When I started my non-profit management career back in 1989 at the New Gokula Farm in the Hunter Valley, NSW, I had absolutely no training or experience when it came to fundraising or public relations. I learned the hard way – trial and error with a little help from friends and books.
The amazing thing was that I was rather successful with just being enthusiastic and sincere. I got to meet with mayors, senators, presidents of companies, along with getting a handy amount of media attention. It was raw enthusiasm matched with good timing that got me most of my success.
Of course, back then I was a monk, with little responsibility other than getting up early to do my meditations and temple duties. I had a lot of time to dedicate and I enjoyed the journey as I used my Mac Plus computer and Aldus Pagemaker to design marketing materials.
Fast forward to 2017, a helluva lot has changed.
I am now married for the 2nd time and have a little one-year-old boy and 80 rescued animals under our care at my wife’s animal sanctuary. You could say, life is a lot more complicated. But I do enjoy the challenge and with that comes greater expectations and hope. My visions are much grander and I still have the same optimism I had some 30 years ago.
Back then, I focused a lot on grant applications and this enabled me to get clarity on what exactly I wanted for my charity. I was able to get many small grants back then for my humble food distribution project, Hare Krishna Food for Life Hunter Valley. With these small successes, in 1992, I decided to shoot for the stars and apply for the Bicentennial Fund for a $750,000 grant to fund the entire farm project I was living on.
I called the project, Krishna’s RAY of Hope. The RAY stood for Rural Accommodation for Youth and the focus of the project was to create a place where youth, particularly those that were in some way challenged or unemployed to come to the farm and learn basic agrarian skills, along with yoga, meditation and to grow food for our Food for Life project.
I spent at least a month putting together a 40-page proposal outlining every aspect of this project and to bolster the presentation I would visit prominent leaders in the community to get their endorsement. Proposing such a bold project in a small country town caught the attention and respect of everyone that I met. As a result, I was able to get support from the local mayor, regional minister and even the famous Bob Carr, who was campaigning for the Premier for New South Wales.
Some of my friends on the farm did not understand my intentions and thought I was going to bring bad elements to the farm. But the reality was quite different. My intentions were simply to market the farm project in such a way as to get the government to support it financially. All I was doing was repackaging it as community service project and not as a religious one.
Despite the negativity and fears from some, I submitted the application anyway. During the vetting process, I decided to call one of the people I knew who was on the grant committee. She told me, “We are actually discussing your project right now and are so impressed by how much support you have for it.” I was thrilled to hear this and thought we really had a good chance to secure the grant.
In the end, however, we lost out by one vote! But we forever changed the minds of those on the committee with our vision and determination.
About a year later, I put together another proposal that was a dialed down version of this one. In my research for relevancy, I noted that all the media were talking about the unemployment rate and had a spark of inspiration to match this social concern with another innovative project. I found another government agency offering grants to projects with innovative programs for youth. I proposed to create a program to employ chronically unemployable youths to grow organic vegetables on our farm to supply our local Food for Life project. This pilot project would initially take 10 people and while they worked on our farm, we would also provide them breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
It just happened, however, that soon after submitted this application, my life took a whole new direction when I was asked to move to the United States to set up the headquarters for Food for Life. Amazingly, we won the grant for $130,000! But I had to leave the project in the hands of others to manage. It all went fine, but I was now off on a new adventure, that in the next 30 years would take me to 70 countries around the world, lecturing on the philosophy of Food for Life and training volunteers. During this time, I shared my public relations experience and inspired a whole generation of other monks to start their own Food for Life project.
Now that I am settled in Colombia, South America with my new wife and child, I am revisiting my roots with grant writing and social entrepreneurship again and enjoying the research and networking it affords. With the power of social media, it is much easier to reach the decision makers and those in the know and there is a wealth of really good information too if you search for it.
I have come to realize that essentially I am a humanitarian with great business ideas and to be successful, I need to surround myself with smart business people and marketers.
Along with the grant writing, I am working on some fabulous business ventures that are all tied to benefit both Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary and Food for Life Global. That is my passion now — to make lots of money to fund the things I really care about.
One of these ventures is called OM CORPS and will revolutionize the cause-related marketing space. If you are interested in learning more, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org for an executive summary.
Another is to develop the brand Food Yogi and to bring out a line of products that match the mission of Food Yoga.
Finally, our vision for my wife’s sanctuary is to take it well beyond just a charity project where animals are rescued and cared for but to compliment it with a variety of cause-related ventures and to target the 2 trillion dollar wellness tourism market with a unique healing experience to help the project become financially sustainable, above collected donations.
If you would like to learn more about the Food Yoga Academy, Retreat, and Sanctuary, please contact me for an executive summary.
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