Donor Engagement: Invite Them, and They Will Come
The nonprofit world is all about time, talent and treasure. We all seek ways to engage others in our organizations, so we can build relationships with them. What we hope to get is a family member and, eventually, the whole family as part of our network. If you can orchestrate a way to capture one‘s attention, the possibilities for further engagement are endless.
In truth, the only way you can receive 100 percent feedback and emotional ties is by having someone visit your organizational facilities to meet the cast of those in your organizational orbit. At The Salvation Army, we have found one important way to secure engagement is to host a volunteer event where people do real, meaningful and fun work.
In Indianapolis, The Salvation Army sponsors several facilities including The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center. The purpose of the Harbor Light Center is to do the most good by feeding, clothing, comforting and caring those with broken lives shattered by addiction. By walking with the addicted, Harbor Light staff and volunteers lead individuals to recovery. The center helps get individuals out of poverty, while attending to their physical, mental and spiritual needs.
Harbor Light offers a full continuum of addiction treatment services and professional counseling. Is this center needed? Since 1999, there has been a 500 percent increase in overdose deaths in Central Indiana, according to Inside Indiana Business. Indiana is the 15th ranked state in the nation for overdose deaths. There have been reports that more people are dying from drug overdoses than traffic accidents or homicides.
The Harbor Light Center staff is tremendous and caring, but they have a difficult job. The facility is old and in need of renovation. There are constant food and material needs for clients. Since many addicts cannot pay for services, Harbor Light depends upon the generosity of foundations, corporations, associations, organizations and individual donors to meet its ever-increasing needs.
It is also very difficult at times to have potential donor visits for a variety of reasons. To seek new engagement from volunteers, prospects, board members and staff from other facilities and constituencies, The Salvation Army Indiana Division Planned Giving team, led by Jo Ann Remender, recently created a new event called Hands of Hope.
The purpose of this Saturday morning volunteer event was simple: Invitations were sent to selected donors, prospects, wealth advisors, volunteers, staff members, advisory board members, local neighborhood leaders, nonprofit partners and others to educate these constituencies on the impact of Harbor Light. The event was three hours in duration and included an opening program with video, introductions, volunteer awards and testimonials by clients on how Harbor Light saved their lives.
One story was extremely impactful—the client said he was in and out of prison and was near death when Harbor Light saved him and others like him. Statistics were shared about the broad geographical reach of the facility, and the speakers were inspiring and provided the importance of supporting Harbor Light in new and different ways.
Each volunteer attendee received a colored badge and was assigned to work stations that provided tasks that would benefit those in the facility.
Working groups provided these examples of services:
- Packed bags of candy
- Cleaned and spruced up doors
- Sorted underwear and clothing
- Sorted foreign coins
- Stuffed folders for educational materials
- Sorted greeting cards for new clients
- Created new beginning bags with a variety of materials
- Stuffed hygiene bags
- Painted pictures to be placed throughout the facility
- Did other tasks as assigned
Volunteers worked hard, laughed and made new friends. After their work, they were invited to a joint luncheon where they were entertained with beautiful music. The Salvation Army staff who worked together on their day off included members of the Planned Giving staff, major gifts staff, marketing staff, Harbor Light staff and officers. The goal for this event was to have 40 people attend, but more than 115 people participated. Because of its success, two additional events of its kind will be held in 2017 in different city locations, so additional facilities can be highlighted.
One emerging trend for 2017 is donors do not just want to give. They want to see their donations in action and want to become “hands on” volunteers. These types of events are low cost yet engage an array of external and internal constituencies in joyous service. I was touched by all who attended the Hands of Hope event and felt a special spirit by caregivers and those receiving care. I especially loved being introduced to Tammy, a beautiful puppy being trained to comfort addicts. My work and volunteering touches my heart and soul. Can you say the same about your job?
Invite them, and I bet if done right, they will come!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.