BIG Things Come in Small Packages

Grassroots organizations face unique challenges in their search for funding. More often than not their mandates are exceptionally broad, but available resources exceedingly slim.

Unlike major fundraisers, success for these groups is not measured by an ability to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in new funding. To groups like the Friends of Banff National Park, the priority is on securing enough funds to enable a few far-reaching education and awareness projects.

With a core staff of seven people - and up to twenty five additional employees during the summer months - the Friends of Banff are dedicated to enhancing public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of the national park's breathtaking natural and cultural heritage. Their over-riding obligation is to ensure that information and educational programs are available to over five million annual visitors, spread over an area of 6641 square kilometres.

Despite limited resources and a wide coverage area, Friends of Banff succeeded in raising over $20,000 in donations and in-kind gifts in the first five months of this year - thanks, in part, to BIG Online. The Friends of Banff use BIG Online extensively and consider it a key component in their overall fundraising strategy.

"BIG Online is definitely in the top layer of my tool box," remarks Tyler Toohey, Communications Coordinator.

Like many organizations, Friends of Banff receives its funding from a mixture of sources: merchandise sales, memberships and services, as well as donations. Major successes in the donations category this year include a $10,000 grant for the Living with Wildlife program. The goal of this initiative is to teach park guests about the complexities - and hazards - of human interaction with animals.

In an effort to update their antiquated computers, Friends of Banff turned to The Muttart Foundation. Thanks to an in-kind gift, the Friends of Banff were able to undertake a long overdue equipment modernization, adding three new Dell PCs and a laser printer.

Who They Are and What They Need
The Friends of Banff belong to a network of 80 volunteer co-operative associations called the Canadian Parks Partnership. Toohey says being part of this larger group not only helps to raise the profile of Friends of Banff, it assists them in approaching larger donors with requests for funding.

Part of the Friends of Banff message travels through Park Radio, a collaborative program between Toohey's organization and Parks Canada - and a target for their latest fundraising effort. Besides providing trail reports, wildlife updates, weather reports, and park news, the radio station serves locals and tourists alike with their own in-house features and focus pieces.

Friends of Banff are currently on the look out for new partners and $50,000 in funding to expand the broadcast range of Park Radio to include Lake Louise. "We'll get that signal out to Lake Louise and all the campgrounds in between," notes Toohey.

In an effort to better promote their organization and broaden their fundraising base, Friends of Banff are also on the look out for support to develop a multimedia presentation and custom-made educational DVD to send to prospective donors.

How They Use BIG
While BIG Online's grant writing resources and World Proposals Championships are a "great learning tool" and a valuable resource for Toohey, it's the database's search features that really stand out.

"What I like best is that I can do a search on a keyword and get anywhere (up to) 500 hits, depending on the search language." From there he narrows down his search to a short list of "who's out there" and "who I can convince" to give them funds.

Toohey suggests that smaller organizations spend at least one hour every second day scouring BIG Online for new funding opportunities. Specifically, he also recommends using BIG Online to access corporate profiles, recipient lists, and details about amounts awarded.

For more information on the Friends of Banff, and the Canadian Parks Partnership, visit or

BIG Lesson: You don't have to use BIG Online full time to get results. Smaller organizations can benefit by consulting the system a few hours a week, or using the World Proposal Championships and grant writing tools to prepare professional looking documents.

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