Doing the Nonprofit Happy Dance

May 12, 2016

Today’s guest post is from Grow Report subscriber, Kelley Carpenter, Director of Development and Marketing for Cross Lines Community Outreach.

Barely three months into my new job as Director of Development and Marketing at a small, 50+ year old nonprofit, our agency was having a crisis. Money, as always, was extremely tight and there was no room for major repairs in our tight $1.1 million annual budget. But our large 15-year-old commercial oven that allowed us to serve hot meals every day to hundreds of hungry and homeless individuals had given out for good. We quickly decided it was not worth the $4,000 it would cost to fix the already trouble-prone beast, but we didn’t have the nearly $7,500 we would need for a new one.

Doing the nonprofit happy dance... (1)With two decades of development experience and three Basics & More™ courses under my belt, I knew I had the tools to succeed. Rather than panic, I scrambled into action. We got quick bids for a new oven and installation. After determining the cost, I set up a Go Fund Me page, posted to our social media sites and emailed our list of donors and volunteers.

This wonderful list of individuals had sat mostly dormant before I came on board, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had already re-engaged our social media list and watched it grow by over 100 people in one short month, so I had high hopes. But what happened exceeded my development dreams.

First, in 24 hours, our Go Fund Me effort raised more than $1,500 over what we needed for our oven. Second, in the two days since our oven campaign started, our 15-year-old ice machine broke down for good. One of our supporters, a local small business, called me about the oven and I gently asked if they would instead be willing to help us replace the ice machine and they said sure! Then the third thing happened. A bank that had supported our agency but stopped for a few years had received my email. They contacted us and told us they wanted to help us continue our important work fighting poverty, feeding the hungry and helping prevent families from becoming homeless. They said they wanted to make a real impact so they were going to make a $100,000 gift, and all we had to do was tell them how we were going to spend it on helping our clients!

Talk about reinforcing the importance of communicating with your supporters! I realize this is a truly special moment I’m not likely to recapture, but it keeps me motivated knowing that if we just do the right things sometimes, our donors will respond with love beyond our wildest expectations. Happy dance!

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