Monday, June 18, 2012

Grant writer just makes up famous quotes in proposals

When did Winston Churchill say that he thought planned giving was more important than defeating Hitler? And did Einstein really say that the his fifth law of relativity was that the world would end if the Snidely Hospital Foundation didn’t make its $70 million capital campaign goal? They did if you read the grant proposals that Sue Templeton wrote.

Templeton, 37, has been writing grant proposals for the Foundation for more than six years. Last year, after noticing that no one ever actually read her proposals, she decided to start using  phony famous quotes.

“I was getting frustrated because I knew that most of what I did all day was a waste,” she recalled. “The Foundation CEO and all the major gift officers would just skim through the proposals that I would take days to write. And the donors would usually read the first page where all the buttering was and the last page where the ask was. I was doing all this hard work and no one cared.”

The first phony quote was in fact a mistake. After working for four days on a massive grant proposal for the Moneybags Family Foundation she needed a quote to set the tone for the introduction. She selected “Almost everything that is great has been done by youth” by 19th Century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

“I was tired and frustrated and I made a mistake. Instead of ‘youth’, I put ‘young donors’,” she said. “I only noticed it when the CEO came back from their meeting with the Moneybags family telling me that the we got the grant because of what I had said about young donors. It turned out that the younger members of the family were really moved by my mangled Disraeli quote.”

Templeton told no one of the error. The next week when she was writing an equally long and complicated proposal for noted philanthropists Sid & Shelly Zorkbladder she had an idea. She took the famous quote by Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, “You will never do anything in this world without courage” and added “and donating”. The new quote was then put on the inside cover of the 90 page proposal. Templeton was amazed that the Zorkblabbers not only said “yes” to the proposal but also had the quote page framed and put on the wall in their living room.

The next week, Templeton began to start inserting extra lines into famous quotes from Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, JFK, Einstein and Mother Teresa. When these were successful, she began to make up entirely new quotes from scratch and attributed them to great thinkers. Soon, she was making the phony quotes more and more elaborate.

“Sun Tzu was an ancient Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher and author of The Art of War. He was perfect because people had heard of him and his book, but had never read it,” said Templeton.

The quote “He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious” was transformed into “He who is prudent and gives to the Snidely Hospital Foundation will be victorious.”

Next, Templeton then made up a quote from The Book of Five Rings, a text on kenjutsu and the martial arts , written by legendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi in 1645. She created “The sword of true enlightenment comes when the blade of giving cuts through the needs of the Snidely Hospital Foundation’s capital campaign.”

This was followed by phony quotes in which Mahatma Gandhi called on annual donors to give more frequently, Mark Twain asked local businesses to run staff giving campaigns, C. S. Lewis warned lapsed donors not to forget their pledge renewal and Steve Jobs advocated for people to visit the new Snidely Hospital Foundation’s new online giving pages.

So far, the phony quotes have been very successful. Templeton’s boss, Spooley Hairdoo, says she’s very impressed with Templeton’s work.

“I don’t know what Sue is doing, but it’s getting us more money than ever. People are amazed by these hard-to-find quotes she uses. And the funny thing is, they all mention our hospital foundation,” said Hairdoo. “To think that Buddha, Confucius, Socrates and  Marilyn Monroe all said something nice about us long before we even existed is very special.”

Hairdoo said she rescinded plans to downsize Templeton and replace her with a grant writing service from India and instead gave her a new office and salary increase after seeing a quote from William Shakespeare asking her to do so.