Web Exclusive: Small Scope, but Not Small Time
Liz Callahan, executive director of The CBO Center, a management-support organization that provides training and consulting services to increase the effectiveness of nonprofits, agrees that CBOs are challenged to align themselves with trendy fundraising causes, such as homeland security. She recommends being creative about your cause’s link to these trends, but to be careful about “mission creep.”
“You don’t want the funders driving the mission,” she says. “There are plenty of places that see a pot of money out there and want access to it, so they may start serving that population. They get funding for things that are not entirely a fit, and once the trend changes, they may have hired staff and invested in other resources they can no longer use.”
Another challenge for community-based organizations is finding fresh ways to market their message to the same pool of givers. Identifying trends is just one way to do that; the other is maintaining a personal connection.
“For CBOs with a limited number of private funders, the same people get approached over and over,” Callahan says. “After a few years, they want a break. This group tends to want to fund innovative causes. If you are approaching this kind of funder, you need to be constantly thinking of cutting-edge messages to maintain funding.”
Villasana looks continually for new methods to reach out to STAND!’s usual donors. Her group uses a software program that customizes deliverables to specific audiences. The software takes information related to the donor’s specific support (such as supporting transition programs for battered women), and flows that into their database. This information allows STAND! to send a personalized ask to each individual donor.
“We can send them custom e-mails and short postcards with specific information related to their interests,” she says. “This helps us be more effective. We have to use technology; we can’t do it alone.”