Friday, August 21, 2009

Fundraising Foolery

Wow, it's been a long time since I've written on here! When I logged in, it said my last post was back in mid June so it's been 2 months! My apologies - I haven't ditched the blog all together but I do admit to spending a good deal more time on Facebook. Not sure if that's necessarily a good thing, but this format feels different and still has a distinct purpose for me, so I'm not abandoning it.

I'm still working at Habitat for Humanity Kansas City, although there have been some rough patches in the last few months. I actually applied for another job to run a whole volunteer department for a large animal shelter here in KC but I didn't get an interview. It's really fine - I still love working for Habitat, but there have been a lot of changes made and a lot of uncertainty about how those changes were being implemented. Change is always hard and I know I'm a person who likes routine and things being thought through - neither of which is an option right now. But I'm learning to deal with it and we're rolling along.

Perhaps the biggest change in our office has been that our Director of Development was let go. There was some thinking that he needed to go a long time ago since we hadn't had a good fundraising program in years, but the way the whole thing played out was stressful. The new person we have is still kind of an unknown, although we know she has experience fundraising, working with Habitat affiliates and overseeing AmeriCorps programs (which is all great in my opinion). She's got a lot to deal with right now though - we all do, and we're finding ourselves needing to do things we haven't done before. For example, today I wrote an appeal letter - actually two. I've been writing newsletter pieces for months but never really had any input in a fundraising campaign.

All the staff have been asked to help find people to be "hosts" of this event - people who will bring people and money to the organization. My boss asked me to help her put together an email we could send to people to ask them to do this and it was liked so much, the Executive Director asked me to write another one that we could use to approach organizations and companies to donate too. Wow. I was glad to be good at something that was so useful for people but at the same time, why were my writing skills only now coming into play? At least I feel like all the papers I had to write in seminary were good practicve for something. This afternoon there was a brief discussion about the possibility of my getting into some grant writing. We'll see where it goes.

As I write this, I'm thinking about the people who will be getting those letters and emails in the next few weeks. We've got a lot of great people who support us in all kinds of ways - volunteering their time, donating food to our pantry or materials for our construction projects, donating money, serving on our Board and committees, providing services for free or reduced price, etc. In these times, charities are hurting for money more than ever, while at the same time the people who are calling on them for services are rising in number. We've only built half the number of homes we built last year and don't see donations rising very quickly. Volunteers are being turned away every day because we don't have any sites to put them on. But as much as all that hurts, can people afford to give right now? We know there are lots of people looking for jobs, and many others have lost a lot of their savings and retirement money in the down market. How do you feel when people ask you for money? What makes you give to a particular charity over another? Are you just as likely to donate now as you were three years ago?

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