Constructive Grantwriting

By Julie Kanter


How can you get the most out of working with a grantwriter? For the majority of those hiring a grantwriter, the goal is to find someone who can help secure funding for a project. End of story. However, there are many other important things that transpire when working with a grantwriter, all of which can help an organization achieve greater success in their fundraising over the long-term.

When I begin to work with a client on crafting a major proposal, there are many questions that come up. Some of these are straight forward and easy to answer, while others require more substantive discussion with the client. It is during this process of back and forth that I am able to help my clients better understand the organization’s purpose and approach to its work, its defining artistic characteristics, and what its long-term goals are. Often these insights have a significant impact on the organization as it moves forward with a clearer idea of its central goals, artistic and organizational strengths and weaknesses, and the resources it has at its disposal.

For instance, take the question “What is the organization’s niche in the community or field?” For some, this query can precipitate a full-on existential crisis, but a grantwriter can help you sift through your thoughts, offer his or her perspective about similar organizations in the field, and provide insight into what distinguishes your organization and its work.

On occasion, the process of crafting a proposal to a funder serves as an ad hoc long-range planning session. While certainly not the ideal way to undertake this important organizational activity, it can help an organization begin to prepare for a more formal planning process in the future.

Developing a long-term relationship with a grantwriter has many advantages. Aside from the obvious ones, such as knowing what the organization did last year, what its upcoming projects are, etc., your grantwriter possesses a depth of knowledge about where your organization is coming from, where it’s headed, and how it plans to get there. Likely he or she has helped you figure out some of these things, or at the very least, helped refine the language used to convey them. Through the process of exchanging ideas back and forth, a grantwriter becomes a key stakeholder in the organization–a valuable intellectual and creative asset upon which to draw. By taking part in an ongoing dialogue with the organization, a grantwriter is able to advocate more effectively for the organization in each proposal narrative.

While grant proposals mainly focus on one particular time in an organization’s development, they also are a good starting point for in-depth discussions between staff, artists, board, and other stakeholders that increase the organization’s self-awareness and advance it toward its goals.

This article appeared in the April 2011 issue of In Dance.

Julie Kanter is an independent grant writer, with close to 20 years of experience working with Bay Area performing artists and arts organizations. She is a former development manager at Quinn Associates and danced professionally with ODC/Dance for a decade. She can be reached at