Keys to Winning Corporate Grants
By Bruce Ward, Executive Director, Continental Divide Trail Alliance
Across the country, thousands of trail organizations are working hard to build, maintain, and protect their recreation corridors. Their success depends on three critical components: Cooperation with local, state, and federal governments, "sweat equity" from volunteers, and financial support from private foundations and corporations.
Fortunately, the time is right for gaining these types of support. Downsized agencies and budget cuts have brought an increased emphasis on partnerships. Millions of Americans are recognizing the need to "give something back," and the private sector is recognizing the need to be a part of the solution.
For years I worked for the outdoor gear and clothing retailer Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI), in marketing and public relations. Probably the most rewarding aspect of the job was providing financial and in-kind support to worthy trail organizations. Sometimes it was difficult to decide who, among the many deserving clubs, should receive the highest priority for the relatively limited funds; sometimes it wasn't.
Successful Organizations Attract Sponsors
When an organization has established a track record, is conscientious about recognizing its supporters, and does what it says it will do, a reasonable, well-timed request has a good chance of succeeding.
The first donation I made in Colorado was a classic example of what it takes to be successful in soliciting support from the private sector. I had only been at the job for a week, spending most of my time perusing existing files and talking to store employees about local organizations. As I completed my informal survey, I realized that there was clearly one organization that the company must support, the Colorado Trail Foundation (CTF).
They had been successful in gaining extensive media coverage, developing numerous volunteer work projects, and in attracting the involvement of the store's employees. Moreover, the group's leader, Gudy Gaskill, was nothing short of a national trails legend. She was the first woman to serve on the board of American Hiking Society, a leader of hundreds of Colorado Mountain Club hikes, and an enthusiastic trail builder who served as the driving force in putting the 500-mile trail on the ground.
It didn't take long for Gudy to call to introduce herself and request a donation for their annual banquet. Needless to say, I picked out one of our finest backpacks and gladly donated it to the CTF. A week later I received a thank you note from Gudy and a press clipping from the event that mentioned the donation from REI. Thus began a long and mutually beneficial relationship that exists to this day.
Five Steps to Successful Grant Applications
1. Introduce Yourself and Your Organization
2. Establish a Relationship With the Company
3. Provide Special Events, Projects to Tie in with the Company
4. Exceed Their Expectations
5. Say "Thank you"
Bruce Ward, one of the founders of National Trails Day, is Executive Director of the Continental Divide Trail Alliance, P O Box 628, Pine CO 80470.
Need trail skills and education? Do you provide training? Join the National Trails Training Partnership!
The NTTP Online Calendar connects you with courses, conferences, and trail-related training
Promote your trail through the National Recreation Trails Program
Some of our documents are in PDF format and require free Adobe Acrobat
Download Acrobat Reader
|American Trails and NTTP support accessibility with Section 508: read more.|
Updated March 16, 2007