We knew it would be HARD, but not this HARD. But let me tell you: foundationing is WICKED HARD.
Today marks the one year anniversary of achieving 501(c)(3) probationary status from the IRS. We thought it would be all downhill from there. Oh my, were we off a bit.
And I am not even talking about the added complexities with COVID-19, although our campaign to raise money to feed those suffering from coronavirus hardship went very well! So did our campaign to help first responders affected by COVID-19. But only we would launch a new foundation as the world suffered from a global pandemic. Sigh.
Fundraising is HARD. People pledge support then don’t send the check. People promise to engage, but then hide in the darkness of the night, avoiding you when you reach out to follow up. And prospecting, well, no surprise to anyone, but finding NEW donors is HARD too.
The competition is HARD. By this I mean, there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of other charitable organizations doing amazing work, that all need your help too. Do you realize how many other groups are working to help and save animals? It’s staggering. And makes it hard to compete for dollars.
One of the significant pivots in our thinking as we build this foundation is that we now want to help showcase all of the amazing work being done globally. This will manifest itself many ways: we’ll feature them on the podcast, we engage in fundraising partnerships with them, and of course, we’ll help share their stories on our social feeds. But even this is HARD, as there are so many worth talking about…
One final comment on this topic: even partnering with other charitable groups is HARD. One, many don’t respond to you, even when you call to help RAISE MONEY. I mean, what? Two, some won’t partner with us yet because we’re still a small operation. While frustrating, nothing we can do about this. Over time, perhaps.
The set-up process was HARD. Even with professional help, mistakes were made, timelines were rarely met, misunderstandings were frequent. It took us MUCH longer to get formally recognized as a 501(c)(3) then we ever anticipated or were promised.
Heck, even the process to enable formal Facebook fundraising, joining the Amazon Smile program, and getting correctly listed in the Guidestar database (which feeds data to donor-advised funds, for instance) is HARD.
Building awareness is HARD. Building mailing lists, growing a social media following, even driving traffic to the website: all HARD. To be honest, the real success of building our foundation has come from gritty grassroots work, conversation with folks one by one, day after day. Hand-to-hand combat. Not HARD, but takes considerable time and energy.
Speaking of social media, Facebook has been particularly disappointing. We worked HARD to build a following of 1,200+ people (so far). One would have hoped these people would actively engage. Answer? Nope. Not necessarily their fault, because we believe Facebook just isn’t showing our content in people’s feeds. Facebook is a true pay-to-play world, and we’ve had to accept that reality.
Building a website, and learning a new CRM system, was HARD. I’ve built a dozen websites over my career, but this one was the most complicated. And don’t get me started on the CRM. Talk about a process that STILL requires time – every day – to master.
But alas, we are finally official. We did receive the final final letter from the IRS. But wow, as I said, that took much longer than we ever realized.
So, I can confirm: Foundationing is HARD. But wow, is it rewarding. Being generous is a most glorious feeling, and it makes us proud every day to be doing some good in the world.
Everyone has been most complimentary of our efforts, offering kudos left and right. I think I can speak for Stephanie and say that this feels good, and is most appreciated.
But beyond that, we need you to engage. Beyond donating, we need your contacts, your ideas, your skills, in-kind gifts, organizational resources, your time and talent, and most importantly, we need your leadership.
This is only the beginning. We have a lot learn, yes, but we are in a position to be agile, flexible, and benefit from making mistakes…in order to get better.
The great realization is that I’ve learned that running a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation will ALWAYS BE HARD. And that’s ok. I’ve accepted that. The challenge is exciting, the things we’ll learn, the people we’ll get to partner with (hopefully you!), and most importantly, to be of service to all those humans and animals in need…
…well, that’s not HARD, that’s EASY.