hilary Ramos and Billy Mills were featured in a recent Queens Tribune article! When asked about their upcoming dance project at Ridgewood Older Adult Center, Henry Holmes said the “Both of us are really excited about the opportunity to work with people with different bodies, people who aren’t necessarily trained professional dancers. They have a different perspective and a whole different outlook on what movement is.”

David Mills is conducting a poetry workshop at Rochdale Village Senior Center. SPARC participant Sandra Cooper said “When this seminar was offered, it really ignited me. It really stirred me up. I started writing again and I was very happy about that.”

As always, stay tuned for more updates about SPARC and to see how these residencies develop!


The Asteria Indie Collective brings you “Marsala Love


Treat yourself to some love everyday, not just on Valentine’s Day. Continuing the celebration, the Asteria Indie Collective (AIC) will be hosting an intimate Trunk Show on February 21st, 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Queens Council on the Arts. AIC will have products for sale from Luni Jewelry, D.Webb Designs & My Urban Illumination, including free mini-tarot readings.

The Asteria Indie Collective is a collection of Queens-based artists aiming to create a memorable multi-cultural and interactive experience for the community. The AIC Trunk Show will feature the founders of the collective:

Tatianna Morales: My Urban Illumination http://tatiannatarot.tumblr.com/
Lorenia Henriquez: Luni Jewelry http://www.lunijewelry.com/
D.Webb Designs: Apparel & Accessories http://www.dwebbdesigns.com/

AIC’s founders felt a strong need for a diverse market where artists and entrepreneurs of all kinds can connect for a dynamic, interactive experience. AIC will provide a warm & multi-sensory experience, providing unique and creative items for sale.