Has this happened to you?

There you are, busy putting together another proposal,, when suddenly an email sails into your inbox.

“We regret to inform you that we cannot fund your proposal…”  flashes across your screen and rips a hole in your heart.

The short form letter spits out the language of rejection.

No reason.  Sincerely yours.

Then another rejection comes in just as abruptly, and then another funder tells you they will be cycling you out of the grantee pool.

Um, what’s going on?

Puzzled, you rummage through your files.  Thoughts ricochet through your mind…

“I’m overwhelmed.  What do these panelists want?”

“How do I stand out to a committee when every applicant sends in a letter saying “I need this money to pay for studio, materials, and etc”?”

 “But I followed everything the grantwriting professional said in the workshop.  What could I possibly be doing wrong?”

I am sure you are doing a lot of things correctly.  A grantwriting professional knows how to write a grant.

Here’s the bad news…

Unless she has sat on the other side of the table as a grant giver, she will not know how to write a grant that gets funded.

“Maybe I just need someone to walk me through how this all works.”

OK, here’s the good news…

I will be releasing the new Grantwriting 101 Tutorial  soon to help you not only get grants, but to help you create an art career and life that you love.

What if you could you could walk into your studio every morning knowing all of your expenses for your upcoming show were covered?  What if your your fans were also your supporters who eagerly follow your work and look forward to your events?  And imagine if you could create such unique positioning in your field that allows you to become a force – a creative industry.

Grantwriting is not just about writing great proposals.  There is a lot more that goes on behind the package.

There is a strategy…a sequence, a kind of blueprint that can get you there.  It is a proven tested system that I have worked on for over 15 years and I am going to share it with you in this tutorial.

Here’s the link below to sign up for more great grantwriting tips:

CLICK HERE: the Grantwriting 101 Tutorial


Ask yourself: where will you be in a year from now?

Will you be doing the same thing you’re doing now still struggling to get a grant as an artist, or will you be a successful artist with a strong base of funders?

Here’s the story…

I don’t know about you, but when I started writing grants and fundraising, boy, did I make a ton of mistakes!

And to all those wise people who smile at you as you are picking yourself up from the floor with a big dent on your head and say, “We all learn from our mistakes”,  I can only sigh and say that it is true and I have earned the equivalent of a masters degree from all of my mistakes.

Thankfully, your mistakes can be fixed.  Making mistakes is a good thing — provided you learn from them.

I am still twitching just thinking about some of mine…

But if you’re thinking, “OK.  As long as I learn from my mistakes, I’m good,” I have to tell you something …

…and you won’t like it.

You may not even know you’re making a mistake.

And that can really cause you and all of your grantwriting efforts a lot of needless pain.

Who needs that?

Even a rookie mistake can lose you potential funders, ruin your reputation, and continue to cost you precious time and energy if you don’t fix it in time.

But you have probably corrected the usual  mistakes beginning grant writers make.

I bet you learned a couple of cool tips and tricks along the way…

But do you know what can secretly destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve?


Hey, thanks again for all of your responses to my survey.

So many of you have questions about budgets and how to start putting one together.


” what is the hidden agenda in budgets”

“how do I plan a budget?” 

“where do I start?”

OK everyone, this is your time to make your creative career succeed by getting a grant.  And the budget is the most important part of the proposal.  It put the numbers behind the narrative and if they don’t match up, you are out of luck and money.

I will spend an entire session answering these questions in the upcoming Grantwriting 101 Tutorial.

So in this post I am going to cut to the chase to save you time and heartache.

I am going to reveal some of the most common budgeting mistakes you may not know you are making that wildly successful grantwriters never make so you can avoid these errors in your next proposal.

At the end of a recent grant panel I asked my fellow reviewers a few questions about the experience we had just gone through to see what impressed them and what turned them off.

Over twenty applicants were looking for a piece of a million dollar pie.

In every pool, what usually happens is that a small percentage, maybe 5%, are clear slam-dunk rock stars and they get funded.

This is where you want to be.

Then we have another small percentage that are really bad and we just eliminate them  for many of the reasons I will go into later.

This is where you definitely don’t want to be.

Here are the top 3 budget mistakes you may be completely unaware that you are making.  Steer clear of them and you can become a slam-dunk rock star in that top 5%.

1. You are not paying yourself enough money

Outside of commissioning grants that can go entirely to the artist, or if it specifically says not to do so in the guidelines, pay yourself what it costs to do your project either as the artist or the manager.

Projects do not run themselves.  Panelists will question the ability of the project to succeed if there is no money allocated to the administration of it.

Do not be afraid to make a case for ensuring that your project runs smoothly.  An administration expense that is too low actually raises a red flag and reduces the confidence a panel has about the ability of the project to succeed.

How much should you pay yourself?

Make sure you ask that question when you are doing your research.  Not all funders are the same.

I like to see at least 20%, no more than 32% of the budget go to the artist/applicant in a project budget.

2. Your project has no other funders

This one is a surefire bottom feeder.

What this says to me and the rest of the panel is -

  • nobody else believes in your project
  • if we don’t fund it, no one else will

Funders are like people looking for a good restaurant to have dinner.  Who would want to go in to a place with no customers?  The restaurant with the waiting list and the crowded bar is a much more appealing place to park their dollars.

Other sources of funding in your budget are social proof that other people willing to put their money where their mouth is on your behalf and surefire way to convince a curious funder who may be sitting on the fence.


3. You write for humans, not lizards

I confess…

I have a tough time focusing on financial stuff after lunch.  Or late in the afternoon.

Warning: my foggy mindset could be your downfall…

Think about it.   If I feel this way, chances are the rest of the panel feels the same way.  And unfortunately, you have no idea when your proposal will come up for review.

Assume you will be the last one in the pile on the last day when everyone just wants to go home.

Here’s my suggestion: write as if you are going on after the Beatles.  Write for lizards, not sleepy humans.

Lizards are attracted by buttons and shiny objects.

Panelists are like that too.  We like buttons, bullets… information that we can snap up easily. Give us short, clear budget notes, neat columns and tidy sums and we are happy.

What happens if we don’t get what we like?

I have seen this way too many times and it is not pretty…

We become cranky, not very happy about wading through a swamp of words and eventually, the inevitable happens -

Panelist rage.

Who needs this?

Do yourself a favor and make sure all your financial information look like something only a lizard could love.


In my first bonus Grantwriting 101 Tutorial post, I covered how to find funders and get them to love you and what you do.  If you missed that, read it here.

Here’s the link to the post:

CLICK HERE: Finding Funders & Getting Them To Love You And What You Do



Look out for my next bonus Grantwriting 101 Tutorial post where I am going to go over each step of my grantstacking sequence that you can to get you in a successful fundraising flow that builds your creative career.

Here’s your link to sign up for more grantwriting know-how:

CLICK HERE: the Grantwriting 101 Tutorial

Got a question?

Ready to talk about creating a budget that is right for you?

Let’s button up your proposal budget to make funders instantly confident about you & your next project.

Do me a favor and hit the Like button and tell me how I can help you by leaving me a comment.

Here’s to your success,

Hoong Yee

HYK - copy



You are alone in your studio.

You and your cup of coffee.

You think about what you really want to be creating. A deep sigh escapes from your soul.

Why did my last grant proposal get turned down?

Who else can I go to to for funding?

And how do other people get grants?

We all know that grantwriting is hard work, but what should you do when your efforts just don’t seem to pay off?

Do you cross your paint stained fingers and keep plugging away? Hope that your next proposal will be a winner? Pray that award letters will soon flood your inbox?

You need a new strategy, not wishful thinking.

When your grantwriting efforts aren’t doing as well as you’d like, don’t simply step up your efforts. And don’t give up.

Instead, take a step back and look at what you’ve done so far.

Do you have the right pieces – and the right thinking in place to impress panelists and win grants?

When I asked you to tell me what some of your top frustrations in grantwriting are, many of you said that knowing how to find funders and getting “detailed information on how to find those that have given grants in the past and those that would take grant submissions” were huge challenges.

This can be confusing but over the years I have developed a clear strategy for finding the right funders and building relationships.  I  go over this in the Grantwriting 101 Tutorial which will be released soon.

Go to the link below to sign up for more tips & updates:

CLICK HERE: the Grantwriting 101 Tutorial

If you want to create a simple strategy that will help you win more funders & fans, answer the four questions below.

Sound good?

Let’s start with understanding your funder.

1. Who is your one funder?

You might be aiming to send out proposals to several funders.

But if you think of large numbers of foundation, philanthropic, government and corporate funders, you turn them into a faceless crowd.  And when you appeal to a faceless crowd, your writing becomes general, common, and boring.

OK, do you think Stephen King focuses on millions of readers when writing his bestsellers?

King tells us, in his book On Writing, he writes for one reader only — his wife. As he writes, he wonders, “What will Tabitha think about this section?”

Works pretty well for him.

When you write for one funder, your writing instantly becomes more engaging, focused, and persuasive. You’ll stand out more from the crowd, get more points for really knowing what is important to your funder, which will help you generate a higher ranking.

Do you know your one funder?

Can you imagine picking up the phone, introducing yourself and your project, and perhaps complimenting something you read on her website?

Have you had a conversation with any of the other artists listed on her website that have gotten grants?

Do you go to events that this funder supports?  That is the best way to establish a personal contact.

And grantwriting is personal.

Foundations exist to give away money to fulfill their mission.  But  do you think they will give away money to someone they don’t know or trust?

Panelists look for a reason in your proposal to trust you with a grant to do your project.  You can build that trust by doing a little homework to make your proposal more appealing.

To know your one funder, go beyond hitting the search button at the Foundation Center.

Dig a little deeper to understand their mission. Understand their priorities. Empathize with their goals, and inspire them with your ability to help them achieve their goals as well as yours.

2. Why would your funder fund you?

Your art might help you achieve a number of goals — increase your audience, build buzz,  generate more sales in tickets or of your artwork, raise your profile, gain new collectors, etc.

But have you thought about what’s in it for your funder?

Why should she support you?

The panelists will read hundreds of proposals from people like you who will write all about the quality of their work and their artistic goals.

What can you do to stand out?

Here’s something to keep in mind:

  1. Funders have missions and goals that, at their core, are really about making the world a better place
  2. They have to give out money to people whose work is of high quality and aligns with those missions and goals
  3. Showing a funder how you are the best candidate to fulfill both her goals & yours is a smarter grantwriting strategy.

A few examples:

  • As a painter, you might want to create new work and give an open studio tour for the community
  • As a composer, you could help local music teachers and give a mini masterclass about engaging students in ensembles.
  • As a dance company, you could give an open dress rehearsal for a neighborhood senior center
  • As a multimedia artist, you might volunteer to create a set of awards for a local legislator to present to civic leaders

3. Are you crazy?  I don’t have time to do all that!

To engage your funder and get a grant, you need to build a relationship.

To market your work and build an audience for your work, you have to do the same.

Don’t wait until you have spent all your time, money and energy creating work – and then start thinking about building support and awareness of your art.

Try thinking the other way around.

Consider the time you give in cultivating funders as an investment in marketing, promotion and building awareness of you & your art.

The world your funders occupy are full of people that could be your next raving fans, new collectors & buyers.  Some of them are artists, many of them are art lovers.

And if you have a good relationship with a funder and she cannot fund you, she can recommend you to someone else who can.  This happens more often than you think and you cannot get a better referral than that!

4. Do you build long-term relationships?

It’s easy to forget that people fund people. The concept is a cliché, but it’s true.

Before people will give you money, you need to build relationships:

  • Invite them to your events, your studio.  Many funders like to watch and observe what you are doing before giving you a grant.
  • Attend events they are sponsoring.  What a great way to meet them in person!
  • If they have a blog, offer a guest blog or material for it.  JetBlue, ConEdison and many other corporations have blogs that love feedback and input from the public.  This can really help you build advocates on the inside and keep you top of mind for other unexpected opportunities.

To turn funders into supporters, be a good friend. Don’t treat them like numbers.

Here’s what to do next:

Ready to find funders & get them to love you and what you do?

Over the next 5 days, take 30 minutes a day and try my simple plan:

  • DAY 1:  create your profile and write down what makes your project unique
  • DAY 2:  make a list of 3-5 targeted funders and who they have funded. Study trade magazines like Poet & Writers.  Contact your district legislators about funding opportunities.  Check in with your local and state arts councils like Queens Council on the Arts.
  • DAY 3:  pick one funder and write down all of the ways your project meet their mission
  • DAY 4:  plan out your funder strategy. Can you contact a past grant awardee for some insight? (Hint: give them a compliment at the beginning of the conversation by congratulating them on their success)  Have you checked the funder’s website or blog?  Did you contact the funder’s office to ask for some advice regarding the application process?  To answer another comment  from the survey,We need to know the trends that are being funded right now”, here’s your opportunity to find out.
  • DAY 5:  review all you have learned and decide it this is the funder for you

The simple truth about funders

Of course you’d love to get more grants. But the truth is, the money is less important than the relationship.

Authentic engagement with the people who can support you is what matters.

Develop relationships with your funders.  Put them first and they will put you in their portfolio of successful grantees.

That’s how you win more grants.

Ask yourself

Does your fundraising strategy keep funders engaged with your art and sync well with their missions?

What are you doing to build relationships with people who can support you?

I cover a lot more ground about this in the new Grantwriting 101 Tutorial where I really get into the one core strategy used by really smart grantwriters who consistently collect millions of dollars in grant awards.

Hang on to your calculators!

Look out for my next bonus Grantwriting 101 Tutorial post where I talk about all things budget such as how to avoid  the 3 most common budget mistakes artists make.

Go to the link below to sign up for grantwriting strategies:

CLICK HERE: the Grantwriting 101 Tutorial

Got a question?

Let’s talk about finding funders that are right for you.

Do me a favor and hit the Like button and let me know how I can help you get funders excited about you & your next project in the comments below

Let’s get started,

Hoong Yee

HYK - copy


SPARC 06-14 (1) copy“SPARC artists and senior participants bring an incredible amount of imagination and dedication to their projects…Whether it’s a choral performance in the Bronx or a mural unveiling in Brooklyn, these events give us an opportunity to celebrate this year’s SPARC program, which has expanded access to the arts for seniors and increased support for working artists.”  -Tom Finkelpearl, Cultural Affairs Commissioner

After wrapping up a successful year of SPARC programs in 11 senior centers across the borough Queens Council on the Arts is pleased to announce SPARC for 2015! As you may be aware, Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide (SPARC) is a community arts engagement program that places artists-in-residence at senior centers across the five boroughs of New York City. The program provides selected artists with a stipend in exchange for the creation and delivery of arts programming for seniors. Selected artists will engage seniors in an art project or series of cultural programs over the course of the residency, which must also include a public program component – exhibits, readings, performances, open houses and other cultural interactions open to the surrounding community. This initiative seeks to connect artists with seniors in senior centers and positively impact the well-being of seniors through arts-based activities.

Artists will be selected for SPARC through a competitive application process. A call for applications is expected to be released on September 3rd, 2014 for the SPARC 2014-2015 program and will be available on the QCA website for all artists interested in working with a senior center in the borough of Queens. Artists interested in a SPARC residency with a senior center in another borough are encouraged to visit the website of that borough’s local arts council for application materials and guidelines. The submission deadline is September 30th, 2014.

SPARC is a collaboration among the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York City Department for the Aging and five of the City’s local arts councils situated in each borough – Brooklyn Arts Council, Bronx Council on the Arts, Staten Island Arts, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and Queens Council on the Arts.

Stay tuned to the QCA website for the application on September 3rd 


20140728_115056Join Queens Council on the Arts (QCA) in celebrating the accomplishments of young artists of the High School to Art School portfolio development program! Student portfolio artwork will be exhibited at QCA, highlighting the many techniques and concepts central to the HS2AS program.

HS2AS 2014 Summer Exhibition

Now until Thursday, August 7th

Queens Council on the Arts
37-11 35th Ave, Entrance on 37th Street
Astoria, NY 11101


 QCA’s High School to Art School Portfolio Development Program (HS2AS) provides high school juniors and seniors with high quality arts skills training including portfolio development, college application assistance, and financial aid planning for college. We prepare our students to compete for admission to distinguished art programs in colleges, universities, and art schools through portfolio preparation and the college/art school application process.

HS2AS enjoys a high success rate of undergraduate admissions and scholarship assistance for its participating students. 100% of the 2014 graduating class gained admission to the top 20 national universities. HS2AS students have been accepted to The Cooper Union, Pratt, Parsons, New York University, Fashion Institute of Technology, CUNY-Hunter College, SUNY-Purchase, RISD, and more.

HS2AS is made possible with generous support from New York State Council on the Arts, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Altman Foundation, Aviation Development Council, Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, Con Edison, New York Community Bank Foundation, New York Community Trust, Pinkerton Foundation, Surdna Foundation, and TD Charitable Foundation. For more information visit:

Lucio and sons (1)

The image is of of Lucio Castillo from Puebla, Mexico and his sons demonstrating the act of cutting sugar cane. The small town in which he lived is known for producing sugar and he would work in the fields all day cutting sugar cane. While he was telling his story of his home, his sons lit up and became so interested in his story. I particularly love this moment of the three of them grasping his home.

If it’s summer in Queens, then it must be time for the new cycle of the Queens Arts Fund.

If you are wondering, “what’s new for the 2015 QAF grant cycle?” you came to the right place.

QCA is happy to announce that with funds from the NYSCA Community Arts Program (formerly known as Decentralization), we will be awarding four (4) commissions of $2,500 each to socially engaged individual artists. Applicants who best demonstrate their ability to work closely with their community, and be inspired by that community to create a new art project will be eligible.

So what is it like to work directly with a community to create art? I reached out to Roshani Thakore to get her take on what a “community” means to her and what challenges and rewards she found while creating her funded project.

Roshani is a 2014 Queens Arts Fund recipient, whose project, MOVE WITH US, involves direct participation from the new immigrant community, inspiring dialog and spontaneous performance. The following is what she had to say.

What does community mean to you?

I believe a community contains a number of key elements: inclusion, solidarity, support, resources and serving a purpose or need. The strongest and most important component of a community is the community member – each individual member has something to bring to the table. And they may not know that yet and it’s the power of community that can harbor and develop that. I think Queens is a particularly unique place that allows for so many different types of communities to exist and thrive independently and within the greater context of New York City.

What are the challenges you find in working with your community?

One challenge I knew was going to come up was communication. That’s why when applying for funding for my current project, MOVE WITH US, I made sure to budget for interpreters and translation services. There’s also the communication challenge of contemporary “art-speak” to individuals who may not be familiar with that particular language. So it’s working on clear, simplified language and adapting that to your audience to make that connection. The other hurdle I had to work through personally was being able to let go and share ownership of the project. I was being inclusive but I realized the participation I was allowing was only through specific avenues (e.g., the donors fund, the interpreter translates, the participant poses, and the photographer shoots). These “roles” were limiting the potential of the project and when I realized that, I let go and a more interesting and substantial involvement came about. Letting go can be especially difficult when your proposed work is tied to a specific outcome for which you’re being held accountable – e.g. getting a grant to do the work vs. doing the work and letting it ebb and flow naturally. So that also means making clear and realistic goals, being adaptable and revising them, and listening and trusting your community.

What are the rewards?

What a hard question to answer! (Primarily because the rewards aren’t necessarily quantitative.) I have learned so much and have a better understanding about my neighbors, about Queens, about places across the globe, and about different ways of doing things and existing. I’ve developed relationships and connections so rich and fulfilling. My world has gotten bigger and smaller at the same time. And I want to live in a world where individuals have opportunities to create better worlds for themselves.

Check out more information on Roshani Thakore’s MOVE WITH US project here.

Other opportunities for QAF cultural programming include:

  • Individual artists can apply with a fiscal sponsor for NYSCA organization funds for grants of $1,000- $5,000.
  • NYC DCA funds continue to support individual artists without a fiscal sponsor and nonprofit organizations located in Queens. These are also $1,000-$5,000.

For complete guidelines and eligibility for the 2015 Queens Arts Fund click here.

Photo Credit: Fumi Nakamura.