Case Study: A Different Kind of Outreach
Can an 85-year-old Roman Catholic human-services organization reach out beyond its traditional donor base without compromising its strong spiritual identity?
The answer is a resounding “yes,” according to a successful series of fundraising mailings for the Capuchin Soup Kitchen that was launched this past year in greater Detroit by the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph.
The Capuchins began their Detroit ministry in 1883. Establishing a religious mission to live and work among the poor, they offer help to all in need regardless of race, sex, age, color, national origin, religious preference, handicap or income.
The idea for the Capuchin Soup Kitchen began when the Rev. Solanus Casey, then the doorkeeper at the Capuchins’ St. Bonaventure Monastery, began providing sandwiches and counseling to the many poor and hungry people who came to him for help.
Today, the nonprofit ministry serves more than 2,000 hot meals a day at its two locations, distributes more than 300,000 pounds of groceries and 30,000 articles of clothing per month to poor families, and provides emergency shelter and drug-counseling services, relying almost entirely on donations from Catholic supporters within the metropolitan area. And the demand for its services is growing every day.
For decades, the soup kitchen had opened its doors to people of all faiths and backgrounds. As the soup kitchen’s agency partner, we felt a strong case could be made to start seeking new donors not only among Catholics but among people of all faiths.
After several meetings with the Rev. Jerry Smith and brother Bill Ceislak at the soup kitchen, we began looking for non-Catholic files to test, especially those with socially aware people who had similar values as the Capuchins’ donor base and who had contributed to other community-focused, charitable organizations.
The mailings started out conservatively in order to get a good reading on the lists and to establish a control letter. Several of the selected test files were comprised of known Catholic donors or appended files that identified Catholics. Others, however, were of socially concerned donors throughout greater Detroit who shared values and a giving history with Capuchin Soup Kitchen’s donor base.