IN 1965 a 35-year-old man named Joseph Papp walked into the Doris Duke Foundation looking for his first grant. He had only two weapons at his disposal. One was a clipping from The New York Times' Brooks Atkinson lavishing praise upon an outdoor performance by something called the New York Shakespeare Festival. The other weapon, he says was chuzpah.

The Duke Foundation had never before granted money to theater, and grants did not then play their present central role in subsidizing culture. But Papp got $10,000 and "for the first time I was able to pay my actors - $25 a week. One of them was Colleen Dewhurst."

Two yeats later, he started trying to crack the Ford Foundation - and found couldn't even get his chuzpah in the door. For 15 years, in fact, the foundation held him at arm's length while Papp pummeled it with combination punches. When Ford turned down his grant applications, he accused the foundation of "weaselwordedness" - and drew outraged responses from McGeorge Bundy about Papp's "hot temper" and his "personal attack" on Ford Foundation officers. In 1973, Ford finally weakened, and coughed up $1.5 million to help the indefatigable grantsman take on what was to be a losing battle with the troubled theaters of Lincoln Center. Learning the Ropes

Perhaps by instinct, perhaps by the exigencies of crisis, Joseph papp learned the ropes of 20th-century grantsmanship - the art and science of talking agencies, foundations and well-heeled well-wishers into underwriting your bright ideas - before most American performing arts manager even knew the ropes had been strung up. His New york Shakespeare Festival, once a shoestring operation, is now one the giants of the American stage: It grossed $30 million last year and employs 300 persons.

Today's grantsman has it easier - he can even take a course in technique, like the symposiums of the Grantsmanship Center, for a mere $325. He can also rest assured there is much more funding to be had. But strong motivation, plus skill at preparing a persuasive case, is now of even greater importance.

More than a billion dollars a year now go to cultural grants, and a billion dollars means hard competition. The federal arts and humanities endownments alone directly invest about $215 million. Cultural grants show up in the budgets of other agencies, from the Fulbright scholarships to the job programs for artists of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. State and local governments contribute considerable amounts independently and on a matching basis. Corporate cultural grants alone were estimated last year to be $221 million, much of it matching the government and the foundations.

The style of today's Compleat Grantsman varies with the situation. Slick management and persuasiveness helped Anthony Bliss stave off disaster for the ailing Metropolitan Opera. "Funding-raising has become as hard work as the artistic side," says Bliss. And that is also the style of PepsiCo chairman Don Kendall, now trying to bail out American Ballet Theatre.

But most grant-seekers lack such easy entree into high places. Instead, they spend countless hours waiting outside offices and knocking on doors, many of which never open. For people like Steve Stern, of the Otrabanda theater player, or Bill Ferris of the Center for Southern Folklore, personal determination is the best weapon. "The key to grantsmanship is to refuse to give up," observes the mild-mannered Ferris.

And you have to count on the pains and frustrations of losing at least as often you win. Papp still fumes about his relations with the Ford Foundation: "I've never met mac Bundy, but I guess that if I had I would have punched him in the nose."

You have to be in the right plave at the right time, as Pierre van den Berghe, the University of Washington sociologist, well knows. His federally financed research into a Peruvian Indian brothel drew the ire recently of Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wis.). Van den Berghe says he didn't mind the publicity. What he minds is that his book, "Academic Grantsmanship," is currently out of print. Theater on the Raft

When the first request for a National Arts Endowment theater grant for the Otrabanda Company plopped on a desk here in 1971, it probably wasn't taken too seriously. After all, the idea of aiding a group of players who wanted to float down the Ohio and the Mississippi all summer and set up a stage in small riverbank towns for evening performances suggested a boondoggie, and brought to mind the plot of "I Pagliacci."

Furthermore, Steve Stern, who grew up in Montgomery County, and his friends were students at Antioch College, hardly a citadle of conservatism in those days. Would the riverside audiences be subjected to radical tracts?

So there on the desk the application sat. But Stern was, and is, a serious grantsman and he recalled recently from Otrabanda's New Orleans office how they finally got attention to that crucial first grant.

"Later that year, we met some people from the Smithsonian at a theater workshop and they really liked our work. So they invited us to Washington for a one-night stand.

"They saw to it that some people from the endowment were there. They were impressed enough that they called us over the next day and went over the application with us. They said we had filled out the form wrong and helped us redraft it. They said that because we had no accounting skills we had misjudged the scope of the project and asked for too little money. Instead of $10,000 we should ask for $15,000. We did, and the grant came through."

That launched the first of six river seasons by Otrabanded. In 1974, for instance, they brought their original revue to 28 towns - places like Cape Girardeau, or Friar's Point or Vicksburg. More recently they have performed period dramas that might have been done under the same circumstances 100 years ago.

Stern and his company are even more dependent on grants than large performing arts institutions. Grants make up 60 percent of the budget. "I have to hustle," he says.

One enterprising success came last year, when the company received the National Science Foundation's first theater grant. It was to write and perform a play on the philosophy of science that Otrabanda has since staged in science museums from coast to coast.

Stern says some members of state arts councils along their river course still betray suspicion and doubt about what they are up to.

They once seemed assured of a grant from the Ohio Arts Council until the day of the vote. A favorable review of their performance in that morning's paper made mention of an earlier Otrabanded work in which "people make love in supermarket baskets."

"That offended one man on the council," recalls Stern, "and it [WORD ILLEGIBLE] in." Anthony Addision Bliss.

Anthony Addision Bliss, 64, executive director of the Metropolitan Opera, is a product of Groton, Harvard and the University of Virginia Law School. He is the grandson of Cornelius N. Bliss, McKinley's Secretary of the Interior, and his aunt, Lizzie P. Bliss, was an organizer of the Museum of Modern Art, to which she left her collection. For most of his career he practiced at the lordly New York firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy, while playing active roles on the boards of institutions like the Joffrey Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera.

Bliss believes the key to grantsmanship on a mjor scale is "being able to get your foot in the doors of potential donors and presenting your case, eyeball to eyeball. It requires telling the truth and telling it in full detail."

And because his family and professional background get him in where other might not get an audience, and because his career skills prepared him well to present the Met's case, it was to Anthony Bliss that the Metropolitan turned in November 1974 when it appeared the company might go under. The feeling was that if anybody could obtain the necesscary funds, Bliss could, and he certainly has. This pastseason the Met actually enjoyed its first surplus in years.

In terms of dollars, Bliss, who is the chief administrator as well as the chief fund-raiser, probably has to raise more money every year than any other single official in the performance arts. The Met is the most expensive single such organization, with a $35 million budget last year. It also has the biggest deficit, $13.2 million.

"In addition to what I do," recounts Bliss, "the Met's president, Frank Taplin, spends three full days of his week on it, even though his job is unsalaried. We're just lucky he can afford it. Also it has to be a principal preoccupation of - and this varies - from at least three to, ideally, six of our board members."

To underline his point, Bliss reviewed his personnal schedule for the previous 24 hours: He and Taplin both went to a dinner party the evening before attended by several potential donors; they both spent the morning at the offices of "a major foundation" discussing a prospective grant; joined by another Met official, they lunched with the chief executive of "one of the leading banks" to discuss the progress of yet another grant ("These things usually take at least three months to work out"); Taplin was on the phone in the afternoon with other foundations, and Bliss held a two-hour meeting in his office in which staff members joined him andofficials of a corporation "from which we are soliciting an important grant. We were trying to explain to them how it would be in their interest from a public relations point of view."

An example of a major grant in the Met's eyes was the landmark National Endowment for the Arts challenge grant awarded last year "to raise funds for increased operating costs and to launch a five-year endowment campaign."

Challenge grants must be met three times over from other sources and are meant to stabilize an organization's managerial and financial foundations. The man who administrated the challenge grants that first year, John Spencer, recalls that Bliss' presentation was a model of what such things should be. Bliss was the only grantsman to get for his company the maximum allowable sum, $1.5 million. And even though challenge grants are supposed to be one-time-only affairs, the agressive met is back this year, trying for another one - just in case.

Says one envious colleague, "Bliss is running the smoothest shop in the business."

12 Years Experience

Tom Naratil Jr., of Newburgh, N.Y., was actually underage when he applied for his Humanities Endowment grant. He was only 18, and the lower limit on the Youthgrant program is 18. But Tom must have sensed that the wheels of government move slowly, so that by the time he got an answer he would be 18.

Mary Elin Carnes, his French teacher at Newburgh Free Academy, recalls returning from Washington from a briefing on the Youthgrants and pressing her 150 students to get involved. "Tom, who is probably the most promising student I have ever taught, was the only one to take the initiative."

Newburgh is a treasure trove of late Victorian architecture and Tom decided that, considering the rate at which old buildings were coming down, a photographic record of old Newburgh was in order. Using $810 from the endowment and a Canon FTB with an F1.8 lens, he spent much of the summer making over 1,000 shots of the city's architectural heritage.

The subsequent report and slide show (with a taped narration) provides a record for Newburgh's citizens of what was left of Victorian Newburgh, and an impetus to stop tearing more of it down.

Tom is harder to catch on the phone than many of the big mogols of grantsmanship - what with the track team and all. He's now 16, and when he talks about the future, the most important thing on his mind is that he wants to go to harvard.

Having been the youngest grantee in the history of the National Endowment for the Humanities shouldn't hurt his chances. Better at Dancing

American Ballet Theatre is better at dancing than it is at business. It may come as a surprise that the company that has brought Baryshnikov, Nureyev, Makarova, Kirkland and Gregory regularly to the Kennedy Center was turned down last year by the National Arts Endowment for a challenge grant because ABT's back office was in such disarray. No one quarreled that ABT is one of the world's preeminent dance companies. But, also, no one quarreled that its finances were a mess.

Losing the challenge grant put the fear of God into ABT's board, and a decision was made that emergency measures must be taken to insure that ABT get one this year (the new ones will be announced in late spring).

ABT needed a high-powered grantsman who had easy access to the sources of big money and who could pull the company's finances together fast.

By June they had found their godfather in Donald Kendall, 57, the chairman and chief executive officer of Pepsi Co Inc. and a director of such companies as Atlantic Richfield and Pan Am.

"I like the dance very much," recalls Kendall, "and somebody within my company heard about Ballet Theatre's problem and suggested I might want to get involved.

"At the time I got in I didn't realize the size of the problem. If I had I might not have done it. There was a real question of whether we could survive or not. $250,000 in unpaid bills were more than 90 days overdue and the company could not meet the payroll. The management side just was not up to the artistic side."

Kendall went to George Moore, former head of First National City Bank and a long time principal fund-raiser on the Met's board, and asked for help. Moore recommended hiring Herman Krawitz, a principal deputy in the days of Sir Rudolf Bing at the Met, as a consultant.

"Herman got to work. The Arthur Young company got the books straightened out. We got a cash flow going and made some projections so that we could show people where we were going, Then I started going to see my friends in the corporate world and told them Ballet Theatre had to be saved. My role was to get access to these people because I know them."

Even though Krawitz came in an outsider, he says his relations with longtime ABT directors Lucia Chase and Oliver Smith have been good. "Chase doesn't resist my pulling her along. I'm not after her job."

This year there are 353 groups seeking $103 million in challenge grants, with only $30 million to go around. But Kendall and Krawitz are optimistic that the grant will come through. "Then I'm going to phase down a bit," says Kendall. "This takes too damn much of my time." Southern Approach

Bill Ferris of Memphis is the cofounder of a pioneering project called the Center for Southern Folklore. He assumes a quiet country boy manner that masks his quite considerable academic aptitude. But, in his way he is a grantsman on the order of a Papp or Bliss. He certainly has their tenacity. He, however, lacks their access. "My greatest problem is to get my foot into the door," he says.

Ferris' project is devoted to preserving through films, tapes, records, photos the rich and disappearing folk culture of Mississippi.

His primary motivation is that of a "true believer." He gave up a promising career as an English literature scholar to devote himself to his bold venture in folk culture, one that at present is almost entirely dependent upon grants to finance its work and pay its 14-person staff.

"We are losing an incredible amount of our culture," he declares. "The generation we are losing now is the last one to have seen pre-industrial America. They have seen a great wrenching change, from the horse and buggy to the moon. And there ought to be records of what that experience was like for them."

The low-key Ferris is zealous in pursuit of grants and his recond of success is outstanding - 35 separate grants in six years, or about 50 percent of the ones he has sought. "You just have to write, and rewrite and resubmit," he says. Ferris' virtually exclusive dependence upon grants is unusual even for today, and thus his is an example of a project that would almost certainly have been impossible in the pregrant age. The most important of his grants is a $200,000 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is designed to reduce the Folklore Center's dependence on grants and to set up a distribution system to libraries, schools and museums that will, he hopes, "let us make money."

Ferris has eased his problems of getting his foot in the door by setting up an advisory board with members ranging from Harvard psychiatrist Robert Coles to jazz musician B.B. King. But, for all that, he still is clearly his own, best salesman.

For all of Bill Ferris' wide-eyed earnestness, though, there are others who approach grantsmanship more cunningly. Some have tried to make a science of it, as with the numerous consulting firms that now constitute a small cottage industry. And some regard it as not so much a science as a game. Make Your Ph.D. Pay

One such person is Pierre van den Berghe of the University of Washington in Seattle. With the help of three assistants he produced a study of Indian life in an Andean village that included an article called "The Peruvian Brothel, a Sexual Dispensary and Social Arena." One of the results of a $97,000 grant from the National Institute for Mental Health, it was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior last summer and excerpted in Playboy. Week before last Sen. Proxmire singled it out for his monthly Golden Fleece Award - a recognition of "the biggest, most ridiculous or most ironic waste of taxpayers' money." Comments van den Berghe, "At least we didn't get paid for the Playboy excerpts."

The NIMH bequest is van den Berghe's fifth in 17 years as a scholar, and he has distilled the lessons learned from these experiences in a volume called "Academic Grantsmanship," which is a "how to" guide to what van den Berghe calls "the art of scholarly mendacity." The subtitle is "How to Make a Ph. D. Pay."

His recommended practices are openly opportunistic. The first suggestion: "Never give the impression that you do not know precisely what you want to do and how you are going to do it. This often involves dishonesty because in the majority of cases you start a research project with only a general idea of what area you want to investigate and what methodology you want to use, and you have only a few hunches as to why you want to use it." Another suggestion: "A good budget must show two qualities: It must be both detailed and extravagant."

Van den Berghe sees the grants system as "often distasteful even when it is not dishonest." He says that the NIMH grant, however, was "absolutely straight because my plans and theirs coincided. I was urged to get it by the chairman of my department on the basis of inside information that the governing board would be receptive to what I wanted.

"I had to lie once, though, on a grant application to do work in South Africa. I was going to work on racial problems, but I had apply for a grant for excavations because the government would never have let me in otherwise."

Given his criticisms, van den Berghe is asked if there isn't a better way to do it than grants. "I'm not so sure there is," he replies. "Any attempt to try to do it blindfolded is bound to fail." "It will Catch On . . ."

One reason Oleg Lobanov, 43, was chosen as managing director of the National Symphony Orchestra was that he's worked both sides of the grants fence, with six years at the Ford Foundation.

He is a pro at grantsmanship and one of his first big projects after coming here, the orchestra's $1 million challenge grant, sailed without a hitch.

He recalls countless grant applicants at the Ford Foundation who would arrive with ill-conceived proposals and say, in effect, "If you would only start it up, I know it will catch on and become self-substaining."

That's not the way grantsmanship works. Says Lobanov, "The most important thing to remember is that nobody ever deserves a grant. It just doesn't work that way."