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Lessons I Learned From Jane Goodall

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

I had the privilege of meeting Jane Goodall in person.  She was the featured speaker at the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) conference in San Diego.  At the time I didn’t know why Jane Goodall would be invited to a fundraising conference—after all she has spent her entire career in jungles with chimpanzees—but I was delighted at the thought of hearing what she might say.  After a few anecdotes Jane revealed that she fell in love with Tarzan as a child and she thought he married the wrong Jane.  “He married the wimpy Jane,” she said.  “I would have been a better match for Tarzan.”  Everyone in the audience agreed.

Jane told us that she’d never forget that her career started because of a philanthropic donation.  If it weren’t for that first grant award she never would have been able to pursue her dream of living among wild animals.  She remarked that in 1960 she had no degree, no formal training, no organization backing her, no permission from the African government, and no money.  But she had the chutzpah to pursue her dream anyway.  She went off to Gombe, Africa—with her mother, because British policy did not allow a woman to move to the jungle alone—and began the adventure of a lifetime.  That first grant got her started and more grants kept her research going.  Now 50 years later, Jane continues sharing her knowledge of chimpanzees, as well as awareness of the urgent threat facing wild chimps.

Jane and Freud

Here’s what else I learned:

1. Jane’s passion and dedication for her cause comes through when she speaks, in her mailings to donors, the JGI website, and in her books.  Her mission and purpose is on everything!

2. The Jane Goodall Institute relies on more than grants these days; they use direct mail campaigns, social media campaigns, sales of products, sponsorships, and other methods.  The JGI diversifies it’s fundraising.  I concur diversification in raising donations and raising awareness is key to sustainability.

3. The one thing all these above vehicles have in common is Jane’s belief that we can make a difference.  And look at all she has accomplished in fifty years by making us believe we can make a difference, too. That’s what I think grantwriters should learn from Jane—we must show others how their grant will make a significant impact.  Make the reader believe that their support will change lives, or change the world. (That’s the Grant Whisperer’s mantra)!

4. A single grant launched Jane’s career and the important work she set out to do.  NEVER underestimate the power of a single grant.

5. I totally agree—Tarzan hooked up with the wrong Jane!