We often receive well-meaning advice about fundraising avenues to pursue. However, we have spent a considerable amount of effort pursuing many fundraising avenues. Here, we detail what we have done, so that you may better understand our situation. If you have advice beyond what we have pursued we would gladly receive it and are always open to new sources of funding.
SONOMA COUNTY WILDLIFE RESCUE (SCWR) FUNDRAISING EFFORTS
For the last 4 years we have been able to meet our financial goals ($350,000 a year) due to 3 large donors: The Pinkie Cole Trust, the Bob Russell Trust, and the Larry Grimm estate. The Cole Trust has given away its money and no longer exists. The Russell and Grim estate were entities that had named SCWR as a beneficiary in the estate when the benefactor died. The bequeathed funds have all been spent. In our 32 years of existence we have been the beneficiary in only one other trust. Since we knew that these funds would be exhausted by 2012 we undertook a concerted fundraising effort starting in 2010. We enlisted the help of two knowledgeable fundraising consultants: Mecca Billings and Victoria Roberts. After extensive consultations they made several recommendations, all of which we followed. The most important ones were:
Increase the mailing list from 900 to 2400 or more.
Invite potential members to join the board if they commit to raising at least $10,000 per year.
Send out a short but effective newsletter every 6-8 weeks. Include photos and one or two powerful stories.
Get more articles about SCWR in the press. Put together a press packet and give reporters a private direct line to Doris.
Gather a dedicated group of volunteers to research and apply for potential grants.
Stop wasting effort on fundraisers that bring in only a couple of hundred dollars.
Limit special fundraising requests for money to twice a year.
Implement a donor care program to follow up with donors of over 100 dollars.
Enhance website and Facebook.
Build up the wildlife exclusion business.
While we have made some progress in fundraising by implementing all these recommendations the results have been mixed.
For example we increased the 2012 and 2013 Year- End Appeal from almost 15,000 dollars in 2011 to almost 30,000 dollars in 2012 and almost 30,000 in 2013. However, our Spring 2013 appeal to raise 92,000 dollars to fund our efforts during baby season raised only 19,000 dollars. More discouraging was the response rate. Out of 2300 appeal letters/e-mails sent out there were only 140 responses.
We have put the word out that we are looking for potential board members but we are not well connected and we need help finding potential board members. We have been looking for over a year without success.
We have sent out a newsletter every 6 weeks for the last 18 months.
We have had several articles in various Sonoma County publications including the Healdsburg Press, the Sonoma Index Tribune, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Petaluma 360, The Community Voice, Petaluma Patch, Petaluma Argus Courier, and Northbay Biz.
We have applied for over 20 grants but have been awarded a grant from only Dean Witter Foundation. There are many obstacles to being awarded a grant. For example many foundations will not award money for any capital improvement projects if the land is not owned by the nonprofit, as is our case. There are actually not that many grants for wildlife rehabilitation as compared to domestic animals. Many grants have geographical limitations such as organizations serving some specific states or counties. Also a review of past grants shows that many foundations have never awarded grants to wildlife rehabilitators. They often don’t seem to include wildlife rehabilitation in the conservation category or the general environment category. Some of the organizations we have applied to are: Emma Barnsley Foundation, Todd Trust, Regina Frankenberg Foundation, Bernice Barbour Foundation, Oxbow Animal Rescue, Mzuri Foundation, Wendy McCaw Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, Roy Crummer Foundation, Seaworld/Busch Gardens Fund, Thelma Doelger Trust, Summerlee Foundation, Binky Foundation, Raymond Family Foundation, Kinsman Foundation, Wellington Cabot Foundation, Lawrence Foundation, Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Foundation and the Sonoma County Vintners Foundation. Even if we qualify for a potential grant the competition is fierce. Some foundations say that they award one grant for every five hundred applicants. We have not given up, but we need to be realistic about how much money is likely to be raised. We have one volunteer and one board member applying for grants. This compares to five full time staff that WildRescue in San Rafael has dedicated just to grant writing and fundraising.
The consultants had us analyze all our fundraising efforts going back 10 years and compare the net funds raised to the effort put in. For example we had manned a booth at the Sonoma County Fair for over 30 years. To do this we needed to find 66 volunteers to take 3 hour shifts during the days the fair is open. We rarely netted over 1,000 dollars. Recently we netted even less because the fair has increased their fees, the fair does not provide enough tickets for all our volunteers to man our booth, and our volunteers now have to pay for their own parking. This effort severely strained our volunteer base in order to cover the needed hours at the fair. It was clear this fundraising endeavor was not worth the effort. We no longer have a presence at the Sonoma County Fair.
We did this analysis for all our fundraising efforts including: Dine and Donate, WholeFoods Community Days, Gala events and Silent auctions, the Human Race, and the Lagunitas event/concert. We are only currently doing the Human Race and Pints for Paws, our Lagunitas event, currently.
We limit our fundraising appeals to twice a year, so hopefully our supporters will not get tired of hearing from us.
Doris has personally contacted every donor of 100 dollars or more and invited them and their family to come to our Center for a private tour and lunch. In October 2013 we had a donor appreciation event. We have sent out over 300 invitations to all the donors who have donated 100 dollars or more during the last 3 years. Over 60 people attended. We will be having another donor appreciation event in 2015.
We have improved our Facebook and website but are looking for tech savvy volunteers to make even more improvements. Go to: www.scwildliferescue.org
We continue to try and increase the fee income from our humane wildlife exclusion business. This is a service we provide to homeowners and businesses in Sonoma County that have problems with wildlife taking up residence in businesses and homes. One of our problems is that we train people to perform these exclusions and after a few years they leave and start their own exclusion business in competition with us. This has happened twice and each time it takes a couple of years to rebuild our business in face of the new competition. We are currently at $70,000 in yearly income with $53,000 in expenses. We are hoping that the County can help point the public in our direction and recommend our services through their public outreach systems, since we use only humane methods of exclusion and are careful not to exclude mothers from their young.
One new fundraising effort we are hopeful about is our new service to install and maintain barn owl boxes in vineyards. We have found that wineries are reluctant to contribute money to charitable causes because they would be inundated with requests. They will contribute some wine but not cash. They will also sometimes allow their winery to be a venue for a fundraising event that the nonprofit organizes. However, the wineries are more open to paying for a service that a nonprofit can provide. We are trying to raise awareness of this new service by speaking to such groups as the Sonoma County Vintners Association, the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, and the Sonoma County Winegrape Association. We hope this service will produce 20,000 dollars in profit within a couple of years.