On a Wing and a Prayer
When Craig Carpenter took over as director of development at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission in March 2002, it was the worst of times and, well, it was the worst of times. The country was still in shock from the events of Sept. 11, 2001. War was looming, the economy was reeling, and the stock market was tumbling. People were afraid to open their mail for fear of being infected with anthrax.
And UGM’s men’s shelter was in need of about $2 million worth of structural re-engineering to guarantee that it could continue to safely house the mission’s many residents and programs. UGM could thank the 6.8-magnitude earthquake that had hit Seattle a year earlier for that little slap in the face. When the city inspected the $850,000 worth of damage that the building sustained in the quake, officials decided that they couldn’t certify the building as safe unless it underwent a retrofit, which involved starting in the basement and reinforcing the walls with crisscrossing steel beams all the way to the top.
Because of the shelter’s location in the heart of the city — just a block from an area where homeless people gather — UGM was determined not to move to another building. And it was equally as determined not to curtail services while the construction was going on.
But good intentions aside, things weren’t looking too promising. Like at most nonprofits, UGM’s development program was feeling the effects of a world gone mad.
“With everything that had been going on in the world and the country, we had seen revenues plummet; we had seen responses plummet in cultivation and acquisitions; acquisitions was very poor, so it really did impact migration through the donor files, and it impacted giving,” Carpenter says. “Retention rates were poor, and giving was just down.