Fundraising helps us live less selfishly. It evokes the human spirit of generosity and often empowers ordinary people to help nonprofit organizations do the extraordinary. Like raise $5.7B for children’s hospitals across North America. Or build 800,000 homes for families who need a roof over their heads.
All of us can do something to help:
- Save a child’s life
- Protect big cats
- Support an art exhibit in our hometown
- Champion local education opportunities
One of the things I love about fundraising is its inclusiveness. Anyone can support a cause, regardless of her socio-economic standing. In my role as a fundraiser at Children’s National Health System in Washington, DC, I learned life lessons from donors who gave $1, $10 and $10,000. I learned important values around being mission-driven, connecting with people’s personal stories, and one-on-by engagement.
These lessons continue to serve me at PwrdBy, a mobile development Benefit Corporation. Our team partners with leading nonprofit organizations to develop and implement technology strategies to increase efficiency and to raise more money for their cause. Our mobile app, In Flight enables fundraisers to have the information they need at their fingertips. I’m grateful for my time as a nonprofit professional, which helps me relate in a unique way to our user base. To that end, I would like to share a few things I learned from being on the fundraising side of things and how they apply to technology innovation and product development:
- Stewardship is for everyone. All donors must be treated with respect and acknowledgment, regardless of the size of their financial contribution or perceived influence. I’ll never forget the time a young mother called my office to make a $10 donation which was, “everything she had”. Of course, she received a gift acknowledgement letter from the Foundation and a personal note from me. Amount does not determine the value of the gift to an individual and every dollar counts.
It wasn’t uncommon for a family to drive an hour to the hospital to make a cash donation because they heard about our fundraising on Spanish-language radio.
When PwrdBy communicates with the individuals who use our apps, each person’s unique situation is treated with sincere care and professionalism. Whether they really love the app or are just getting started, I like to steward each user in a way that shows they are more than just a number of logins or clicks. We approach stewardship with each user as if they were our #1 priority.
Because, guess what? They are.
You never know when a donor may provide value to your organization, not because of a financial donation but because of their ideas. I recruited 25 business leaders with big hearts and big ideas to serve on the hospital’s inaugural Latino Advisory Committee. Their mission was to raise awareness for the hospital within the Latino community in Washington, DC. Why? Few Latino families were aware that Children’s National provides countless community benefits including, free wellness and diagnostic screenings in their neighborhoods. They were unaware of these important health resources simply due to a cultural and language barrier. These leaders may not have written 5 or 6 figure checks, but they built a network of giving for the hospital and became thought leaders in the Latino community to bring renewed focus to the unique Latino patient experience.
2. It’s personal, so learn why. Every nonprofit professional has a story of how they became connected with their organization’s mission.
For example, I met Robin Woodward of Lauren Small Children’s Medical Center at a CMN Hospitals conference and mentioned to her how much I enjoyed reading about her hospital’s culture before one of our training calls. This Bakersfield, California hospital was named for a passionate, 10-year-old horseback rider named Lauren who battled cancer and passed away. Through tears, Robin shared with me that she is Lauren’s cousin. You see, Robin is not just a fundraiser and not just an app user. Robin is a crusader for children like her cousin, Lauren.
She is powered by an inspiring mission. Making meaningful personal connections is what we’re all about it. It drives our mission forward and motivates us to continue developing technologies that help fundraisers like Robin.
3. Each one, reach one.
One of my heroes at Children’s National is Dr. Denice Cora-Bramble who powerfully stated that “Each one can reach one.” Dr. Cora-Bramble is the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President of Ambulatory and Community Health Services who I worked with to launch the hospital’s Milagros para Niños program.
It is easy to become overburdened by a challenge, but Denice encouraged us to focus on the power that comes from reaching just one person at a time. This is true of training new users, because it is daunting to see at a long list of users who haven’t downloaded or used our app! When I remember Denice’s words, I am reminded that a highly customized approach to training and outreach will be the differentiating factor between success and defeat.
Each of these lessons continue to support me as I serve our users and partners with the In Flight app. My personal goal is to tap into each user’s mission-driven spirit, understand their unique personal experience, and lead with thoughtful one-on-one engagement. Our team is constantly innovating so ongoing dialogue with our users is paramount to agile product research.
My personal mission is to provide nonprofits with concierge service and care at every turn.
To anticipate their most pressing problems and to ensure they’re focused on what really matters; helping kids grow up stronger, protecting a species from extinction, patronizing a local artist or showing children that learning can be fun.
After all, every dollar counts. Who do you want to help be extraordinary?