An Interview With Christine Orman, resource development manager, ReRun
ReRun is a place where retired racehorses go for a second career. The nonprofit organization was founded in Kentucky in 1996 by two women connected to the racing industry who pioneered the concept that ex-racehorses do not have to go to auction or be slaughtered once their racing days are over, Rerun Resource Development Manager Christine Orman says.
The organization, which also now has chapters in New York and New Jersey, works with race tracks to take in these unwanted horses before they even leave the tracks, and houses them on foster farms where they await adoption.
Here, we talk with Orman about the organization and its fundraising strategies and challenges.
Fundraising Success: What are the biggest challenges your organization faces as far as fundraising is concerned? How do you overcome them?
Christine Orman: Up until recently, the biggest challenge for ReRun was bringing in new donors and increasing the gift amount of current donors. We are slowly but surely overcoming this challenge by issuing more press releases, using the Internet to reach new people, and improving communication with our donors. Our biggest challenge now is, of course, the poor economy. We still expect people to give, but the gifts will likely be smaller. So, we will need to reach out to a lot more people.
FS: Do you foresee any big changes in the way you reach potential donors and other supporters in the near future?
CO: Oh, yes. We will be investing much more time in engaging and really utilizing our current volunteers, as well as attracting new volunteers, so that they can extend our outreach and representation throughout the country. We will also be doing much more social networking. We’ve already begun utilizing the Internet and its associated technology/media formats to reach new and more people. At the moment, we’re only tapping a fraction of the Internet’s potential, but that is going to change.
FS: How would you describe your fundraising philosophy?
CO: Diversified. I look for fundraising possibilities in all aspects of ReRun’s operations. And just like financial investing, this diversification can help buffer us from cyclical changes in the ways donors give and the type of donors who are giving.
FS: How do you reach out to supporters and potential supporters in ways other than purely fundraising?
CO: We are beginning to break into the social media sites as well as contribute to online discussion forums and blogs. We also use e-mail blasts (judiciously) to our supporters. Our largest effort for the immediate future is developing Internet-based projects that help bring our horses and the public together in meaningful ways. There are so many possibilities for this avenue of reaching out that it’s a matter of narrowing down our options and choosing the most effective method with the greatest impact.
FS: Can you describe a recent successful fundraising effort?
CO: We needed to raise funds for two run-in sheds for a herd of horses at one of our foster farms in New Jersey. A run-in shed is a three-sided, roofed structure that the horses can use for shelter when they are out in a pasture. We sent out an e-mail blast appeal to the 600-plus individuals on our e-mail list. We gave them our target amount of $10,000 that we hoped they would help us raise for the two sheds. The first e-mail blast brought in about $5,000 within a six-week period. We sent out another blast indicating how much had been raised so far, thanking the ones that had contributed, and urging the ones who hadn’t yet to help. Within a month of the second blast, we raised another $4,000. We were thrilled, to say the least!
FS: Any major difficulties or setbacks you've faced along the way? Things you would do differently with your fundraising?
CO: Fortunately, we haven’t experienced any major fundraising setbacks. We always evaluate our special events and other fundraising initiatives afterward to identify ways to improve them for next time.
FS: What advice would you give to organizations similar to yours, in size and annual operating budget?
CO: Invest in your volunteers. Spend the initial time, energy and planning that is needed to cultivate strong relationships with them; groom them to be able to represent your organization. Don’t wear out your welcome, of course, just be aware of the fact that volunteers come to you because of your mission, but they stay with you because of the relationships they forge with members of your organization.
FS: How many employees do you have?
CO: None. We have two individuals, myself being one, who are compensated as independent contractors.
FS: Do you have any employees strictly devoted to fundraising?
CO: No, but I am responsible for resource development, which includes fundraising. Otherwise, the board members and many volunteers all help with fundraising.