Dreaming Big While Spending Small

Spring 2017- We have completed two grant applications. It’s our first time applying for grant A and second time applying grant B and we’re feeling good. The first time we applied for grant B, we requested $7,500 and received $3,500. This year we were requesting $10,000 and expecting $7,000-$8,000. We were feeling good, feeling hopeful.

Summer 2017- We have been notified that we made it to the second and final round for grant A. Things are looking positive.


Fall 2017- We have been notified that we received $4,800 from grant B, and nothing from grant A. Our initial estimated budget of $20,000, is now cut in half. We are momentarily devastated.


We share a sigh, and begin to make the adjustments to turn our dream into a reality.




Personally, one of the most difficult parts in proposing a project budget is Dreaming Big when my focus is often on keeping Spending Small. It is quite the mental teeter-totter envisioning the ideal budget while also constantly asking for donations/discounts, looking for sales, organizing fundraisers, and trying to cut costs without sacrificing quality.


A mindset that keeps me grounded as I jump back and forth between Dreaming Big and Spending Small as we reach for funding through the grant process is that “the project will happen regardless”.


“The project will happen regardless” means dreaming WHILE preparing. This allows us to adapt to our circumstances, which includes bad weather and limited funding, and continue in the work we believe in.


One top priority is creating financially stable artists, so when we are able to increase our spending, the first number to increase is the payments of our artists.


On the flip side, the first place we will decrease our budget is in the periphery, namely costumes, space rental, and hospitality extras.


We know these are the first steps we would need to make because we have created Priority Targets for our company. Listing our priorities comes into play when tough decisions need to be made. We have a clear list that we can turn to to help make decisions that will best serve our mission as a company.


Priority Targets are tool to help one create and view a list of their priorities from the core to the periphery.


This tool can be used to prioritize where money or time should be spent. I will use budget for an example.

I aim to use the Priority Target in order to answer the following questions:

Where do we first increase our budget?

Where do we first decrease our budget?

To try it with me, just grab some paper and pen (or pencil!)


Step 1) Decide on Budget or Time

Step 2) Draw your first circle, placing inside one word that represents the Core of your budget

Step 3) Draw a ring outside of the first circle, placing inside one word that represents your second most important priority

Step 4) Draw a second ring, and so on and so forth. Once you’ve done 3 rings, take a break to see if it looks right. If not, alter it!

Step 5) Continue on until you feel every aspect has been addressed.

If you want to add more detail, you can assign a percentage to each word. You can then use it as a guiding post when budget is increased or decreased by applying the percentage to the effect on the priority. Just make sure it totals 100%!


Priority Targets are great to do within a team to determine if everybody acknowledges the same core values. If not, discrepancies can be brought into conversation and clarifications can begin. These targets can be as general (entire company) or specific (individual project) as one needs them to be. It is just a starting point, and can be as simple or complicated as your needs require. Listing priorities for any part of life can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Finding tools to simplify the process, like Priority Targets, can bring calm to situations that might hold unnecessary stress right now, and lead to a more enjoyable (or a least tolerable) experience.

Like, for example, cutting a budget in half… Which we did by using our priorities to trim the edges of the project without losing the integrity. We did this with a few calculated changes such as decreasing the amount of artists in each dance, instead of reducing artist hourly pay. As well as focusing only on procuring private performance space instead of public space where many permit fees may be required, including electricity and portable toilet rental! After reducing our spending, we then looked for ways to increase support from our new and recurring fundraisers. Last, but not least, more grants were applied for.

Regardless of the need to keep Spending Small, we will continue to Dream Big, and so should you.

Rachael Hulse

Executive Director


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