Small Shop Fundraising – Magicians in training!

So what do event management, major gifts solicitation, stewardship, donor data management, communications, web development, campaign management, volunteer management,grant writing, public speaking, summer camps, issuing tax receipts, budget planning, program evaluation and public education all have in common?

Me……well my job really.

These responsibilities all fall under the umbrella of the part-time “Resource Development” role that I fill with the Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support (MCRS) – a local agency based in Kitchener-Waterloo. We serve refugee claimants – those who make their claim for refugee status upon arriving in Canada and are therefore not technically refugees yet, and not eligible for support for settlement. We do not receive government funds for the work that we do and must actively fundraise throughout the year.

People from all cultures and religions access our services, and we learn to say hello in various languages including Spanish, Arabic, Urdu and Persian. We offer free legal support, translation and interpretation help and settlement support for refugee claimants. They arrive in Canada, often fleeing persecution, and during the first 15 days of their arrival must submit all their documents. MCRS supports them as they make a refugee claim, journeying through all the possible avenues of acceptance, denial, further applications and in the best case, a positive family reunification story. (Did I mention we do not receive government financial support for our work?)

So how do I see my role? I think of myself as the head of an invisible department: getting as much done as possible with the help of volunteers and community members, while still meeting deadlines. This is not a small task!

You might want to know what my typical day is like. Here is a quick peek:

  • Speaking to church groups
  • Talking to long-term donors who are motivated by their faith and social justice issues
  • Researching and writing grant and foundation applications
  • Writing and designing direct mail
  • Interacting with newly arrived refugee claimants and preparing them for informal presentations to groups so they can share their story
  • Being a bridge between a new refugee claimant, who may be sharing their story of trauma and persecution for the first time, and local groups who may have a very different culture

These stories are often deeply moving, and they bring a realness to our work that often reminds me to be grateful and shines a real light on the resilience of human beings. MCRS has been operating for over 27 years and has served thousands of diverse people in their search for a place of safety and refuge here in Canada.

As a person who loves variety and autonomy, it’s still a continual challenge staying on top of all the priorities involved in planning especially when you must look ahead in the year. Some of the activities I am involved in are:

  • Setting up visits and speakers in preparation for the Christmas giving season in local churches
  • Creating the total development program and campaigns for each season and training/empowering volunteers to take ownership and run with various aspects of the campaign
  • Making calls to our donor base, and creating and maintaining relationships and ensuring awareness of our mission
  • Preparing yearly budgets and plans for our board to review

Did I forget to mention we do not receive government funds for the work that we do?

Being a public face for the organisation is very enlivening, and my own passion for refugees and newcomers and their search for belonging finds meaning in this role! The donor environment is changing, but our work remains as critical as it ever was, and we will do what needs doing, both as a service organisation and as a fundraising organization.