“We Are Not Your Grandfather’s Oldsmobile”
A few posts back, we asked readers to suggest additional organizations to be included in the next DonorVoice/Agitator Donor Commitment Study. We received a few dozen suggestions … they’re still coming in. Many thanks.
We also received this email from Brad Boyd at the Kiwanis Foundation of Indianapolis, which I’m publishing in its entirety:
“Down the way it would be interesting to measure the visibility and impact of national and international service organizations such as Kiwanis International, Rotary, Sertoma, Optimist’s Club, Lion’s Club, Elk’s, Moose, etc. It is my opinion that the general public is largely unaware of the contributions these organizations do in their local communities, as well as in eradicating some heinous diseases internationally, such as Kiwanis partnering with UNICEF to eradicate iodine deficiencies around the world several years ago, or our current fundraising effort, The Eliminate Project, which will eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus around the world.
In our own local community, citizens are unaware of how much we impact a number of individuals and groups in a myriad of ways. For example, the kids who belong to one of our inner city, school-based sponsored clubs (Francis W. Parker Builders Club) gathered together 500 children’s books over a couple of months that they donated to the local Children’s Bureau, by sponsoring a school dance and charging “a buck and a book” for admission. As another example, our Charity Dye Center for Inquiry K-Kids Club just raised $200 by marking up the price of candy bars and selling them to school and neighborhood friends, and then identified that the local Dayspring Center could use diapers and baby formula for the homeless families and children they serve.
Unfortunately, many younger professionals have the notion that Kiwanis, Rotary and others are something that their parents were involved with, and it is challenging to communicate with them that, “we are not your grandfather’s Oldsmobile.” The reason I am so passionate about my work, is that I want to serve not only Kiwanis but all other mission-based service groups, by reinventing them and making them more relevant to young people. If we don’t bolster these organizations, and increase the membership ranks, we risk “going out of business”…which will adversely affect our communities and a number of non-profit groups we support…not to mention the fact that we will then be unable to serve as role models for school children so they can “pay it forward,” gain leadership skills and experience the gratification that comes from engaging in philanthropy.”
I’m quite sympathetic to the issues that Brad raises here.
Having been brought up in a small town, I was always quite aware of how service groups like these, plus the American Legion* and VFW, supported the community. They underwrote the Little League, the Scouts, the volunteer first aid squad and fire department; they collected food and looked after families in need; they drove the immobile to doctor appointments and grocery stores; they supplied scholarships; they raised money for causes beyond the community; etc, etc.
But are they a demographic dinosaur? Can these organizations reinvent themselves and make themselves relevant to younger generations? In a way, these are ‘generalist’ organizations, competing these days against more specialized groups and agencies.
As Roger and I undertake to focus a big chunk of our attention on acquisition, I can’t think of a bigger ‘acquisition’ challenge than the one Brad describes. It is one we will ponder.
If a newer, ‘sexier’ nonprofit comes along to fight this or that disease, meet this or that community need, which should survive?
The needs appear to be constant … indeed discouragingly so. Even when the kind of progress Brad describes above has been made. It’s the organizational and communications styles, as well as modes of socializing and interacting in the community, that change.
Maybe it’s possible for the ‘old-line’ service organizations to adapt. But I’d say, to succeed they’ll need very innovative, energetic and committed leadership.
Brad Boyd sounds like he might be up to the challenge.
If it’s any incentive Brad, you get an Agitator raise!
*You haven’t truly experienced small town social life unless as a teen you’ve been dragged to the Legion hall by your mother every Tuesday night to sell soda and chips to a crowd of crazed bingo players!
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