Every few weeks we post tips straight from the Professional Development Program’s Artist’s Tools Handbook, a 200+ page resource we give to Core Workshop attendees, written by PDP Core Leaders Jackie Battenfield and Aaron Landsman. The book covers everything from writing to budgeting, websites to fundraising, elevator pitches to work samples. Similarly, each post is packed with practical ideas to make your life run more smoothly, leaving you even more time for your creative practice. Learn more about our PDP workshops and webinars here.
The road to success involves more than a single application and a ‘yes’ or ‘no‘ response. With grantmakers and donors of all stripes you’ll need to build relationships, just as you would when working with other partners—venues, galleries or collaborators. Funders and donors talk to each other and change jobs. Similarly, a regular contributor may love your work enough to bring friends and potential contributors to your next show—all you have to do is ask! The great impression you make on one funder may not yield immediate results, but it may help you down the line.
Here are a few things to know when building relationships with funders:
Invite funders and donors to all of your activities. Individual contributors are especially interested in the process of art making, not just evaluating the product. If you have a work-in-progress performance, or if you have a gallery opening for another show, invite as many potential funders as you can so that they broaden their understanding of you and your work.
Send thank yous. Thank yous are not just for grant awards or donations. If a funder makes a studio visit, gives advice, recommends you for an award or helps you in any way, thank them! Thank them without attaching another ‘ask’ to it. A note, email or phone message takes just a few minutes and can help solidify a burgeoning relationship.
Another great practice is to ask a funder who else you could thank. If you thank the program officer at a foundation, ask if there are board members to whom you could write a quick note. This is a crucial kind of advocacy in an era when the value of the arts is often weighed against other possible priorities a funder might have. A quick note sharing how their resources impacted your work and community may reinforce their commitment to supporting the arts and culture sector.
Ask for feedback. Some funders (including Creative Capital) will give you feedback on unsuccessful applications. This is a great service and not enough artists take advantage of it. If there is any way to learn what will improve your chances the next time around, or even if you should continue submitting applications, by all means find out! Because of the volume of proposals funders receive, you may need to apply several times for a particular grant before you are successful. You can learn this crucial information through asking questions and getting feedback. Not asking for feedback means you may be giving up before you have been given a chance to succeed.
Check back regularly for more Pages from Our Handbook. Coming soon: Tips on proposal writing.