Grantwriting Tips - When Bad Things Happen to Good Email Addresses


My last post was about how PhilanTech's support email was spoofed.  It was an unfortunate experience, and one from which I learned several lessons that are surprisingly applicable to grantwriting:

  • When things go wrong, acknowledge them, fix them, and move on.  While you're not likely to face the same situation we did a few weeks ago (hopefully), it's possible something will go wrong in a grant-funded project, or in a project that you're hoping will be grant funded.  Many of us have a tendency to avoid talking about things that don't go well (and many nonprofits fear that foundations will not be willing to fund them if something in the project hasn't been successful.  More about that another time).  But avoiding talking about something doesn't make the issue go away, and embracing it and demonstrating an understanding of the issue and what you'll do in the future to avoid a similar issue goes a long way.  Obviously, just saying that something went wrong isn't sufficient.  Dig in to understand what went wrong and why, and clearly communicate what you are doing to ensure it won't happen again in the future.
  • Communicate often.  The people who were the recipients of the spoofed emails were not PhilanTech clients or users, so this isn't directly applicable to our particular case, but a good lesson nonetheless.  Funders generally require at least one annual report. If something does go wrong with your funded program, don't wait until you submit the final report to let the funder know.  Stay in touch with your funder (and you can ask them about the best modes and frequency of communication) and let them know how things are going so that they are able to share in your successes, and they are not surprised by challenges when they read the year-end report (and when they might simultaneously be considering future funding).
  • More isn't always better.  We've been trying to figure out why our email was spoofed.  It's the kind of thing that happens to Microsoft or Google, but not generally to small nonprofit software companies.  In trying to find a cause, we discovered something unusual: the "contact us" page on our website comes up first if you Google a particular common phrase (which I'm a bit reluctant to post here, since it was the prevalence of that keyword, we think, that made us a target).  While many organizations (companies and nonprofits) strive for good search engine optimization so that their website will be at the top of the list when people search for particular terms, it was not a good thing in this case.  For your grantwriting, highlight the things that are meaningful - to you, to your constituents, and to your prospective funder.  Highlighting the things that are the most or the biggest isn't necessarily helpful if they aren't the right things to highlight.

What do you think?  What are lessons you've learned from bad experiences that impact your approach to grantwriting?


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Author: Dahna Goldstein
August 16, 2012, 03:52 PM

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