Summit Mt. Everest, survive a Wisconsin winter, write a successful grant proposal. What could all of these seemingly distinct challenges have in common? Well, in my case, it is the fact that when I arrived here at the Aldo Leopold Foundation to embark on my fellowship journey, I had yet to achieve any of these personal milestones. Nearly six months into the experience, however, the first seems impossible still, the second is bearing down upon me, but what about the third? I can say with pride that I have checked that challenge off the list. I wrote a successful grant proposal and received a financial award to help this foundation continue to steward our land.
When I finally reached Baraboo after a 17 hour drive from Connecticut, I had no expectations for what this fellowship would entail, just an open mind and willingness to work hard and hopefully translate that into learning new skills. After listening to respected colleagues, expert land managers, and long term conservationists at this foundation talk about our ongoing projects, and how we have so many important projects and goals, but too often lack the time or the funds to achieve them all, I resolved to try and do something about it.
I knew that grant writing is a crucial part of a non-profit’s mode of operation, but I had never tried it myself. There had been discussion for some time about our endeavor to lay seed down in the upper and lower Duhr Savannas, pictured far above and below. I decided to write a grant for $1,500 worth of seed to ensure that when we planted these units in November, we would achieve successful growth in the ensuing spring.
At first, I did not have high expectations for myself. It was just my first go at writing a grant after all. I was just happy to dip my toe into the water, and begin developing what I know to be an important and transferable skill in the non-profit arena. After working hard, diligently researching the project, determining how the funds would be allocated and budgeting the resources, I became more and more confident that I would in fact succeed.
So, finally, several weeks after I submitted my grant proposal, I was ecstatic to receive confirmation from the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, a group that supports conservation initiatives in our state, that our project and foundation were selected to receive a grant from the CD Besadny Conservation Fund. It is hard to describe the feeling I experienced opening that email, knowing that I not only achieved a personal goal I set for myself, write a successful grant during this fellowship, but that I also helped the foundation achieve its goals as well.
I owe my success in this endeavor to both the Leopold Foundation for believing in me and trusting me to represent our organization well on the state conservation stage, but also to the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin for their generosity and demonstrated commitment to conservation, exemplified in their support of projects like ours around the state.
Now it’s on to the next grant…stay tuned!