Not surprisingly, we did not suddenly discover thousands of new donors who immediately contributed millions to the cause. Nor did we apply for and successfully receive millions of dollars in general-operations grant funding. Yet here we are, in 2014, blessed to be welcoming our 25,000th volunteer to Camp Restore early next year.
Long story short, between 2008 and 2011 we divested of everything except Camp Restore, which we heavily streamlined. Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Concept in Good to Great was incredibly helpful as we sought to define what we were passionate about, best at, and what drove our economic engine.
How we managed to make and survive the immense change between 2008 to 2011 is a much, much longer story that is probably more appropriately suited for a theological discussion about faith and the grace of God.
But I do know that a focused and compelling mission and vision are absolutely necessary to hold on to while riding the roller coaster. If they aren’t there, find them before you get on!
Today, in essence we operate much like a college or university. Similar to tuition and room and board, we charge $40 per day per volunteer. This covers the vast majority of our general operational costs.
For capital projects, including the complete restoration of a church facility in the Lower Ninth Ward, the establishment of a commercial kitchen building, and a housing expansion at Camp Restore, we’ve conducted classic capital campaigns – something we simply couldn’t achieve in 2007 but are now successful at after a decade’s worth of relationship-building with donors, volunteer alumni and grant-making entities.
In summary, when facing impossible fundraising situations, they’re probably just that – impossible – and the problems and solutions may likely be outside of the fundraising field. But if you have a mission/vision worth fighting for, work to help your organization find and connect with its bedrock, and begin building from there using best practices.
For more on Camp Restore please visit: www.camprestore.org
Kurt Jostes is the Director of Advancement for RAI Ministries, Inc. and lives in New Orleans with his wife, Rebecca. A member of the Association of Lutheran Development Executives (ALDE) and a Kellogg Fellow, Jostes graduated from Concordia University-Nebraska in 2007 and was named its Young Alumnus of the Year in 2012.