I did not expect to receive lessons in grant seeking while on holiday break this year with my husband. On New Year’s Eve, we ventured to a new bike trail….one of our favorite pastimes. We sort of stumbled upon it as we were adventuring around and what a treasure we found! The scenery and Florida wildlife were stunning. We had some close and personal moments with a name-yet-unknown heron and an alligator. However, the height of the trip happened when we suddenly became part of a bird rescue!
A team of rangers and trained nature enthusiasts had been trying, unsuccessfully, to catch a tricolored heron for about a month. They were concerned about a plastic ring that had lodged around his graceful, beautiful neck. One moment we were tooling around on our bikes and the next moment we were up close and personal to experience the loud sound of the net gun, the joy of the rescuers in finally catching him and, eventually after much intricate work, the freeing of the heron sans plastic neck ring. It was so exciting and inspiring. We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to video it all. You can see the rescue video at the end of this blog.
Lessons in Grant Seeking
How does the Heron rescue translate to lessons in grant seeking? Let me expound!
Never give up
Grant winning can seem elusive, especially when you are just getting started. On our bird adventure, the man who successfully caught the bird said he had tried netting a bird 18 times before he finally had success. This was a truly victorious day for him! While you might get discouraged in grant seeking, there truly is nothing like the feeling of a win! Grant seeking is a chase that is worth pursuing.
Know your stuff
The nature lovers who were helping this poor bird knew so much about this particular species of bird. They handled him expertly and with great care. As a grant seeker, you must spend time studying funders in order to know their passions and to discover how you can help them to achieve their philanthropic goals. Your goal is to catch them in your net!
Build a team
No person on their own could have caught that spirited bird! There were people around the park scouting to find the bird. One woman was on guard as they were in the process of capturing the bird and asked us to stop so as not to startle the bird. Another team member was a professional photographer and videographer to capture the scene. Great grants are written by great teams. Be sure to find knowledgeable, passionate, and detail-oriented people to present a well-rounded grant proposal.
Remember the ultimate purpose of your grant seeking
It is important to not lose sight of the ultimate benefactor of your grant seeking. The money is only part of the goal – transforming the lives of those your organization serves is the ultimate goal. Just as this team of rescuers kept their hearts and minds on their ultimate goal to help the tricolored heron, your team must be sure to keep plugged into your why!
Draw funders into a great story
I certainly did not wake up that particular morning thinking that I would be privileged to be part of a tricolored heron rescue. In fact, I had never heard of a tricolored heron. But, as God would have it that day, we were in the right place at the right time to watch this great story unfold.
We were introduced to the main character, the bird in need. Next, were the rescuers – those just like your staff and volunteers – who were spending the last day of 2020 searching for one small bird to rescue. We were blessed to learn of their passion and sacrifice. And then we were introduced to the point of the story – how the bird and the team interacted to create transformational change…. change not only for the heron but for each team member and for my husband and me as bystanders. Your grant-seeking team needs to create that story and pull in the reader for transformation to occur.
Another key thing to remember from this story is that I wasn’t thinking about grant seeking while this story was unfolding. In fact, I was trying diligently to forget about work that day. However, the story so moved me that as I returned to work it came back to my mind and inspired me to relate it to grant seeking. Now that is an example of a great story, one that you just keep thinking about days afterward. That, fellow grant writer, is your team’s vigil in the park, so to speak. What stories can you tell to enthrall the funder? There, you will find success!