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A Few Words On Fundraising…

Posted by Karel Minor in Uncategorized

A supporter of the HSBC recently shared with me an exchange she had with someone who was, to put it mildly, not a fan of the Humane Society of Berks County.  After our supporter had waxed poetic (and we thank her) about the great things we do for animals, the “not fan” dismissed her assertions and then dismissed her personally with, “Well, they [HSBC] sure are good at fundraising!”  This was not intended to be a compliment. 

I’m not sure why the improvements we have made to our fundraising efforts over the past seven years are the stuff of an insult.  We’re proud not just of how we’ve improved our fundraising through the support of many, many more supporters than we’ve ever had, but we’re proud of the amazing, ground-breaking, nationally recognized work to help animals that increased fundraising has allowed us to undertake on our donors behalf.

But I want to object to the statement because I don’t believe it’s true.  We may be better at fundraising than we were or than some other charities- hardly a fact I would think would inspire boasting on their part- but I feel that we fail daily in our fundraising efforts. 

How do I know this?  Because every single day we face life and death decisions about animals and the services we can provide them based strictly on money.  Every single day I have to admit that if we had just raised one thousand, one hundred, or one dollar more, I might have empowered our staff and volunteers to save one more animal- or ten more, or one hundred more.  For that reason, I am a failure at fundraising.  A complete and utter failure.

Like any charitable non-profit right now, I can come up with lots of excuses.  The economy is terrible.  Berks County has a much lower per capita income than neighboring counties.  The stock market has destroyed the value of the trusts established to fund our work.  The good health and long life this year of our friends means that the money we rely on from wills and estates has come in a 3% of our previously worst year in the modern history of our 110 year old organization.  We toast your health, but seriously, three percent- or $90,000 lower than our worst year ever- makes it really, really hard to keep to on track with our budget.

We don’t have a big endowment to fall back on.  We don’t have multi-hundred thousand dollar animal control contracts.  We rely on sensible budgeting, sound management, and conscientious staff – and we do have exceptionally good staff- to make do with what we have.  These efforts are reflected in our four star rating and recognition as an outstanding charity by both nationally known, independent, charity analysis organizations.  And, yes, we rely on our fundraising efforts.  Guilty as charged there.

But this year we were forced to limit or decrease the vet care we provided to pets of those who lost their jobs, their health, and their homes because I couldn’t raise enough money.  The result?  Many of those animals were given up because their caring and devoted owners couldn’t afford to treat them.  This year I made decision after decision not to provide the care that could save an injured animal’s life just because I had to face the fact that the money we had on hand would save ten others with lesser injuries if we didn’t save that one.  The result?  Animals were euthanized which could have been saved if I had just managed to find the extra money.  We couldn’t provide as many parvo vaccinations to prevent the annual outbreaks in Reading.  We couldn’t help in other counties during emergencies because we needed to ration our resources here.  We couldn’t, we couldn’t, we couldn’t.  Why?  Because I didn’t.  I didn’t make a compelling enough case to our supporters, to you, to open your wallets and purses once more or to give a little more. 

It wasn’t because I and the HSBC were too good that we faced these realities.  It was because we weren’t good enough.  Being better than we were seven years ago or than some other charity just isn’t good enough.

Yesterday I got an article forwarded to me about a Humane Society in California which just opened a new shelter that cost twenty five million dollars.  Right now I’m behind the scenes scrambling and begging to see if we can convince our donors to pony an extra half million- one fiftieth what they raised in California- to allow us to finally demolish and rebuild our pound of an old dog kennel at our Reading shelter.  In that article someone said, “A community gets the humane society it deserves.”  I ask myself how I can make that happen here.

Someone also recently offered a compliment- at least I took it that way- by saying we were certainly good at being direct.  So, I’ll be direct:  Dollars save lives.  More dollars save more lives.  People give money.  More people give more money.  And most people can give more money than they do.

We- HSBC and the animals and people we help- need you to give, to give more, and to get others to join you.  We can’t do what we’ve done in the past, let alone what needs to be done today and in the future without that support.

If you planed on giving later in the year, please consider giving now.  If you planning on making a certain sized donation, please try to make it bigger.  If you are registered for our Walk but not raising pledges funds, please try to raise $200, $20, heck, $2 extra.  Please tell your friends about us.  If you can adopt, please adopt.  If not, please forward our adoption promotions.  Pretty please.

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