Many non-profits struggle to acquire a solid, faithful following, and that unfortunately shows true in the fundraising arena. I dislike labeling things, mostly people, but for this explanation I would say the non-profit fundraising arena is best labeled as a popularity contest. I watch one non-profit organization raise $20,000-$50,000 on a simple walk. Not to say the work put into the event from the organizations planners wasn’t excruciating, stressful or didn’t add many more hours away from their families for the cause, I’m simply saying once the event is active, people just walk! I have personally volunteered with an organization that did the same gathering of auction items and sponsors as the walk event, and then added health permits, bulk ingredient purchases to make dinners for 500-700 individuals, three hours prepping pastas. They went on to sell all the tickets to the event, mostly in person through word of mouth. On the day of the event, they spent a total of thirteen on their feet making homemade meatballs and salads. In the end, after all debts and rents were paid, they walked away with just shy of $3,500 which they just turn around and donate back to their community.
You may say an event planned around a walk cannot be compared to a full sit down homemade dinner. You may even say that the walk has a very low rental fee, as it is a public location. This is true, but I also know of another non-profit that does a sit down dinner, and it happens to be at the same location as the homemade meatball and pasta groups’ event. I also know that this non-profit makes between $75,000-$120,000 at their dinner event, and they don’t cook any food, it is catered. The first non-profit dinner group is over 115 years old, and the second non-profit is much younger, so it’s not a “time in the game,” type of situation.
My point should be clearer now; it is a popularity contest where the non-profit that has the most report or seems to resonate with the big donors the most, wins. So, what do you do to survive as a non-profit that isn’t winning the popularity game? We were all young boys or girls once, so we should see an association with them and therefore we feel motivated to help their organization. Most of us, at one time or another, had a puppy or kitty, and know they can’t survive on their own, so we feel motivated to help the organization they belong too. But what happens when it comes to the organizations that support those with special needs? Do you associate yourself with someone with Down syndrome, Autism, and Cerebral Palsy? Most of us, at one time or another, crossed paths with someone with special needs. My question to you is this; did you turn away, did your parents educate you on the fact that that individual was human and had feelings just like you? Or, did you do like most people have admitted to doing and found refuge in the fact that you didn’t need to understand their situation because there was someone else who did. That it was not your burden to take on, and if you just stay clear, it will never be. Did other kids look at them with compassion like they would a puppy or a child without a home?
Most non-profits that cater to special needs individuals lose the non-profit popularity game, and are forced to work with what they have and sometimes even less. My plea to you is this; human life is just that, there is no sliding scale of how much love you deserve depending on your looks, ability, brain cognition or skill. Every human deserves love, every human deserves respect and every human deserves a life full of possibilities. If you are a non-profit that works with special needs, I empower you to join forces for your events to build the following you deserve. Show your community that even in the absence of their popularity, you will continue to do the work you do which requires more heart than most non-profits I have worked with need.
Stay proud, stay strong and hug someone, they need it!