With amenities like cages that once housed a gorilla, ponds where alligators used to swim, and The Old Lady in The Shoe’s house — inspired by the beloved children’s book —Benson Park in Hudson, New Hampshire is far from ordinary. For the past 10 years, the nonprofit organization Friends of Benson Park has been working toward an ambitious goal of honoring the park’s legacy as the once-famous Benson’s Wild Animal Farm by renovating the former elephant barn into a museum. To help find funding for this effort, the board’s secretary, Natalie Newell, registered for Extension’s Gearing Up for Grant Writing course taught by Community and Economic Development Field Specialists Jared Reynolds and Stephen Meno.
However, before Natalie could attend the planned in-person workshop in March, she got word that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gearing Up for Grant Writing workshop would be postponed and reformatted as a three-part virtual series in June. Meanwhile, the Friends of Benson Park were also feeling the effects of the pandemic - their fundraising efforts were halted as the park’s gift shop closed and they were having a more difficult time recruiting sustaining members.
Luckily, the new timing of the workshop worked out perfectly. When Natalie logged onto the first session, she was introduced to the fundamentals of grant writing, including where to look for funding opportunities and how to ensure your funding needs align with your grantor’s mission. It was here where she learned of the NH Nonprofit Relief Fund, which was established by Governor Sununu through the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery. This $60 million fund created with allocations from the CARES Act was meant to help nonprofits in the state continue to meet their important missions.
At first Natalie was hesitant to apply, but through the lessons of the grant writing workshop she was able to overcome her fears and decided it was worth a shot. In order to make the deadline that was less than two weeks away, Natalie scrambled to gather the appropriate paperwork, update the organization’s policies and craft a compelling narrative. In about two months, her hard work paid off and the Friends of Benson Park was awarded a grant of $21,750. Natalie, who had never written a grant before, said, “We wouldn’t have gotten this grant if I hadn’t taken this course.”
While the Friends continue to search for other funding sources for the museum, a grand opening is planned for 2021. The funds from the NH Nonprofit Relief Fund have allowed the Friends to recoup lost fundraising revenue and pay for the installation of a new heating system, so the museum’s open season can be extended beyond the summer. While we may no longer be able to see the exotic animals in person, their history will now be preserved and available for the public to learn about.
If you are interested in reading more about the Friends of Benson Park’s efforts, please visit their website.
If you would like to learn about or register for Extension’s Gearing Up for Grant Writing workshop, click below. The next workshop will be virtual on Wednesdays January 6 – 20, 2021 from 10:00am to 11:30am. The fee for the workshop is $30.