June 14, 2011

Fragile fund raising for fragile families

Yesterday evening I participated in a panel discussion at the University of Texas. There were for of us; all Executive Directors of local non-profits. One non-profit has a very large client population of families that were very affluent. His fundraising efforts looked VERY different from mine. He was able to go to the users of his services, appeal to their inside knowledge and appreciation for the value of those services, and raise millions of dollars from the very families the agency services. I have a starkly different perspective- I am trying to raise funds to support a very vulnerable, often very silent, invisible population that has little to no financial means available to donate to a non-profit. Low literate parents most often work one in very low-paying jobs, barely making ends meet, unable to afford clothing for their kids, a night at the movies, or a sports uniform for team sports. I cannot ask them to donate to our cause. I have to ask other families to try to understand their struggle, and the fragile nature of their existence, and donate on their behalf. And I undertake my fund raising efforts with very fragile, meager resources, because I work for a relatively small non-profit. I can't afford a massive staff to run a capital campaign or multi-million dollar planned giving initiative. Each day my team and I devote our very limited time to try to raise tens of thousands of dollars for a multi-million dollar problem. But miraculously, we're doing it. By very strategically allocating our time and attention, we've been able to secure hundreds of thousands of NEW dollars for literacy programs in 2011 alone. It's a fragile, but amazingly effective effort. And I'm so proud to be a part of it.

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