Reaching New Heights: A Grants Volunteer Shares Her Story

Thursday, June 25, 2009 | 9:08 PM


Despite the trials & tribulations of once having gone through something resembling an awkward weigh-in at the doctor's office at airport security, I find airports to be fascinating places. They are Mecca's for all in transit, the home of the temporarily displaced, a no-man's land where everyone shares the singular goal of getting somewhere else. For solo itinerants like myself, one of the main traveling curiosities is the question: "Who am I sitting next to on the plane?", "Who of these fellow voyagers will be assigned to accompany me on my journey of small leg space, usually free soft drinks and airplane food?"

As the slotting algorithm would have it, on the past 5 of 10 flights I've sat next to particularly friendly employees or volunteers of non-profits. Our conversations have ranged from discussions about efforts to foster technology and stable family environments in Sudan, to cross-culture exchange programs between Japan and the United States. These conversations have never failed to touch on the need for financial support and increased awareness for programs and new initiatives. That's where Google Grants come in, and when I mention the possibility of free advertising funds, the reaction is always a mix of disbelief and hopeful optimism.

Since I started working with Google a little over a year ago, one of my primary responsibilities, aside from my work with the AdWords program, is to orchestrate Google Grant events in our Boston office. In this role, I've been able to help individuals in our office review and build out advertising accounts for hundreds of non-profit grantees.

One thing that the volunteers and I often don't get to see when working on accounts at our desks is the direct impact that this advertising can have and what it means to the non-profits that receive extra advertising flexibility in their monthly budgets. Instead, the huge impact that companies like Google, volunteers, and I can make in the daily workings of organizations and the millions of individuals that they serve are reiterated and driven home through the chance en route interactions I mentioned before. At the end of the day, participating in Google Grants isn't just about selecting keywords or writing ad text; instead, it's about forging partnerships that connect people with the organizations and help they need - be they in your neighborhood or an airplane ride away.

I suppose this goes to show that the next time you travel, you never know what doors a conversation with the person next to you might open or the journeys on which you might embark.

Meredith Zolnowski