Fundraising Fears No More
Organizers of Interfaith Ministries (IFM) in Wichita, Kansas learned an important lesson in fundraising. People do not give until you ask. In the past, the leadership at IFM operated on the belief that being strapped for funds was simply part of non-profit life. Each time they came face to face with another financial crisis they made an appeal for funds. For years, their reactionary method of fundraising worked and the problems periodically were solved.
In recent years, however, Interfaith Ministries’ Executive Director, Sam Muyskens, says he and his fellow organizers determined that “crisis” fundraising just was no longer feasible. They knew they had to become proactive.
Interfaith Ministries is an organization with a mission to “build inter-religious understanding, promote justice, relieve misery and reconcile the estranged… offer hope, healing and understanding.” Participating within the structure of IFM are Jewish, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, Baha’i and Unitarian Universalists communities. IFM strives to meet basic human needs such as food, shelter, medical care and education. They provide homeless services to accommodate individuals who do not fit into the service categories of other agencies; continuous case management for all residents; a resident assistant program with a continuum of care for those individuals who demonstrate a desire to work; and a follow-up program for up to two years after they leave the shelter.
While IFM was a highly visible and integral part of the Wichita community, they were surviving literally on a wing and a prayer. The organization found themselves faced with a deficit of more than $100,000. After hiring a development director, things gradually began to turn around, but they could not count on government dollars-HUD monies were no longer available. Traditional congregations and other ecumenical/interfaith organizations also were having financial difficulties.
As funds became more scarce, Interfaith became more determined to succeed. What began as a campaign goal of $1 million, eventually became a multi-stage fund drive which now has produced more than $3 million as well as the acquisition of three buildings.
How to Ask is as Important as Why
The key ingredients, says Muyskens, were a strong belief in the organization, pride in the programs they offered and compassion for the people they served. He says they eventually determined that how they asked for funds was as important as why they asked.
“We knew we had to look at something different,” says Muyskens. “Three years ago our Board met and decided we would try something big. We interviewed political and religious leaders to find out how we were viewed in the community and found that people thought of us as a program of dignity, but one that was always in financial difficulty.”
Selection of a Strategy
“At that point,” continues Muyskens, “we had a board retreat and determined that we needed to think bigger. We put together a wish list which came down to four key elements: create a program and ministry center, build a homeless shelter, erase our debt, and provide an endowment.”
After presenting their plans to the assembly, IFM’s governing Board, the decision was made to retain the services of a fundraising consultant to help them realize their financial goals. “We interviewed several firms and decided to go with Hartsook and Associates,” says Muyskens. “We liked their approach. They recommended that we not begin actively seeking funds until we had completed a preliminary campaign assessment to help us determine exactly where we were headed.”
Setting a Goal
The actual fundraising got underway with a gift from a Board member who agreed to pay for the study. Results of that study suggested that IFM set a goal to raise $1 million and gear it toward underwriting the homeless shelter, the endowment, and erasing the debt.
“We decided to put the program center on the back burner, and look to a program security fund primarily underwritten by board members to erase the program debt,” says Muyskens.
Throughout the process, opportunities brought forth setbacks; and what initially seemed a setback often brought forth an opportunity. During their search for a 5,000 square foot building to call home, IFM leaders stumbled on a structure which offered 13,500 square feet. While it was perfect for their needs, they knew that realistically it would take at least a $350,000 contribution in order for them to acquire the property. Their realtor helped identify someone with an interest in possibly providing the needed funds.
“We applied for and received State of Kansas tax credits and were awarded a $350,000 contribution towards the campaign,” says Muyskens. “When that gift became a reality, our $1 million campaign goal grew to $1.6 million and included a program and ministry center.”
Prior to the $350,000 building gift, IFM received a $200,000 challenge gift from a long-time contributor. Local corporations and foundations stepped forward with needed gifts including Builders, Inc., which gave $90,000 for the shelter; $75,000 from Cessna Foundation for the shelter elevator; $50,000 from the W.T. Kemper Foundation, Commerce Bank, Trustee; $30,000 from Western Resources; and many others.
“Needless to say, a couple of major gifts help give credibility to an organization,” says Muyskens. “We found that visiting with the local businesses and organizations was paying off. We were able to get close to the 50 percent mark and then received a Mabee Foundation challenge grant. The Mabee Foundation is located in Tulsa, Oklahoma and supports regional construction projects. After receiving estimates for the necessary renovations, we found that we needed a little more and raised the goal to $1.9 million.”
Though their mission remained constant, plans and goals changed throughout the campaign. IFM had not intended originally on putting a new heating and air conditioning in the shelter. However, a donor decided that he would like to add those comforts to both buildings, which meant a $110,000 contribution from him, but this created an additional $50,000 expense, which totaled a $160,000 expense.
“We discovered that when we asked, people responded,” says Muyskens. “Over a period of time we got to a 80 percent of our goal and eventually announced the campaign at $2 million.” Ivonne Goldstein, Wichita Community Leader; and Don Barry, Vice President of A.G. Edwards, served as Campaign Co-Chairs. John Himmell, Chairman, Commerce Bank; and Bill Moore, President, KGE (the local utility company), were secured for the roles of honorary campaign co-chairs.
A Second Campaign
About two years prior to their relationship with Hartsook and Associates, Interfaith responded to a city homeless coalition which asked them to create a safe haven for the chronically, mentally ill homeless.
“We wrote a grant, but it was denied,” says Muyskens. “A year later we re-submitted a grant and just forgot about it and did not include Safe Haven in the original campaign. Subsequently, the grant was accepted creating the need to raise another $600,000 to make the Safe Haven work.”
Organizers took this proposal back to the Board and suggested a second campaign geared specifically toward raising funds for Safe Haven. They found several potential buildings, but none that fit their budget. Then they learned that the clinic across the street from IFM’s program and ministries center had moved to another location.
“An elderly woman owned it. Hartsook and Associates recommended that we make her an offer using a planned gift approach,” explains Muyskens. “We asked if she would be interested in a charitable gift annuity. There were five years of lease payments that were bought out by the lessee, which helped provide moneys for the annuity. It was a win/win situation. Additional dollars were raised to purchase an annuity that would guarantee the donor an income and ensure her security. Her gift was valued at $365,000.”
At this point, IFM had two campaigns going. They were in the final stages of the capital campaign, going out to the donor base and the community. The second campaign to establish Safe Haven for the mentally ill homeless community was emerging with a $2.5 million goal.
“By April, 1998 we had gone over the $2 million mark and declared victory for the initial campaign,” says Muyskens. That campaign was closed out with a special community campaign called Heart to Heart commemorating Interfaith Ministries’ 112 years of service. This campaign attracted over $22,000 in gifts from over 100 donors. Ms. Goldstein served as the chair for this special closing effort.
“As a fundraiser and volunteer for Interfaith Ministries, I have been impressed with Hartsook and Associates’ full service support for us. In a short time, we dramatically expanded and matured in our fundraising efforts, which, for the future, will help provide more and better services for our specialized programs that we offer our community. For me, this endorsement is my way of saying thanks for the gift of experience.,” says Ms. Goldstein.
What Did We Learn?
Muyskens says he found it helpful to be accountable to Hartsook and Associates on a regular basis to keep the campaign focused and productive. Additionally, he learned some creative planned-giving strategies. Though he never has considered himself as a fundraiser, he now has different ideas about the process as well as a little more faith in himself.
“I discovered through the process that fundraising was not such a daunting task. I am no longer inhibited by the intricacies of fundraising. I am proud of what I have accomplished at Interfaith Ministries and believe wholeheartedly in our mission. Often our prospects feel honored to be asked to serve or provide other support. I have also learned that a ‘no’ is not always negative and should not be taken personally. Sometimes a ‘no’ can become a ‘yes.’ I am never offended when I receive a ‘no.’ I have learned that not everyone can give at the moment it is needed.”
According to Muyskens, some of the smaller contributions were the biggest surprises. “A person, who I’ve always considered a friend, saw that we were putting in an elevator and sent $5,000 toward renovation expenses. The relationships that we have built in the community have really gratified me.”
His own view of IFM also has changed.
“I have a new vision of the role Interfaith Ministries can play within the community,” says Muyskens. “This campaign has generated many ideas about what IFM can do for the community such as decreasing violence, perpetuating equality for all people, nurturing children’s physical and spiritual health. We can address all of these issues if the community works together. We must think big in order to accomplish these objectives.”