AFW Grant Manager aka Storyteller
For this newsletter’s “In the Hangar” article, we’d like to highlight Angel Flight West’s first grant writer, Kathleen Masser. Kathleen tends to avoid any public recognition if she can, so we are very pleased that she finally agreed to share her AFW story with us.
Grant writing is part of the foundation that lets Angel Flight West continue to do what it does. It plays a significant role in the organization that almost no one notices except of course the ED and board of directors who use the grants to run the organization. Kathleen has helped to raise millions of dollars over her years with AFW.
Instead of the official title of Grants Manager, she prefers to be called “Storyteller. And sometimes I use a made-up title – Outreach Program Coordinator – because no one wants to talk to a grant writer. But I’ve done a lot of outreach and am known from coast to coast as ‘that woman’ who sprints across the conference hall to corner a presenter or exhibitor and tell them all about Angel Flight West.”
When we highlight those who work behind the scenes, we always want to know how they came to AFW. It was 1997 and Kathleen was a volunteer at Camp Dream Street, where one of her best friends was charge nurse (also a volunteer). “She was representing them at a conference and invited me to go along. Our former Executive Director Jim Weaver had the exhibit table next to ours. He asked what I did, and when I told him I was a grant writer, he asked if I’d be interested in doing some work for AFW. So I wrote my first AFW grant, to fund the Wing expansion, and it came through. They haven’t been able to get rid of me since.”
Working in the organization in the “early days” before computers, Kathleen has a wonderful perspective on its growth. She says, “Back then, there was no Internet, no social media. Just phone, fax, four employees, and missions tracked on a whiteboard. I think annual mission volume was around 1,000. Today we use technology I don’t pretend to understand and in 2019, before the pandemic, we did more than 5,000 flights. One thing that hasn’t changed is a universal dedication to the AFW mission.”
When one stays at a job for years, there must be something about it that keeps them there. In Kathleen’s case, it seems that AFW has been a good fit for her both professionally and personally. “It’s such an honor to be a part of this incredible family. As a former journalist, for me it’s all about the people. AFW has a board that really cares . . . leaders who are committed and compassionate . . . staff who are determined to never say no when someone asks for help and who never — or rarely — curse at me when I keep asking questions. And the impossibly generous volunteers who make miracles happen every day. Our passengers continually inspire me with their courage and hopeful determination. Being able to write about all of these people and share their stories is like being given a gift.”
Thanks to the benefits of Kathleen’s “story telling,” helping those in need of transportation to medical care and other humanitarian purposes will continue for a long time. We often hear pilots say that they receive more than they give. The same may be said for Kathleen when she says, “I’ve worked with a number of nonprofit organizations, on staff, as a consultant, a volunteer, and an executive director. Working with AFW is the most rewarding professional experience I’ve had.