Fundraising in Hard Times: Some Inspiration from Nancy Jarecki, Robinhood Foundation

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Nancy Jarecki, CEO of Betty Beauty,serves on the board of the Robinhood Foundation and is very active on the New York City Charity fundraising scene.  She shared some advice about fundraising in hard times with me.


 1.)   Tell me about you and your fundraising experience

I have been philanthropic from an early age as my parents were involved with many organizations and taught me to 'give back'. I was especially taught not only to give back but get to really get behind and support just a few charities and make a big difference. My main philanthropic causes are those that somehow have affected me or moved me in some way.

Project ALS is an organization that started about 10 years old as a grass roots charity but now it a major player. A friend of mine, Jenifer Estess, was diagnosed with ALS, better known at Lou Gerig's disease. She and her sisters came to me for help.

I chose to contribute to the charity by making ways that helped people feel like they were somehow involved and helping move along the research and participating. Too many charities just ask for your money and provide no real sense of investment for their money nor do they really understand where their money goes. With Project ALS every contributor feels like they have helped create medical history. It is the only charity that has its’ own stem cell lab and has been acclaimed for making medical progress in ALS, Parkinson's, juvenile diabetes, etc.

I am also involved with adoption/group homes/foster care. I was adopted and lived in a group home (in my day we called them orphanages).  I have a soft heart for those kids in homes and in the foster care system awaiting adoption placement. New Yorkers for Children is an incredible organization that has single-handedly changed foster care and group homes for kids.
I am also involved with is the Robin Hood Foundation, which is an organization aimed to fight poverty in NYC. I am extremely proud to be on the Board of Robin Hood's Leadership Council.   

 2.)   What have you observed about how the bad economy is impacting nonprofit fundraising over the past few weeks and months?

People still want to give what they can even during bad financial times. This last month I co-chaired a couple a couple of charity events and was touched by the outpour of what people could do financially during this time. Overall numbers may have been lower but that was mostly due to the corporate support. Project ALS had 2 or 3 Lehman Brother tables that failed to come through at the last minute, though individual support was strong.

3)    What do you think will be the longer term impact on nonprofit fundraising?  All doom and gloom?

I believe people will give as they get motivated and they usually get motivated by some how 'connecting' to the cause. I recently co-chaired this year's New Yorker's for Children event and wrote a personal letter about being orphaned as a baby that was included in the invite. I was amazed at the response this personal letter created. Many people also connected with this letter and at the point financial woes didn't even come into play. All doom and gloom is not necessary; people rise to the occasion as best as they can. Some fundraising will probably see lower numbers but organizations will restructure accordingly.

4)    What is your best advice to nonprofits on adjusting their expectations?

Be appreciative of what you are getting! Know that the road in these financial times could be rocky and prepare to make changes accordingly. If you look at your non-profit as a business, expect to make some changes to adjust to lower expectations. If there needs to be adjustments, find where budgets can get decreased/cut. Try lower overheard type events. Scale down these over the top events. People want to know that organizations are thinking about economics. Less is more!

5)   What about tactics and tips moving forward?

Remember, money woes don't really change someone if they are seeking treatment for a disease, diagnosed with ALS or in foster care; they still have their personal woes and not thinking about the impact Wall Street has on them, at least not directly at that moment.  A message non-profits have to keep reminding people is that no matter the financial crisis out there, someone with ALS still has ALS and just because the financial world is declining, that doesn't mean the number of people with ALS is declining, so people need to support their charities in any way they can!

6)   Is there any sliver lining in this dark cloud?

With organizations like the Robin Hood Foundation and Project ALS, they are super smart organizations and parlay your money (at any amount) into a great investment that creates a satisfying feeling you are helping change someone's life, and that, is definitely a silver lining in this dark cloud.

Beth Kanter, BlogHer CE for Nonprofits and Social Change, writes Beth's Blog.

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