Long-Distance Trail Running and Grants Management– It All Depends on Community

by Lucien Darjeun Meadows, Fort Collins Museum of Discovery
2016 Membership Scholar

As I write this blog post today, on a much warmer-than-average morning in Northern Colorado (52 degrees!), I am in the midst of training for the Quad Rock 25/50 Trail Race in Fort Collins, in May. I am also in the midst of finalizing a major foundation proposal, revising several letters of introduction, preparing a few corporate grants, and beginning to draft a major federal grant for my organization: Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, the only discovery museum in our region.

Today, I will research, read, and write for several hours, then go for a sunny 7-mile lunchtime run, then return to my grant writing projects. And while I sit at a computer for grants and prance down the trails for running, I realize, through the education I have gained as a recent GPF membership scholar, success in grants management parallels success in long-distance trail running*—it all depends on community.

Grants management is usually an independent process (since a keyboard generally works best for only two hands at a time), as is long-distance trail running (even for a group run, you have to decide to lace up your shoes and power them down the trail). Still, I find that above all, it is the community that gives each of us the greatest chance of success.

Though 95% of my running occurs alone, with just me and the trail, I rely on my local running community for inspiration, advice, and support—even consolation. Last year, I was just three weeks away from a race that had been on my to-do list for two years when I had an injury that kept me from running for two months. While going from rigorous training (that had been building for months) to zero was hard, my fellow runners helped me keep this setback in perspective. Through them, there were opportunities to stay involved, successes to celebrate, others to support, and, always, future races and group runs to look forward to. And when I ran the Black Squirrel Trail Half-Marathon that September, this race-day community watched out for each other throughout the technical course, encouraged each other when the hills became steep, and celebrated each other as each crossed the finish line, from the sub-1:30 winner to the 4:00+ final finisher (who received rousing applause from everyone).

In a similar way, I am blessed with the support of my museum’s team, who willingly brainstorm, read drafts, provide feedback, and celebrate all results, whether the grant is gained or declined—since fundraising is, like long-distance trail running, a long-term process.

But of special thanks over the last year is GPF, and the community they granted me access to through a GPA Membership Scholarship. While grants management connects to many of my prior interests (10+ years of library experience, grant-seeking as a researcher and graduate student, ongoing fascination with nonprofits), GPA gave me the tools I needed for high success in my first year as an official grants professional. Because of GPF’s scholarship, I have been able to enroll in GPA webinars, share thoughts with grant professionals nationwide, and learn from this incredible network of knowledgeable, inspiring, and, above all, supportive professionals.

Because of the GPA community, I exceeded grant-funding goals for my organization in my first year as a grants professional. Because of your support, I realize a declination is no reason to be sad, because it means someone, somewhere, read this proposal—and as a result, there is now more awareness of my organization in the world. Thank you, GPA. Thank you, GPF for the gift of a membership scholarship.

Happy trails—er, drafts—everyone!


*Of course, I am far from the first grants professional to see similarities between this profession and running! Diane Leonard, GPC shares how grant writing is like training for a half-marathon, Scott Herr, Ph.D. explores what running marathons have taught him about grant writing, and Dawn Newcomb, Ph.D. discusses the overlap between marathon running and “marathon” research. From them, we learn successful grant writers, like successful long-distance runners, prepare for inevitable setbacks (Leonard); avoid being greedy in asking for more than is reasonable, in budget or pace goals (Herr); and take time to relax and refresh between challenges (Newcomb). Absolutely!