Building Relationships With Funders

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! Making a lasting impression on funders can help you bring your next big project to life.

A still from Mondo' Bizarro's Creative Capital project "Cry You One;" photo by Svetlana Volic with WWNO New Orleans Public Radio

A still from Mondo Bizarro’s Creative Capital project “Cry You One;” photo by Svetlana Volic with WWNO New Orleans Public Radio


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.

Creative Capital hosts professional development workshops in a wide variety of fields such as grant writing, communications, and budgeting to help artists create successful projects from inception to completion. Check our calendar for upcoming workshops!

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