The Art Gardner

Flying Blind With Google Grants

I’m at the Center for Puppetry Arts this week helping out with the Google Grant AdWords account. I was able to slip upstairs during lunch yesterday and catch the current main stage show, Stellaluna, based on the popular children’s book. Stellaluna is an adorable baby fruit bat undergoing an identity crisis. It’s cute and educational—true to form for the Center. For instance, I learned that fruit bats have night vision (unlike most other species of bat, which rely on echo-location to get around).

Back at my desk, I realized that I am sort of “flying blind” with the Google Grant. I sure could use some night vision right about now in order to maximize our gift from Google. So I thought I’d bounce it out to the online community (the human equivalent of echo-location) and see what comes back. I find the forums and online help a bit thin. Is anyone out there using their Google Grant successfully? There are a number of limitations (CPC rate most notably) and I’m wondering if any nonprofits out there have “cracked the code” and are getting maximum value?

A Job Well Done

It’s been a busy week. Today, I finished up day two of volunteering for the Fulton County Arts Council as a review panelist. It was an intense and unique experience. I learned so much, met a great group of fellow arts advocates, and was introduced to a number of arts organizations that are doing amazing work in Fulton county. Hopefully the funding can help many of them continue with their missions and programs for 2010-2011.

Arts advocacy and mobilization have also apparently saved the Georgia Council for the Arts. The Georgia Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to give them back their funding. I believe once it passes the full vote of the Senate, the organization will officially be “back in business.” It is a bittersweet victory as the allocated $890,735 is an 88% decrease from 2008. Still these small triumphs speak to the resourcefulness and passion of people who understand the cultural and economic importance of the arts.

I meant to post this days ago, but The Art Gardner has been “in the weeds” (crikey, I am lame). Anyway, Daniel Summers, Marketing Director at the Center for Puppetry Arts and fellow Guilford College alum (Go Fighting Quakers!), wrote a first-hand account of the Georgia Arts March that took place April 19th. To the hundreds that marched that day and the thousands that have been calling and writing their legislators–I say that’s a job well done.

The Gardner Group is Born
April 5, 2010, 9:19 am
Filed under: Grant Writing, Job Search | Tags: , , ,

I got the official word last week that I now have my Certificate in Grant Writing! I have cut and pasted the Executive Summary from my final Capstone Project below outlining my services as a consultant. I am ultimately looking for a full-time position with benefits, but it was a good exercise to put a business plan together. And of course, if anyone is in need of my services in the meantime, I am happy to talk about how we could work together.

The Gardner Group is a sole proprietorship owned by Ashlee Gardner. Gardner has over 12 years experience in marketing/advertising and new business development in various advertising and marketing organizations both nationally and internationally. She has held a variety of roles in marketing account management and sales and has worked with companies from growth to Fortune 500 as well as nonprofit. Former clients include Intercontinental Hotels Group, Kimberly Clark, Rexel, Turner, Equifax, Checkfree/Fiserv, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation of Georgia, and Boys and Girls Clubs of America. She currently volunteers for the High Museum of Art and the Center for Puppetry Arts both in Atlanta, Georgia. She holds a BA in English from Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina, an MA in Art History from the University of Essex in Colchester, England, and a Certificate in Grant Writing from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Gardner Group was formed in 2010 to help nonprofit arts organizations all over North America win grants and elevate their marketing to support their programs and projects. Gardner’s vast experience in marketing communications and her personal passion for the arts positions The Gardner Group as a niche consultancy that can help arts organizations reach their fundraising goals. Through the services listed below, The Gardner Group acts as a trusted resource and valued member of its clients’ development and marketing teams.

Development Services Include:

  • Grant source research
  • Letters of inquiry
  • Needs assessment
  • Proposal development and writing
  • Editing and proofreading existing proposals

Marketing Services Include:

  • Marketing Plans
  • Copywriting and Editing
  • Project Management
  • Social Media /Interactive /E-marketing Strategy


Of Capstones and Billy Goats
March 4, 2010, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Grant Writing, Job Search | Tags: , ,

Tonight I had my Capstone Class for my Grant Writing Certificate Program at Emory. This was our last meeting prior to submitting our final project. I have decided to make my final project a business and marketing plan for a consulting business. While my ultimate goal is to work in marketing or development in a nonprofit fulltime, I will certainly still utilize my skills to freelance as a grant researcher/writer until that happens. It seemed the best fit  as far as a project given my current situation.

As far as staying occupied until the right job comes along–I’m doing very nicely, thank you. In fact, I’m incredibly busy with volunteering, interning, consulting, and networking. I started my internship at the Center for Puppetry Arts this week. The first thing I did was watch a shadow puppet show. I saw Hobey Ford’s Three Billy Goats Gruff and Other Tales in the downstairs theater and thoroughly enjoyed it. After, we were even able to go backstage to see how he accomplished what I would consider an extraordinary feat. He’s a one-man-show operating sound, lights, several puppets, and scenery all at once.  The rest of the time there I did some writing for an upcoming direct mail piece and proofread next season’s program guide. There’s a lot of cool programming coming up at the Center–including adult shows. Stay tuned.

Living in the garden
March 1, 2010, 5:42 pm
Filed under: Grant Writing | Tags: , ,

In order to live off a garden, you practically have to live in it.  ~Frank McKinney Hubbard

I have been invited to participate in something very exciting and very important for a new grant writer. I am going to be a review panelist for the Fulton County Arts Council. This means in a couple of weeks I will receive a large package of grant proposals from Fulton County arts organizations seeking funding for the 2010-2011 budget year.  My job is to immerse myself in them and in some cases conduct site visits. Then in April the panel meets to decide what proposals get funded and how much. It’s a lot of responsibility and a great opportunity to really “live in the garden” of grant writing so that eventually I can “live off of it.”

Tootsie rolls and nonprofit link-o-rama

granting writing with tootsie rolls
Grant research class with Tootsie rolls

With a belly full of Tootsie rolls courtesy of a fellow classmate, I am ready to share my knowledge about grant research with the world. Today consisted of lots of web surfing–my favorite pastime. Jack showed us all kinds of sites that are invaluable to nonprofit professionals and grant writers in particular. Maybe you’ve heard of these, but if not–drink up:   


Guidestar ( is a shining beacon of light for the nonprofit professional and appeals to the super sleuth in me. Most notably, you can get 990’s (tax forms) for nonprofits and foundations alike. Want to know what organizations got the grant that rejected you last year, how much money the ED of your agency makes, or the names of the board from your local community charity? It’s all there, baby.    

Leader to Leader Institute ( is an entity started by Peter Drucker. Some folks think of him as “the father of nonprofit management.” He wrote the nonprofit “Bible” Managing the Nonprofit Organization. The Institute awards innovation in nonprofit programming and posts a summary of the winners’ innovative programming on this site. It’s a great place to brainstorm grant ideas and see how your concepts measure up.    

If you want to see some actual sample grant proposals, you can go to They are all education based, but even if that’s not your bag it’s a great resource to see the structure of some funded proposals.    

Techsoup ( has cheap software for nonprofits.    

Idealist ( is like Guidestar, but here nonprofits list themselves. As a result, it is the largest database of active nonprofits. Tends towards a younger crowd of users. A great resource for volunteer opportunities and occasionally jobs.    

The Chronicle of Philanthropy ( is like the New York Times of the nonprofit world. Loads of great content and also a “Guide to Grants” section where you can look up foundations and awarded grants.    

There are lots more, but I can’t give away ALL my secrets. Ta-Ra for now.

Grant Writing Success and A Rather Horrifying Painting
February 24, 2010, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Grant Writing, Oil Painting

lantern painting

My second ever oil painting


So in addition to my quest for fulfilling work in a nonprofit, I am also trying to nurture my creative side. I don’t consider myself an artist, because I don’t do it outside of classes. I minored in Art in college where I studied both drawing and ceramics. I always had to have an art class each semester to keep my sanity. So now that I’m out of school why should it be any different? I have decided that I need to create and create on a weekly– if not daily– basis. Since I had never painted before I was keen to give oil painting a try.   

I am taking intro to oil painting at Callanwolde. My first painting was of a jaunty pear in a little blue room. The pear is now my avatar here on The Art Gardner. The painting above is a work in progress. Truth be told, I’d rather be painting people and animals, but I guess you have to start somewhere. In this case with a comedy lantern and a rather sad-looking hat.   

I almost didn’t make it to class tonight. I was up into the wee hours writing my proposal for grant writing class today. I have been talking to the folks at the Center for Puppetry Arts about doing a marketing/development internship. I mentioned to them that I was taking the grant writing program at Emory and needed a “project” to write about. They obligingly gave me their development folder full of material. I came up with an imaginary program and wrote a full proposal with budget in a day. We submitted our proposals in class today for a peer review and mine got the highest score in the class! I’m feeling pretty good about my new direction.   

By the way, I would highly recommend the Emory Grant Writing Certificate Program.  Jack Smith is the instructor and he really knows his stuff.