We are all hearing that the economy is in a slump. I was curious how community organizations are handling the downturn. After all, they provide valuable services. Read this community group’s story and then see the tips I offer that should increase revenue.
I was a big sister for six years, so I decided to give Big Brothers Big Sisters exec Nancy Kosloski a call and get her take on fundraising and the economy. Nancy has been the executive director for many years, and she says this is the worst downturn she has experienced. Many of her staff has begun to work a four-day week to control payroll costs.
“Previous year’s fundraising dollars moved us ahead and allowed us to introduce new programs,” says Nancy. “Now our fundraisers fill in some of the financial holes we are experiencing.”
Recently they held their annual bowl-a-thon which has always been wildly successful. The bowling event raised $31,000 this year. Last year’s take was $36,000. “But we had 350 people bowl – which I considered great.” Nancy made sure to congratulate the staff on the huge turnout. So what went wrong? Apparently, corporate donations were down. “We have a golf event planned,” continues Nancy. “This year the golf outing will fill in the gaps that the bowling event didn’t earn.”
The organization plans to do more events, but it is touch and go because they have fewer staff who are working fewer hours. “This year we will have our motorcycle ride fundraiser with V Force Customs coordinating the event. We have to look at other events but will try not to repeat events that other organizations are conducting.
What are the major challenges Big Brothers Big Sisters are experiencing and how are they being addressed?
One major challenge for this community group has been the loss of their director of resource development – a key person. According to Nancy, another group offered her more money than Big Brothers and Big Sisters could afford. Because of their limited funding this year, they could only hire a part time staff member for that position.
“In terms of foundations, the help we usually count on has come through at 50% of last year’s levels. We thank them for what they are doing now and hope as the economy turns the foundation money will be restored, admits Nancy. “Also the challenge of getting grants is greater than ever, and there is more competition for the same dollars.
How are you integrating social networking into your fund development planning?
Nancy tells her story:
“We are just starting to do that. For example, people can donate through our website. Those who participate in the motorcycle ride can sign up online. And people who bowled could form their teams online.
“We are looking to set up a Facebook page for special causes. I don’t know the first thing about Facebook, and it requires additional staff time, which we don’t have. I signed up for my own Facebook page just to see how it works, but I don’t have time for more friends. This social marketing is a steep learning curve for me. “
Based on their limited funds what is the best direction for them?
Community organizations have the greatest difficulty moving out of their comfort zone. They know their programs, their staff and their kids. But do they really understand what others think about their program and what would encourage more people to get more involved?
How many of the current 350 bowlers, who they were really proud of, would become team leaders next year? How do they keep in touch with them? Did they collect email addresses? How often do they touch base and with what materials?
Create a blog (or short articles that can be emailed) that is sponsored by local bowling allies. Have the ally manager write about the best bowling techniques? If I only bowl once a year, I would be lucky to break 90 points. But if you send me coupons from local bowling lanes, and give me the needed tips, I may begin to enjoy the sport and get more involved with Nancy’s group.
If bowling is an annual event, have bowling articles on the website and encourage me to sign up for your newsletter or your email blast that offers discounts and information. Encourage me to sign up my friends. Become a bowling resource.
I know this is counter intuitive. Why should I promote bowling when our goal is to offer mentoring programs for kids? First, you need to walk in your bowlers’ shoes and second, you may get more new mentors than you realize.
So collect emails (they are very valuable) and use them effectively so people who participate in your events become engaged based on THEIR interests.
If you are seeking a fundraising raising idea that doesn’t cost you any money or staff time, visit The Undercover Kids and sign up to become a Community Partner.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County
253 South Williams Street