It is so easy to postpone the daunting task of creating more letters of inquiry (LOIs) for potential foundation donations. Even this blog post is sort of stalling. But in my defense I have sent out three new ones this week so far. That brings the total amount of requests up to $10,700 so far. I’m hoping to raise about $7,000 in grants for Manuel versus the Statue of Liberty. So I know that I probably have to have many more requests in, probably about $70,000 or more because of the low odds of getting a grant. Thanks to my playwriting cohorts at DQT, my LOIs are better. My fellow playwrights listened to me read the drafts out loud, and made comments, asked questions, and found that what I answered was much more interesting than my drafts. So I incorporated feedback. It’s very important to have other people preview your LOIs.
Typically, individual donations count for a huge amount of any artistic budget. You can look at statistics from places as large as Lincoln Center, or as small as DQT and my show, and it is pretty consistent. So thank you to all the individuals who have donated! I’m at the beginning of a new chapter, and you are helping me navigate it successfully!
The race to raise the next $1,000 to be able to claim all of my anonymous donor’s $1,000 matching gift is heating up. A generous friend just catapulted the total to $658. I’m so excited to get to $1,000 because then I will get double that – thanks to another super generous friend. If anyone is also feeling generous, you can donate at www.thedqt.org/donate/fountain-of-youth.
And I sent out three letters of inquiry to different grant giving organizations, at $2,000 each. That was difficult. I always think that I write about important things -so of course I should get grants. And then when it comes to actually writing up the application or letter of inquiry I chicken out because I get filled with self-doubt. So the new rule is: the self-doubt doesn’t get a vote in the process. I split myself in two: the artist, and the PR person. The PR person writes the grant applications, and the artist writes the musical. The PR person is closer to P.T. Barnum, and shamelessly promotes herself (within reason). The artist is like Woody Allen, and retreats into privacy to create really funny, insightful work. And these two halves may inform each other, but they are not “the boss of each other”.
The things you have to do to be a playwright-producer.
Why is it so hard to send out Letters of Intent (LOI) and grant applications? Why do I check the directions a hundred times, and review the letter 80 times before I send it out? Why does it take 2 hours, when I think it should only take 15 minutes?
That’s the short answer. I am afraid of being ruled out for one little mistake. I’m afraid the recipient will flinch because the musical has some political content. I’m afraid my wording is confusing. Afraid I am too detailed, not detailed enough, boring, too inflamatory…you name it. I’m even afraid of using a comma incorrectly. Oy.
So I printed out the two letters of intent I am working on (one grantor doesn’t even give me instructions which is super-fear producing), and I read parts aloud at the last DQT meeting. My fellow playwrights listened to my spiel about the NYMF Developmental Reading Series, and the description of my show, and why this was an important step for me. Then we dove in and read what I actually wrote – which needless to say was somewhat scattered, and vague. So then they told me how I should write what I said before, because it was better, and clearer. They also helped me figure out what parts to cut out entirely.
The lesson learned – read this sort of stuff to other people who “get” what you are aiming for, but don’t know your project perfectly. Pick people who like you and are generous of heart – not bitter negative people who hate everything. Get their feedback. See what parts of your project generate smiles, eye twinkles, laughter. Put that in the LOIs and grant applications.
Ok – enough procrastinating for me. Time to do another LOI that will hopefully entice the foundation to ask for a full application.
What is your experience in applying for grants like?