Don’t deny it. Everyone knows what I am talking about. We avoid it with family, friends, and colleagues. We speak about it in “hush tones” in polite conversation. But, many of us, can’t avoid its use. So, I will let it fly, “Fundraising!”
Like many of you who have spent years or even decades doing nonprofit work, it is an ongoing short and long-term struggle for most nonprofit organizations. Add in the usual culprits like wages and benefits not keeping pace with inflation, the current pandemic economy, supply chain issues, rising grocery bills, utilities, housing, and many other costs like out-of-pocket medical bills, prescriptions, fixed incomes and nonprofits of all kinds have felt the effects as consumers cut back and penny-pinch. Many news sources have reported repeatedly in these types of economic times about the decline in charitable giving.
Those of us involved with All Aboard Ohio know this pain all too well. I have been on the AAO board since 2012 and this is and has been one of our biggest fiscal challenges. I remember in my 10 years on a local watershed board we had similar challenges. Limited membership and related dues, no corporate sponsors, and regular expenses. The salvation for our watershed board was some major grants and shared grants with groups with similar mission statements.
What I have observed as the biggest fiscal impacts for AAO are as follows: membership dues alone are not keeping pace with our fiscal needs, offering fair contracts to our two contracted employees, our Executive Director and Public Affairs Director, inflationary increases in bulk mailings for our newsletter and other postage, post office box expense, storage unit expense, insurance, and public relations and advocacy printing and materials.
To meet the above challenges, we have included easy links on our updated website for AAO memberships or donations, and we are promoting membership on social media as much as possible. We have had fundraising on Bonfire for shirts and other AAO material which gives us a percentage of the purchase price, Facebook fundraising, and we have had a grant subcommittee research grant opportunities. (Obviously, it will take dedicated board members or other volunteers to move forward with that effort, write a grant, and do the follow-up reports, etc., as required by grant accountability.)
One area I would like to see developed is ongoing, annual “corporate sponsorship” from $1,000-$10,000 or more, like other nonprofits have established. When you look at the cities and businesses that would benefit from fully functioning passenger rail around Ohio with 24/7 multi-modal capabilities, this effort, in my opinion, could be more feasible.
Therefore, whether you are an AAO Board member, member, supporter, or social media follower the reality is statewide advocacy like AAO’s costs. Freedom isn’t free, and neither is a well-functioning and effective nonprofit advocacy organization.
That is my perspective on that dirty F-word, “Fundraising.” We need your support literally. And, if you have suggestions or can help with grant writing or corporate outreach statewide, please let me or Stu Nicholson, our AAO Executive Director know your ideas or availability.
Again, many thanks. And, as I have said before, keep the calls, emails, and letters going to Governor DeWine, your local elected officials and state legislators, the ORDC, ODOT, and the state Chamber of Commerce re: Amtrak Connects proposal.