by Megan Wagner-Flynn
Each grant award is much more than writing a check – it is a story with a beginning, middle and end. This story begins one rainy morning in early April, 2014 when we first met with staff from the Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT), an organization based in Ithaca but servicing the greater Finger Lakes region.
The dark days of winter were behind us, and spring was just emerging – the perfect time to start thinking again about the great playground of natural resources we have in our own CNY backyard. The Land Trust identified the need to rethink their communications strategy by overhauling their online presence – specifically their website. In all honesty this is a fairly common need with many organizations. But something was unique about this project: the Land Trust’s approach.
The Land Trust had already begun working with a communications consultant to develop a larger strategy, with a new website as only one component. A conversation needed to be had about the challenges the agency faced in communicating across a wide geographic area – a region approximately the same size as the Vermont. A fully developed work plan and communications strategy was vital, and their consultant would also serve as a liaison between the land trust and the web design firm, saving FLLT staff time and energy. With a grant of $10,000 we supported the website redesign and further consultant guidance. For us, building capacity by increasing efficiencies and better meeting the needs of the community is right in our wheelhouse.
We are gratified to see the benefits of their front-end investment of time, money and resources. Their website is simply stunning (seriously, go check it out at www.fllt.org) and easy to use. We aren’t the only ones that think so: the FLLT was awarded a prestigious Davy Gold Award in the “Websites – Visual Appeal” category. The website allows the Land Trust to incorporate beautiful donated photography from volunteers, is easy for staff to update on a regular basis, and engages all interested parties. And last, but by no means least, their website now fits into a larger communications plan that involves a dedicated social media presence, e-newsletters driving viewers back to the website, an interactive map highlighting the local nature preserves, and helpful infographics that break down the organization’s most tangible areas of interest.
Another spring passed and as the leaves changed into fall the story came to an end. As with almost all of our grants, the story is ultimately about people. The Land Trust tells us of Suzanne, who having just moved to the Finger Lakes area googled “Ithaca environment organization.” Up pops the website and the easy to use online volunteer form. Soon Suzanne was attending a volunteer work day at the Roy H. Park Preserve. She joins increased numbers of web visitors, newsletter subscribers, volunteers and partnering landowners who are now engaging more significantly with the Finger Lakes Land Trust.
Perhaps this is where our story of the Finger Lakes Land Trust grant ends, but this is just the beginning of their story. The FLLT is now better equipped to know their own needs, to serve our local community, and to protect the beautiful nature that we too often take for granted as Central New Yorkers.
Today is a Monday morning in April 2016 and I’m left wondering whose story we will be telling next. Who will be the next group to walk through the door and propose a project? Will it be you?