Too Easy to Ignore?
KidsPeace is an organization that serves adolescent and pre-adolescent children with behavioral and mental-health needs. “Anything from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder to post traumatic stress disorder as a result of abuse or neglect,” explains Leah McKernan, vice president of fundraising for the organization.
KidsPeace raises funds to support its vast array of services, which include a patient psychiatric hospital for children in serious crisis, residential programs in several states, a foster care and adoption program, and community-based programming such as after-school or day-school programs, as well as public education about mental illnesses and their prevention. It main development channels include major gifts, capital campaigns, direct mail, planned giving, special events, grants, and lobbying federal and state governments for support.
Here, McKernan talks about the organization’s challenges and tried-and-true methods for getting to know donors.
FundRaising Success: What are some challenges your organization faces in terms of fundraising?
Leah McKernan: Well, I think we face the same kinds of challenges that a lot of charities face. We face situational challenges. For example, after 9/11, we saw a significant decrease in philanthropy to the organization in the same way that we’ve seen some level of drop off after Katrina and the natural disasters of this year.
We also face the issue of helping kids who are viewed by some folks as throw-away kids. Our children are very, very ill in some cases. They’ve been through horrible circumstances. They’ve been abused and neglected. They’re really the silent victims of society, and sometimes they’re not always as sympathetic as maybe [kids with] other kinds of childhood illnesses. And so we deal with that kind of an issue, so there’s a lot of educating that we have to do with the public about mental-health issues and really the deserving nature of our children. They’re really wonderful, warm children who had some really terrible experiences. But there is a stigma still in our society associated with mental-health illness.