Capacity Building

In the non-profit and arts sector we use the term “capacity-building” a lot but we seldom stop to compare notes about what we mean by the term.  To many non-profit staff and volunteers, it is all about the money and certainly more dollars builds our capacity. . . as long as those dollars are not wasted.  But there are other considerations in capacity building that can help us do more with what we have and position us to grow.

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#MeToo is only one symptom of what is ailing the arts workplace

No one working in the Arts has failed to cheer the fresh air blowing in the window in the wake of the #MeToo movement but there is also a ripple of disquiet about what’s NOT being said about the atmosphere that has allowed abusive environments to flourish and the broader subject of abuse and bullying in the sector. 

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The Arts Consultant: planning for a useful consultancy

So you and/or your Board of Directors is planning a project that will involve the use of an outside consultant or consulting firm.  We’ve all seen consulting projects that have been irrelevant and even terribly disruptive.  We’ve also seen projects that have bootstrapped organizations to the next level or supplied one small key piece of the puzzle that allowed an organization to maximize existing resources.
How do you plan a consulting project and provide oversight to the workplan to get the most out of a time-limited relationship?  It will be as good or as bad as your organization makes it!

Develop a project that is relevant to the organizational needs:

  • successful consulting projects are driven by and responsive to the organizational strategic plan
  • successful consulting projects are responsive to organizational strengths and needs.
  • successful consulting projects have a draft plan in place before potential consultants are approached
  • successful consulting projects are rarely driven by “friend of the board” consulting opportunities, to address shortterm needs due to staffing/funding shortfalls,  nor projects proposed by the consultants themselves

Choosing the consultant.  Find someone with strong relevancy to your organization’s needs.

  • Talk to colleagues, funders, professional organizations
  • Look at the past experience of the consultant for indications that they know your sector and how to work with organizations of your size, especially when sectoral knowledge is very key to the project.
  • Be sure the skills and expertise of your consultant is a match for the specific focus of the project, e.g. “social media marketing” and not just “marketing” if they are charged with a social media marketing plan.
  • Be sure that the consultant you are in conversation with is able to be as hands-on and present in the organization or as independent as your project needs them to be. Be frank with the consultant about what you need and don’t need.
  • Discuss the draft plan with the consultant as well as the opportunities, strengths and limitations of your organization. Be receptive to suggestions that enhance your plan but wary of someone who wants to make huge changes to the plan.  They may not be a fit for what the organization needs.

Assure everyone involved in the project is clear about lines of authority, responsibilities and reporting.

  • In successful consulting projects there is organizational oversight. Who directs the consultant’s work? Who intervenes if a consultant’s work is not being done, goes off-course or is being disruptive of operations?
  • Is there a staff member(s) assigned to assist the consultant? If so are those staff members aware of how they will be expected to assist? This needs to be spelled out, “You will be required to occasionally assist X by research and assembling information.  This is not to take precedence over your regular work, should not involve more than 1-3 hours work per week.”
  • In successful consulting projects, staff understand the scope of the project and how it integrates with their own work and what they might be asked to do to assist with the project
  • Do staff know what information is permissible to share?  Be thoughtful about privacy legislation and your own valuable contact lists.
  • Do staff understand the likely outcomes of the project?  “The information you give us on information flow and ‘who does what’ in your department will guide an HR reorganization that could change reporting structure and job descriptions”.  Understanding the importance of the project will elicit buy-in.

Why consulting projects fail?

  • Irrelevant projects:  A marketing plan for an organization without the staff or finances to support the plan.  A “think outside of the box” innovational strategy that is not sustainable due to known factors.
  • Choosing the wrong consultant: You picked someone with a knowledge of foundations and government funders to plan and pioneer an individuals and corporate donor campaign.
  • Absentee or “in your hair” consultants: lack of clarity about workplan and style leads to a consultant that no one can connect with, (“I’m sorry but I am in Abu Dhabi for 6 months and I need to get my cellphone unlocked before I can call you back”) or a consultant who is disruptive of daily work with a barrage of phone calls, emails and drop ins
  • Lack of oversight: Consulting project takes on a life of its own due to lack of oversight.  Results unlikely to reflect original goals and project either becomes irrelevant or disruptive. Results become hard to assess when it is unclear what the consultant actually did. Staff resent a consultant taking on roles that is in their job description.
  • Lack of clarity about reporting structure/staff roles;  Due to busyness and lack of information staff are uncooperative, stalling the project or the opposite, staff unduly priorize consulting project to the detriment of higher priority work.  Consultant, unclear of how to get needed help, goes to anyone who answers the phone for help sometimes causing duplication and confusion.  Consultant unclear of boundaries, contacts staff at home, via personal email  etc. Staff who have no mechanism to refuse to put in extra hours for consultancy project  ask for huge overtime payments or time in lieu due to work heaped on them by the consultant.
  • Lack of clarity/process and ethical considerations in information sharing.  Wary staff refuse to share information needed for the consultancy.  Staff fail to priorize information sharing because they don’t know how it will be used. Staff who misunderstand Consultant’s scope share privileged information. Consultant offers the organization contact information that is not supposed to be shared. Our contact list is shared against our wishes and our contacts complain.  Individuals added to our contact list complain about spam.  We see a decline in funding results from known sources the following year and discover our list of funding contacts is being used by a competitor who has hired our former consultant.

Key Points:

  1. Strategic needs and long-term goals should drive the project, not shortterm opportunities or needs
  2. Select a consultant who matches the project, the organization and the work style of the team
  3. Provide clear oversight to the consultant and clear responsibilities/communication lines for the staff
  4. Get the necessary buy in from staff by sharing the project’s goals and likely outcomes
  5. Be thoughtful about information sharing making sure protections and permissions are clear
  6. Track the project regularly assuring reports are accurate
Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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Delegation # 1: Why managers are afraid of delegating.

The first in a small series on the management art of effective delegation.

When you talk to unhappy employees and ask them what is wrong with their jobs or their relationship with managers,  the leading issue is usually poor delegation techniques.  In the arts and non-profits we are often working as managers having no business training in supervisory management and as employees we are working with bosses who may be wonderful in their fields but don’t know the first thing about managing people.

Why do so many managers fear and avoid delegation?

# 1.  Fear of loss of control.The inexperienced and insecure manager is afraid that if they don’t do everything themselves things will spin out of control and they will lose authority to shape projects.  Let’s examine this fear:

  • If you recognize this as your own fear as a manager, remember that you have the power to require employees to check in with you, report progress, and you can set the schedule for completion of stages in a project to build in time for edits and tweaks you feel are needed.
  • Delegate from a sense of your own power and your fears will fade

# 2.  Fear/Dislike of employees stealing credit or sharing the limelight.  

Let’s look hard at this fear:

  • Just as your organizations failures ultimately reflect on you as a manager, so do the successes
  • A part of maturing as a manager and human being is learning to enjoy your new role as a mentor to a new crop of professionals.  Their successes are your successes.
  • If an employee truly tries to steal credit or becomes unduly competitive, that is a separate issue that you can deal with, ultimately you have the power to fire them so why be bothered by small expressions of ego?

#3.  Don’t feel you have time to teach employees how to do the delegated work or supervise them:

  • If you are feeling time crunched, only effective delegation will get work off your desk so a small hump of extra work will pay off in the long run
  • Part of delegating the task can be assigning the employee to job-shadow, read, take a course, do online tutorials to acquire skills.  You don’ t have to take on all the training yourself. 
  • While a lot of supervision might be needed the first time an employee takes on a job, it will decrease markedly the next time. 
  • Delegation and supervision IS your job as a manager.  Likely all the work on your desk is really not your job and needs to be delegated. 

 #4  Worry that your employees will make mistakes, use methods you don’t approve of, generally goof up something.

  • Employees will make mistakes and that is a part of learning.
  • Planning for training and supervision and scheduling to allow for error correction is part of your job as a manager and part of your effective delegation strategy.

 When you feel these fears coming on (and we all have them as managers) remember the gains that will come to you as an effective delegator.  You will develop happy, productive employees who not only think for themselves but regard you as an effective mentor and supervisor, someone they can go to for advice without fearing their project will be yanked away from them.  You will be enhancing your own reputation and chance of advancement.  You’ll free up time for your own innovative, non-routine tasks which require your unique expertise.

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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Commonsense Social Media for Small Arts Orgs

A few Do’s and Don’t’s about Social Media for artists and small arts orgs

Do remember to include in your plan all your skills that are relevant to a successful social media campaign
You’ve been talking to your supporters, colleagues and audience for a long time and you know them and their interests better than anyone. You also are skilled at reaching out to them creatively and inexpensively. For pete’s sake, you are artists! Those skills will be key in making your social media campaign a success!

Don’t be phony in your social media voice
Social media is … well… social. It’s got a tone like talking to your neighbours about your work today. Your neighbours and friends will be delighted to hear your voice saying “here’s what we’ve been working at in the studio today” in your own voice. Having that voice delegated to someone outside your company will feel phony and insulting to them. If it feels like a trick in social media, people turn off.

Do have the confidence to run your own social media campaign
The best social media campaign is grass-roots, just like you started your arts organization.

Don’t feel you have to spend big bucks on a social marketing professional
No social media “guru” knows your art and your audience like you and your staff do. So what if they have 2,000 Twitter followers, are they relevant to you, or just other social media gurus all jabbering to each other with re-cycled tweets and links?

Do take the time to blog yourself
I know you don’t have the time, but you know the best blog-posts are short ones. Here’s some good tricks. A photo is worth 1,000 words. Snap photos with your cellphone or digital camera and post to your blog with a small comment. Tumblr is a great platform for quickie bloggers. If you are more of a talker than a writer, make brief voice recordings and ask someone to transpose them as blog posts. Or, make a time to sit down once a week with someone in your organization who does like to write and give him or her a list of things to interview you on. Or just have a chat and record it. A 30-60 minute meeting about what’s going on with the company right now should yield a week’s worth of blog posts that can be timed for daily release.

Don’t let a staff member turn the Artistic Director into a sock puppet
If a post is listed as being from the Music Director or AD, it really should be that person’s words. To charge a staff person to write on your behalf without input or approval isn’t fair to them or you.

Do make meaningful connections with colleagues and organizations with common-cause.
Guest write for your colleague’s blog and share your posts with organizations that will be interested for example your post on set-construction with an umbrella theatre organization or your post on financial planning with an arts administration website. Ask your colleagues to post to your sites. Include the news from other organizations in your tweets and Facebook updates.

Don’t be territorial in social media
If all you tout in your blog, facebook page or twitter stream is your own news, you will be preaching to the choir instead of reaching new audiences.

Do listen to your followers and engage with them
Social media is social, so a part of every social media campaign should be to spend a little time reading what your followers are saying: about you, about other arts organizations, and about things in general. Comment, re-tweet, and thank them for their favorable mentions of your organization.

Don’t be a broken record
You wouldn’t invite your neighbour to a party and then invite them again, and again, and again, using the same message, would you? So invite and follow-up in social media much as you would in other media.

Do use more than one social media that is relevant to your company
As a suggestion, pick one blog platform to share your news in greater length than a twitter post or Facebook update allows. Create a Facebook group for your followers to publicize events. Use a photo site like Flickr or Picasa to host photos & slideshows and a video site like YouTube for video snippets. You may or may not find the social aspect of the photo & video sites useful. But embedding photos in blogs and Facebook posts enlivens them. Finally use Twitter to connect followers in short news bursts to your content in blogs and Facebook. As you develop your social media campaign you will find other tools to use, but no one tool will make effective use of your social media time or effectively distribute your news.

Don’t get too enthusiastic about linking and automating your social media messages
As we’ve seen different social media platforms have different uses and formats. A 140 character twitter post sounds brief and possibly rude when repeated on Facebook, so be thoughtful about linking media. Auto welcoming followers used to be recommended but has become so prevalent that many people regard this as spam and will unfollow anyone who uses the tools. Services that spam followers with auto quotes are fairly universally despised and will lose you followers.

Do use buffer apps to time distribute your posts.
You may want to do all your social media posts at one time of day and all your blog posts one day a week, but many posts at one time will bore your audience and also not reach some potential followers. Twitter streams are one place where people only are likely to see the posts made in the last hour, so use a buffer to send your tweets over the day (twitter is probably the only social media where you can repeat a key message like an event reminder). Facebook posts can also be spaced through the day. (I use http://bufferapp.com ) and you can choose whether blog posts will be published now or at a future date.

Do remember that the message of your company is important
Probably only the artistic director and/or senior management can really articulate key messages about projects, mission and artistic direction of the company. Identify the person or people within your company who will craft the social media messages. Make sure everyone is comfortable with the plan and will follow-through.

Don’t give the social media job to the intern
The intern may be able to Facebook up a storm about their keg stand at the party last night but that doesn’t mean they know how to tell your story to your key audience. Interns can help but don’t leave them in charge of the process or be prepared to accept the results.

Do use your grassroots skills in building up your number of followers
Hey you built your mailing list & email list from 0 to thousands, right? How? By asking people who visited your website to join the mailing list right? By capturing Box Office data, by asking people to enter contests and by asking people to save money, save the trees by signing onto your email list instead. When you have events, that’s the time to ask pe
ople to join your Facebook group or follow you on twitter. Make it easy with slips of paper they can take away, inserted in programs or available in the lobby on info tables.

Don’t get greedy
Don’t try to build followers by following hundreds of random individuals. They won’t stay and aren’t relevant to your success. In the worst case scenario you could lose your account through being listed as a spammer. Having 100 followers who actually come to your events is better than having 3000 followers with only 25 actually coming to your events.

Do give incentives
You know how to do this! Give potential social media contacts incentives by running contests for free tickets or other goodies available only to Twitter followers or Facebook Friends (but don’t make these goodies valuable enough to annoy other contacts).

Do evaluate your social media plan
How are you doing? Did you sell out a show using just Facebook? Are you getting more re-tweets of your news? How many lists is your twitter stream on? How many mentions did you get on Twitter last month? How many blog visitors have you logged (Google analytics or site-tracker have good tools).

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results right away
A good social media campaign is not going to happen over-night for most of us. It is slogging work like building a mailing list. If you are not seeing results after a few months you may need to fine-tune your plan, discover why your blog posts and updates are not engaging & growing your audience.

Do remember the goal
You want to deepen the engagement of your existing audience with your company so that they will be more likely to support you by increased attendance and financial contribution. Plus, you want to reach new audiences– while spending less money on advertising and postage. You also want to be able to brag about how efficient and green your company is in achieving these goals.

That’s pretty hot stuff so it’s worth some work, right?

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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Metropolitan Opera Company breaks fundraising record

The New York Times reports: “In the warren of Met administrative offices, the people who run one of the world’s busiest opera houses had something else to applaud: a record amount of contributions for the fiscal year that ended in July. According to preliminary figures released for the first time, the Met hauled in $182 million, an astonishing amount in a tough economic climate and 50 percent more than it raised just the year before.”

In arts offices around the world, questions are being asked about this outcome. Is this an endorsement for the Metropolitan Opera’s revolutionary electronic distribution in theatres; a vote of confidence for their current artistic direction; or simply the effect of donor behaviour–backing core arts groups in hard times?One major donor David Knott agrees with the electronic distribution policy saying it was a decision that “if we can’t bring people to the opera, let’s bring opera to the people”. He put his money where his mouth was in making a $500,000 one-time gift and pledging a bequest to the company through it’s planned giving program. Electronic distribution certainly seems to be a way to follow the market. In its 2003 study “The Magic of Music”, the Knight Foundation found that while 60% of Americans listened to classical music, only 5% had ever entered a concert hall. Listening to classical music is not declining, going to concert halls is declining. Smart, business-minded donors like David Knott will be more inclined to invest in arts organizations that make decisions soundly based on audience trends, it would seem.

In a time when 2 out of 3 arts organizations have sustained a decline in income, the phenomenal success of the Metropolitan Opera in increasing its donations has to be seen as tied to the most significant new part of its program, the electronic distribution of opera in theatres. This fact should be an encouragement to those trying to pioneer new methods of distribution and electronic outreach initiatives. From my own work in virtual music, I know that resistance to new forms of distribution seems like a brick wall at times, but smart donors are rewarding those arts organizations bold enough to break through to reach their audiences outside the concert hall.

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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New Mindspace Invitation to Make Snow Lanterns

ReinventWinter presents: Snow Lanterns

At Dufferin Grove park, an assembly of people will converge on the snowpile created by the skating rink for the purposes of sculpting/building lanterns for candle light. It should be a fun and creative time.

The act of snow lantern making takes advantage of the natural opportunities provided by a cold climate. Examples of this winter celebration can be seen in Northern regions of Finland, Japan and elsewhere.

Join us in establishing this fantastic tradition in Toronto by building your very own snow lanterns.

Dufferin Grove Park
Friday January 29th
7:00pm – 12:00am
Bring: gloves, sculpting tools (if desired), positive attitude.
Provided: Candles, Snow

See the beautiful potential on the Facebook event:

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=239327560887

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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Michael Kaiser's "The Art of the Turnaround"

Yesterday I was reading a post by Jodi Schoenbrun Carter on Michael Kaiser’s “Arts in Crisis” program that is a follow-up to his book, “The Art of the Turnaround”. I agree one-hundred percent with the sentiment that Kaiser has great ideas, but they are hardly original ideas to most experienced arts managers. You’d be hard-pressed to find any who didn’t agree with him, hadn’t advocated his main principals to their Boards and hadn’t gone away shaking their heads in dismay as Boards failed to listen.

Kaiser says that the quality of art matters, be bold, be brave be revolutionary. Know your Mission and stay on Mission, and spend the money it takes to do it right and market it correctly. You cannot save your way to financial health. He says that the arts are remarkably efficiently run and do not have a spending problem, the arts instead have a revenue problem. Nor can arts organizations win by compromising the art by trying to vie with popular entertainment biz by watering down their season with pop and shlock. Any pickup at the box office will be equalled by loss of donations and funder support.

It makes me tired –as it did Jodi– to hear this touted as new advice. The question in my mind is, “why does arts management common-sense so often fail to be implemented?” And the answer, I believe, is that there is a flaw in a structure which gives governance of our cultural assets to mostly untrained groups of volunteers, with little or no oversight or accountability. I have seen Boards do amazing things from time to time–saving and revitalizing arts organizations. But too often competent arts managers stagger and fail under the weight of dysfunctional boards that– while perhaps composed of well-educated and competent individuals— cannot seem as a group to acquire the knowledge or retain the organizational memory to plan well for their organization’s success, or to carry good plans forward into future years of implementation.

If public funds were invested in building a bridge, and the bridge collapsed, people would ask questions, folks would be held accountable, fault would be found and those at fault would pay real costs. I wonder why we are prepared to invest dollars in arts organizations (and non-profits in general) and yet feel we don’t have the right to hold Boards accountable?

Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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Grantwriting Basics — Grantwriting 101

There’s a lot about writing grant applications that crosses international borders and disciplines. I have written successful grant applications since about 1985 for projects as disparate as women’s fitness programs, community centre building upgrades, the establishment of a foodbank, the founding of a community music school, building improvements for a Black History museum, a Jewish children’s theatre production, an outdoor opera festival, a science-fiction themed audience outreach series surrounding a new opera festival, new music commissioning, outdoor music/theatre in the Ontario northwoods, and scores of more conventional arts projects.

Since the bulk of my grantwriting has been in the Canadian arts–where I have to assume a type of applicant and type of funder–that will be the basis of my examples.

Corporate fundraising uses some of these same techniques but as it is substantially a different process than grantwriting, it will not be explicitly covered in this article. Corporate foundations, on the other hand are foundations and should be handled as a part of your foundation campaign.

IDENTIFYING POTENTIAL FUNDERS

Know your government funders and programs: If you are an arts or non-profit management professional, you likely already know the major funders for your program activities. In the arts at the national level you will be researching programs primarily from Canada Council and Heritage Canada. (From time to time other departments offer programs for foreign travel, international marketing of arts events.) Provincially, you will be looking at provincial arts councils and tourism programs that are available to support marketing for cultural events. Municipally or regionally, you will be looking at the programs of civic, regional, or county arts councils and regional/local tourism initiatives. Don’t be afraid to call the Officers administering the programs to ask what programs fit your activities. Book a meeting with them if you are a new grantwriter, or new to the discipline, organization or geographic area. You may learn about programs that fit your planned activities that you didn’t spot on the website, or in the literature. Establishing a good relationship with your Grants Officer is a really important first step in grantwriting for an organization.

Subscription databases: If you can afford them and you don’t have a good list of funder contacts in your organizational records, you may want to subscribe to one of the subscription databases that are out there. They are expensive but it will only take one additional foundation grant that you would not have received to pay for the Bigonline database or Foundation Search Canada . Even one year of a subscription database will help you build your list of funders to the point where you may not need this resource in future years if cost is an issue. Note that these resources are not without some errors. I have found that where my organization has had an active relationship with a foundation, I have often had more accurate information regarding contacts, programs or even contact information changes. Building and maintaining your own contact list geared to your own program relationships/fits is irreplaceable.

Public tax information of charitable foundations: Okay, you can’t afford an online database but you don’t have much of a list of past donors in your organization. In fact the most recent foundation files are dated 1999? Sigh. I have so been there and done that. My commisserations!

Here is a real tip. Foundations are in themselves charities. As such they have to file a charitable information return with Canada Revenue. And that return is available to you free ONLINE. You can search the name of any foundation you are interested in, or search on a search term like “Foundation”, or by city, to net yourself a list to browse through. You can open up the information to see who is on the Foundation’s board and which organizations they have given to in the year of the return.

See below a screen shot of a search on all private foundations in Ontario sorted by city. All those with icons of returns on the right have accessible returns.

Buried deep within the return you will find a list of the projects and organizations funded by the foundation and the amount of each grant. This, together with the listed mission of the foundation, will give you a strong indication about whether this foundation is a fit for your programs and also what level your ask should be at for a program such as yours.


Finally access the foundation contact information of those foundations who fit and add that contact and any other information about website, deadlines, application forms and process to your grantwriting calendar.

Search public and foundation funders of projects like yours: You know who your competition is, who your colleagues are in the community and in neighbouring communities, and a little skill with online search engines and you are able to come up with some unique search terms that will generate a list of programs and services like your own. When you see a pattern of funding projects like your own, pull out all the stops to track that foundation or charitable giving program down. These are key funders with high probability of success.

Don’t forget local family foundations: Sometimes we overlook family foundations in our neighbourhoods who may not have a discernible pattern of giving to projects like our own. That is because their giving is focused on all quality of life projects IN OUR BACKYARD. They give a little bit to fitness, some to amateur sport and some to education. If we are looking for “arts funding”, we may never find them. However as the local symphony or community arts organization in their community of interest, we fit solidly within the mandate of their foundation and they want to support us! Don’t deny them the chance to give us their money.

PREPARING ORGANIZATIONAL AND PROJECT PROFILES: Annually when your next season is well advanced in planning and before the first major operational grants are due, it is a good practice to update Organizational and Project profiles. This main document will be used in the following ways:

  1. As is for press-release backgrounders, potential board members, foundation appeals to foundations
    that lack a set process, as backgrounders to foundation appeals with more targeted content in the main application.
  2. Tweaked for foundation appeals where the emphasis is on an aspect of the program, expanding some sections, condensing or omitting irrelevant content
  3. As fodder to cut and paste into relevant sections of government grant applications and into the application forms for those increasing numbers of foundations that have a formal application process.

Your organizational profile document will be about 4 to 7 pages long and will include the following, organized into sections and illustrated with photos, charts and graphs as needed:

  1. Mission, Incorporation date and charitable number–if you have a briefer version of your Mission, you may want to use it here.
  2. Brief history of the organization (updated, brief, and engaging)–focus on accomplishments, programs, community impact, staying away from tedious details that are of internal archival interest only. Quotes are great!
  3. Artistic or Leadership statement–Put a photo of your conductor or theatre artistic director beside their own words on what is exciting and valuable about your upcoming program. Don’t under-estimate the ability of Artistic Leaders to frame the importance of their work. If they won’t write something for you, give them a phone call, write down what they said and send it to them for approval. It will help you as a grantwriter. You may be looking at a season that looks like a hodge-podge. You have no “hook” to hang your thoughts on, but when the Artistic Director tells you the season is a “dialogue between the conventional and the new, the audience’s taste and the pressure for artistic innovation”… wow… you are off and running with and angle for your prose.
  4. Main Program Description–Describe your artistic season or core programs. While you might start with brochure content here, don’t stop there. You want to think always from the standpoint of impact. What are the benefits to the community, artists, the art form, ties to education or multiculturalism in your program? How is this program a stretch for your organization, or the artists in your orchestra?
  5. Community Outreach/Education and/or Adjunct Programs–separately describe your audience development and outreach programs. Start with and update the descriptions of annual and recurring programs. Next add what is special and unique about this years programs and share details of one-time programs. Illustrate your content with examples and photos from last year’s successful programs. Include participant’s quotes. Their words are always going to include more weight than yours, no matter how hot-shot you think you are as a grantwriter!
  6. Organization–Who are the key players? Brief bios of artistic leadership and management here. Organizational challenges and triumphs. Any major projects in the coming year. (A Board List will accompany where appropriate).
  7. Financial Position of the Company--If you have a debt, here’s where you explain it. If you have a surplus, here’s where you explain why it is needed and why it can’t be used for operating. Do you need to save to repair the roof next year, or are you on a cycle with a festival every two years? This is only a good news over-view, you’ll need a detailed explanation for funders if you have serious explaining to do. (You’ll attach financial statements where needed).

PROJECT PAGES:

  1. In addition to your main project description prepare single sheets for specific adjunct and optional projects. Are you going to have two composers visit schools next year? Prepare a “Composers in the Classroom” page. Are you going to have musicians from your orchestra give workshops? Prepare a “Young performers workshops” page. Are amateur ensembles going to play before your concerts? Prepare a “Community Overtures” page.
  2. Update or create project pages from the former years projects. If you had a successful collaboration with a youth choir last season, do a one-sheeter on it.
  3. Try to keep your project titles consistent as that will allow you to send three sheets on “Young Artist Spotlight” that detail past and planned activities. Although the activities may have slightly different aspects, the one linking idea–in this example, young artists on the stage–will allow you to build a case for this stream of activity within your organization.

These one sheeters will be used for:

  1. Targetted foundation and corporate appeals
  2. Reports to donors on prior projects funded
  3. Fodder for larger applications
  4. To add to or tweak applications to foundations where added emphasis is needed to match the funder’s priorities or mission.

YOUR GRANTWRITING CALENDAR

  1. You can use MS Outlook, a database, or a spreadsheet to construct an annual calendar for you to chart the deadlines and progress of your grantwriting.
  2. Be sure to keep and include your accumulated knowledge arising from your past successes and failures with the funding body. Many funders ask you when you applied to them last, what for and what was the result.
  3. As you talk to officers, look at websites, add all information into your grant calendar listing. Link to application forms and guidelines where those exist.
  4. Where deadlines are given, you can enter those along with your own projections of when to schedule work on this grant. Many foundations will give vague information such as “meet before the end of each fiscal quarter”. You will have to either find out the deadline or plan to have the application in well before the deadline might be anticipated to fall.
  5. You will determine patterns in your calendar which will allow you to schedule grantwriting weeks where you will lock the doors, turn off the phones for some part of the days and focus on a series of foundation appeals or a major operating grant. In my experience, given basic knowledge and writing skill, the major determiner of a successful grant is the time invested.

GRANTWRITING TEAM TASKS:
“Team, what team?” you ask. I smile as I have certainly written many grant applications on my own. However, there are ways to divide up the tasks to work with one or two other staff members in assembling materials for your more major grant applications. Even if it is only you on your lonesome, it may be helpful to you to think of working on your grant applications in terms of these tasks which may be extracted and assigned.

  1. Pre-read grant application forms, program guideline sheets AND final checklists, making a list of everything you will need for the grant. Please note that due to over-sight, omission or sadism, there will often be some item that you cannot get at the last minute which will only appear on one of three of these documents, usually the final checklist. If you only look at that as you prepare to mail your application, you will be up a creek without a paddle. Be sure you have defin
    ed the deadline properly: is it “postmarked by X date”, “in our office before 5 pm on X date”, or “in our office before midnight on X date”.
  2. Solicit, acquire and create a file of all needed external and internal documents: These can depending on the program include: financial quotes on equipment you are intending to purchase with grant funds, artistic statements from artistic leaders, signed releases from creative partners, signed Motions of the Board authorizing the application, copies of Letters of Incorporation, signed Financial Statements, work samples on CD’s, copies of scores, letters from references, marketing materials, marketing plans from companies on retainer, resumes of partners, etc. You will want to chart progress on these items to avoid nasty surprises.
  3. Create an electronic “fodder” file: On your computer network create a folder into which you throw copies of all documents likely to be of use to you during the grantwriting process. (You will delete these copies later). This will save you oodles of time in searching and opening and re-opening the same documents as you look for re-useable content. These documents will include your organizational profile, individual program sheets/descriptions. Strategic planning documents. Past grant application to the same government body. Recent grant application to other government bodies. Documents on financial planning. Statistics, budgets, and copies of marketing materials.
  4. Fill in grant cover sheet (get signatures done well in advance).
  5. Create separate documents for your main prose sections for the application.
  6. Cut and Paste–Use your current organizational profile and any other relevant content in your fodder file. Do a rough cut and paste of the material into the program sections where it best fits and might be helpful. Do not worry at this point about duplication. You are merely positioning the material for convenient accessibility.
  7. Statistics and Budget pages: Do these as fully as possible before starting on the prose. You can cut the time you spend on editing prose a lot more easily than truncating the time on stats sheets and Budgets. Trends evidenced in these sheets will help frame the prose.
  8. Write and edit. Self-explanatory as this seems, determine well in advance who the lead writer is and who gets to say, “this is done”. Arguments on these points seem to happen frequently in mid-sized to larger organizations and make a tense process much worse.
  9. Proofread.
  10. Make the required number of copies and prepare as required
  11. Checklist of everything submitted
  12. Copy to file.
  13. Cover letter
  14. Mail, courier or hand-deliver. Nothing quite compares with the festive atmosphere in the line-up at the last post-office open in a major city on the deadline of a major grant. It is a time to meet old colleagues and catch up with the news from last year. But really, we’d much prefer to have been home at 5 pm rather than be in a post office at 10 minutes to 10 pm.

WRITING TIPS

  1. Make a plan: List everything you want to tell the funder in brief points.
  2. Make it easy for them to give you the money by using their language. In addition to the application forms and guidelines that shape your writing, be sure to take time to read annual reports, strategic planning and online copy from your potential funding body. As you read, highlight (or electronically extract if possible) the prose in their documents that resonate powerfully with what you do or are proposing. Put this in your “fodder” file. Organizing your argument under sub-headings that echo their goals and priorities, using their language makes it easy for funders to see where your activities and plans fit their funding priorities. I worked with one great grantwriter who called this, “finding the money words”.
  3. Tell your positive story first. Find several key points in each section that are strong positives. Put them upfront and in strong brief language. Use quotes from stakeholders, partners and leaders to enliven and add credibility.
  4. Address negatives briefly and honestly – move quickly to your positive plans (the only exception to this is applications for organizational effectiveness projects where you are making a case for the needs of your org.)
  5. Keep to length guidelines: Find out how flexible your funding body is in length guidelines. If they have some flexibility, don’t abuse them. Sometimes copy from one question might be adapted and moved to another question that allows for a more lengthy response.
  6. Have you hit all your high notes? Look back at your list from No. 1. In your edits and moving blocks of copy around have you failed to tell some of your positive stories? See where you can fit those missed notes back in.

If you follow all these steps you will maximize your success with funders. Remember that the funders want to give you the money but you have to show them why and how your activities are the best place that they can invest in order to achieve their goals.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS:

  • Be honest: Any dishonesty or misrepresentation in your application will assure you have a very short relationship with the funder, so you want to be sure that you’ll deliver on everything you have outlined. Fudging on postage dates is mail fraud, unfair to your colleagues and creates a nasty, unethical climate in organizations where leaders coerce staff into going along with submitting applications days after deadline with an old postage meter label. Expose this where it occurs. If extensions are needed due to dire circumstances, often there is a way to submit a barebones application with additional material coming as updates.
  • Don’t forget to file your reports. A part of successful grantwriting is filing reports as required. Since you are reporting on last year’s activities anyway, send reports even to those funders that don’t require them.
  • Recognize your funders: assure that funders have the logo recognition and thanks that meets or exceeds the funder’s expectations. Forgetting the Canada Council logo on your program book today, means you will not want to send that program to them with your next application, no matter how good it looks. When logos and thanks are part of your development team plan, meeting your final requirements and giving courteous acknowledgement is assured
Bread and Roses Life, L. Rogers
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