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I Have a Dream I Can’t Fund

  • Post category:Funding
  • Reading time:5 mins read

Non-profit organizations occupy a fascinating space in our culture. They work tirelessly to solve complex problems with a scarcity of resources. These scenarios are commonplace. You or the board have a dream to make a significant improvement in the health care of underserviced individuals and families, or you imagine the establishment of affordable housing for those precariously housed or in encampments, or you envision an employment training program, but the expense is enormous. You know you can raise some of the necessary monies, but a significant amount seems out of reach.

Maybe you even begin to raise some of the funds but find you’ve hit your threshold with significantly more needed. You want to move forward but aren’t sure how. Fundraising in Canada is challenging. According to the Fraser Institute’s, Generosity in Canada: The 2022 Generosity Index; 19.1% of Canadians gave to charity in 2020 compared to 23.4% in 2010. Less and less Canadians are, for a variety of reasons, giving to charity.

I knew we needed help. In 2011, our church bought a property in downtown Hamilton for $1.3 million. We were going to convert the existing building into ministry and worship space. In 2013, when we had exhausted our knowledge of fundraising, we met with Ron McClory from KMA Consultants. Ron was hopeful but honest. About $3 million of the necessary $8 million had been raised. Although we had a great donor base and a strong case, as we cared for hundreds of marginalized individuals and families, he hadn’t seen a church raise this amount of money from outside donors.

We engaged KMA Consultants and moved forward with a Capital Campaign. Ron taught me how introduce myself to donors, how to understand their philanthropic passion, how to know the amount to ask each donor to consider, and how to ask that donor for an introduction to their circle of friends. He was a great coach. Ron was an ingenious fundraiser who was personable and wise.

Everything changed in late 2015. Before the recognition of Canada’s housing crisis, we were witnessing the displacement of friends and neighbours, who had lived in our impoverished neighbourhood for generations. In wanting to help them, we decided to put supportive and affordable housing in our new ministry and worship centre.

This was a complex project. James North Baptist Church would own the property while Indwell, an organization that specializes in housing supports and tenant care, would manage the housing potion.  We added 45 supportive and affordable apartments to the project. The cost went up significantly. The first cost estimate, in early 2016, was $16 million.

I remember when I met Ron to tell him.  I was convinced he was going to tell me we had lost our minds. Up until that point, the Lord had provided $6 million. Ron smiled and said, ‘We have a lot of work ahead of us. I know you’re up to the task. Let’s get at it.’

Larry Matthews, also at KMA, guided us in re-writing our Capital brochure while Ron and I strategized the raising of what started at $16 million. That May, while Ron and I were meeting, he asked me if I’d ever consider joining KMA Consultants. I laughed and said I’d never considered it. Little did I know that Ron planted a seed that day.

Late that August, while Ron and I spent the better part of a day strategizing and talking about faith, Ron told me that when he passed, he wanted me to take his funeral. I told him we could figure that out in 20 years – we had a project to complete. A few weeks later, on October 4, 2016, Ron passed away, seeing his hope realized. I had the privilege of leading and speaking at his funeral.

At Larry’s advice, I took the reins of the campaign for the church as ‘consultant and fundraiser’. Between 2016 and 2020, the cost increased to $22 million. Because of the generosity of many partners, over $21 million was raised. Before Ron passed, I would call him, as I drove to donor meetings, for his ‘donor pep talks.’ I miss those talks.

After leading James North for over 28 years, I knew it was time to serve in a different capacity. I have a passion and expertise in leadership and wanted to help organizations and charities in the areas of governance, strategic planning, team building and of course fundraising.

If you or your board has a dream that you’re uncertain how to fund, I’d be delighted to chat and see if I can help. Although I’ve now read a few books and taken some courses on fundraising, the foundation of what I know, I owe to Ron. Thanks Ron, for believing in a courageous dream. 49 people are housed, hundreds of marginalized are helped, dozens of children and youth gather, and three congregations meet in that courageous dream. I can’t wait to tell you how it happened!

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