With an increase in those needing help and a decrease in funding, local social service agencies are getting creative in their fundraising efforts.
Boys and Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri Executive Director Brett Barth-Fagan said the club’s board of directors forecasted the downturn in funds and for the past year-and-a-half has been making proactive steps to combat the trend.
“Their response to looking at the numbers was ‘We need to plan ahead,’ so that’s what we did,” he said. “Nearly a year ago we went through a restructuring to reduce expenditures at the administrative office and now we’re in a multi-pronged effort to generate revenue.”
One of those prongs, Barth-Fagan said, was developing a more strategic approach to grant writing. In addition to applying for large-scale grants, such as the two 21st Century Community Learning Center grants that will bring in $3.52 million during the next five years, staffers are also seeking smaller grants.
“That saying ‘Every little bit helps’ is absolutely true when it comes to not-for-profits,” he said. “Not that we turned away small grants before but now we’re actively pursuing those $500 or $1,000 grants that are available to us. If we can find those little pockets of funding, we’ll use them.”
Small donations make up the bulk of the Salvation Army’s fundraising efforts, pointed out Major Mark Haslett.
“The Red Kettle Campaign is probably our most recognizable event and usually that’s just people putting a dollar or two into the kettle,” Haslett said. “But it adds up; nationally the campaign raised $140 million this year.”
Haslett said in the four years he’s worked in Sedalia the Salvation Army has seen an uptick in the number of people needed help. When he started, the soup kitchen, which gives out a free lunch to those in need, served 20 to 25 people a day. Now the number is 50 to 60, and Haslett said he’s seen that number go as high as 100 people.
“You have to take those numbers with a grain of salt. Some people come every day, others three times a year,” he said. “But we know the need is growing.”
Salvation Army fundraising is staying steady, but that’s part of the problem, Haslett added. Rising utility, rent, gas and food costs have outpaced fundraising efforts.
“The money doesn’t go as far anymore,” he said. “We’re not losing funds but we’re definitely not gaining funds either. That being said, I believe (it’s the staff’s job) to worry about fundraising and money. We don’t want people who are wondering where their next meal is coming from to worry about that.”
Utilizing staff is key, Barth-Fagan said.
“We’ve adopted a mantra that says everyone is a fundraiser,” he said. “Everyone within the Boys and Girls Club organization has a role in spreading the word about our programs and raising funds. And we’re trying to get out of the box a little bit when it comes to fundraising efforts. Last year, for example, we had a golf tournament in Cole Camp; we’d never done that before, and it turned into a tremendous success.”
The club has also seen, for the first time, community members willing to commit to monthly support rather than a one-time charity donation, and Barth-Fagan is hoping that trend will continue.
“Through all of this, our No. 1 goal was to make sure we didn’t have to reduce the number of Boys and Girls Club sites or have a huge community impact,” he said. “While we did have to start doing small things, like charge for our summer program, that has helped offset some larger problems that could have come down the road.”
Barth-Fagan said while the economic downturn has had an impact on fundraising efforts, he applauded the community’s continued support of the club and other area service agencies.
“We had back-to-back record-breaking years at our annual auction and I know other agencies had great fundraising campaigns too,” he said. “That in itself shows how much this community gives back to those in need.”