“We know that our work—rebuilding lives affected by trauma and abuse, providing the resources and supports children need to become healthy adults, strengthening families—is both necessary and critically important to everyone who lives in Lake County.
“We know we’re doing a good job. We are the second-most successful organization in the state at getting children out of the foster system and into permanent homes. We are recognized as a leader for providing quality guidance and assistance to help families stay together in a way that is safe and supportive.
“But we also know that doing essential work well doesn’t guarantee financial sustainability. In our environment, reimbursements don’t cover the cost of most services, and some services, like prevention, don’t get funding at all. We need to raise more funds, and to do that, we need to reach a wider audience and do a better job of explaining why what we do matters.
“At a board meeting two years ago, I brought up the idea of using the work that Frameworks Institute had done with the National Human Services Assembly (NHSA) to change our communications and then move forward with a new development initiative. Frameworks does research-based analysis of communications so that nonprofits can talk about issues more effectively; NHSA had partnered with them to improve communication about the work organizations like ours do. The idea is to find ways of talking about what you do that resonate with the public. If you improve public understanding and engagement with your work, you may be able to improve public support for it.
“The board approved, and with a grant from the Healthcare Foundation, we were able to hire an NHSA consultant to apply the research to our mission statement, descriptive materials, and program and services descriptions. We also worked with Joel Massel of Creative Management Services to evaluate our existing development program and make some strategic changes to it.
“What we wound up with was a new framework for communication, which our staff and board leadership received training on, a set of three-year fundraising goals, and a one-year plan of action with associated benchmarks, so we could measure the growth of contributed revenue.
“This really just happened in summer of 2018, so we’re very excited to already see a result. Our goal was 10 percent increase in donors from FY17 to FY18; we achieved a 25 percent increase, adding 124 new donors. That’s the highest donor growth for our organization in 10 years. We also realized a 58 percent increase in total donations, bringing in $461,905. That’s another 10-year high for us.
“Our communities’ future—our social and economic vitality—depends upon all children having the resources and supports they need to build strong minds and bodies. We are so grateful for the growing community of supporters that have joined our efforts to make home a place where everyone can thrive.”