Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

What grant writers can learn from poorly written spam emails

KateBNE

 

Author: Kate Sunners

 

I have a secret love of spam emails (is this inviting the universe to send me more? A dangerous statement to make perhaps). They crack me up. Perhaps because of a Creative Writing lecturer I once had who used to write them back as practice – once in the voice of a Jane Austen character. My latest favourite junk email goes, 

“Dearest Beloved,
My name is Mrs [insert fake name here] a dying woman who have been exposed to a violent incident of a bomb blast that affected my hearing ability and damage to my brain which the doctor had told me will stop functioning everything soon and has also been diagnosed with cancer.” 

I was offered all her worldly goods after she had departed (which, with this triple threat of hearing damage, the loss of all brain functioning imminent and also cancer, seemed the only plausible outcome) after I wired her the release money for the bank etc etc. 

Which I had a good giggle at. But why is this funny? And what’s the lesson for we grants people? 

The first giggle came at the salutation - overly formal and making a big assumption about our relationship (beloved? I don’t know you!). This obvious misstep makes it clear that finding the right salutation for your cover letter if you are approaching a funder for the first time can be quite important! Don’t assume a relationship if there isn’t one – but don’t be afraid to start one by picking up the phone!

Second – do a spell check before you send anything official! Email communications, grant applications, cover letters, all should be getting proof read (for past, future and present tense mix ups too!), spell checked, and if possible given a once over by another pair of eyes. 

Third – pick your focus and make it meaningful! Wow, the email’s body moves so fast I had only just taken in the hearing loss before I was hit with the brain damage and then the cancer diagnosis – by the end of the sentence I wasn’t sure why I should care about the hearing loss? Slow down Mrs Fake Name, give me a chance to take in the nuance of your condition, and perhaps choose only the most pertinent of your ailments in order to communicate your message that you are on your way out. I mean, not that I don’t appreciate that you’re leaving all your wealth to me. 


jane-austen-meme-1

But wait – there’s more...

“I will be going in for an operation couple few days from now, and I have decided to WILL/donate the sum of $5,500,000 to you for the good work of the lord”

What is this operation? Is it a terminal operation? OMG cliffhanger!

Four – get your facts straight and don’t assume knowledge. Make sure the story you are telling with your grant application is consistent the whole way through and makes sense to an outsider reading about your operation (er, I mean project) for the first time. If in the body of your grant application you are talking about the cost of the project for example, make sure it aligns with the story being told by the budget figures. Are there any terms which a lay person might not understand?

“I have willed that amount to you for a specific and good work. Regards, Mrs Fake Name” 

Wait, Mrs Fake Name – don’t go yet! You said a specific good work but didn’t give me any details! How can I spend my inheritance specifically without any specification?!

Five – be as specific as possible about what exactly your funding will be spent on. See our podcast on budgets – or Andrew’s blog on how much to ask for. 

Kindest, warmest, most sincere regards and in the hope you will utilise this forthright information in the carrying out of great grant applications, and that is why I gift this blog to you, rather than “allow my relatives to use my husband hard-earned funds ungodly.”

Best,
Ms Kate Persniketty l’Grammar.