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By Susan Miller, South Florida Business Journal
There’s much to be said for being a nonprofit that’s been around for more than 100 years.
For one thing, a lot of people have probably heard about your mission. But, there’s also a downside to that longevity.
By holding tight to the past and failing to update their message, many nonprofits have created fundraising challenges and discovered that, in order to survive, they must come up with ways to speak to a new generation of donors.
Now, for the first time since its founding more than 100 years ago, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America is doing something it has never done before: It’s asking for money.
As part of National Mentoring Month, the organization known for its mentors has launched a campaign dubbed Start Something, which highlights the “life-changing impact” a mentor can have, but also points out that there is a dollar figure attached to that mentor.
While mentors aren’t paid, there is a cost associated with their training, background checks and monitoring.
“This isn’t about putting a volunteer and child together and saying ‘bye-bye, have a good time,’” said Ana Cedeno, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County.
Cedeno, who sits on the national marketing committee for BBBS of America, said the new message unveiled this week was two years in the planning.
The need to update the organization’s message was what Cedeno calls “an a-ha moment of realizing we weren’t doing a better job, or a more global job of reaching out. A lot of folks didn’t understand that what we do takes funds.”
William Bee, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Palm Beach and Martin Counties, said the reality is that nonprofits are businesses, and it takes money to operate a business.
“This forces us to become more focused on the capacity to raise funds,” he said.
That’s particularly true for his affiliate, which last year took over some of the services offered by Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Palm Beach County after it filed for Chapter 7.
So, not only does he face the challenge of adding services, but he’s doing it from scratch.
For Bee, the challenge is “in forming long-term relationships and re-establishing the credibility of what we do,” he said.
But, the new BBBS campaign is not just about donors, it’s also a call to action in a way that will resonate with an audience that, more often than not, is getting its messages through social media channels.
“We are rebranding so that people know about the life-changing results,” said Mack Koonce, VP and COO of BBBS of America.
He said the organization was looking to create a brand that works in social media and is easy to grasp.
“Branding is a different thing in this Internet world and the way people connect,” he said. “You want to build on your strengths and legacy, [but] at the same time you have to transform and change to stay relevant, so it’s a balance of holding on to the things that make us an iconic brand, while at the same time being new and fresh and relevant.”
BBBS of America isn’t alone
Last month, I wrote that, after 160 years, the YMCA decided it was time for a makeover and would the “MCA” from its name as part of a rebranding effort.
Like BBBS of America, the YMCA’s rebranding is a jumping-off point to letting people know there are costs associated with the services they provide, and there is a need for donations.
I don’t doubt that, as fundraising becomes increasingly more difficult, nonprofits’ survival will be based on their ability to come up with new ways to engage donors.