Fundraising Wisdom From a 25-Year Pro: Connie Sanderson, Kurn Hattin Homes for Children
Connie Sanderson is co-executive director of Kurn Hattin Homes for Children, a privately funded nonprofit founded in 1894 and located in Westminster, Vt. Kurn Hattin serves children, ages 5-15, who are in need or at risk as a result of family tragedy or social or economic hardship. Many of the 105 students who attend the residential school have experienced poverty, homelessness, abuse or neglect. They come to Kurn Hattin for a safe place to live and go to school, and for a chance at a brighter future.
Despite the growing and dire need for children's services, many nonprofit children's service organizations across the country have fallen victim to shrinking donor bases in times of economic uncertainty. But remarkably, over the past 25 years, while Sanderson was serving as Kurn Hattin’s director of development, the school’s endowment saw a steady increase and more than doubled, from $19 million to more than $45 million, an astounding figure for an organization of its size and a significant accomplishment given the unsteady economic climate in recent years.
Reflecting on the factors that have allowed Kurn Hattin’s operations to continue and its endowment to grow and thrive, Sanderson credits an adherence to the traditions set by her predecessors of nurturing personal relationships and face-to-face connections, and following a policy of fiscal responsibility.
“From the very beginning 120 years ago, when the early fundraisers went door to door soliciting funds for the children at Kurn Hattin, they began putting those funds away. They didn’t expand programs or facilities too quickly or too much, although the demand for expanded services was certainly there,” Sanderson says. “Instead they focused on excellence in the quality of the programming and saved the funds to insure that Kurn Hattin would always be here. Over the years, that prudence and reliability gained us a reputation among donors as a worthy and worthwhile charity. And here we are today, looking forward to the next 120 years.”