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For many years, River Institute (a non-profit research and environmental organization founded in 1993, with research laboratories, educational and outreach programs, based in Cornwall, Ontario) lacked a focused fundraising strategy. Recently, our board of directors had been encouraging the team to develop a more formal fundraising plan.
We sent out a Request for Proposals and specified that we were looking for an actionable plan, within the capacity of our organization, not just a strategy. This was particularly important because of our previous experience with a consulting company whose report had been highly strategic but lacked a practical focus.
John Bouza (then with Global Philanthropic) submitted a proposal and it was his stated intent to deliver both strategic advice and a detailed implementation plan that was key getting the appointment.
The leadership team at River Institute (both board and staff) developed a good rapport with John and sensed he would be a good fit for the organization.
He started his assignment by interviewing staff, researchers and community leaders to assess the existing situation and provide core recommendations. Central to these was an emphasis on moving away from creating large mass fundraising campaigns that could not be sustained annually. Rather than a broad community appeal that would require extensive resources, he proposed a volunteer-led but staff-driven ongoing program addressed to mid-level potential donors (ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 a year).
From this core strategy, the River Champions program was born. This new program invites community members in the St. Lawrence River valley to enter into a direct, meaningful and long-term relationship with the Institute when they contribute $1,000 or more each year.
As part of the program, a clear donor stewardship pathway was developed, beginning with encouraging people to visit the Institute to find out more about research and the work being done. The “ask” centers on inviting individuals and small local companies to “join with us as a River Champion.”
Both personal and community benefits are emphasized over the total dollar amount being sought, and the smaller monthly amount is highlighted rather than the total (for example, $83.34 a month versus $1,000 a year.) The program, positioned by John as a “donor circle,” highlights the significant role the river plays in the life of the community as well as the tangible benefits donors will receive.
The implementation plan includes setting a fundraising goal for each year, broken down as a set number of new donors recruited as Champions each month. The pilot project focused on the board of directors, senior staff, and key “insider volunteers.” It was very successful and was followed by a full roll out of the program a few months later.
While some restructuring of staff roles was required and some part-time additional administrative support was recruited, the program design has been implemented within the bounds of our organizational capacity.
Regarding working with John, we feel that given our previous experience with working with consultants in this area, it was gratifying to know that there were still good fundraising experts out there. We also appreciated that John could provide a clearly articulated strategy and actionable, specific plan. John also gave attention when it was needed, and was excellent at being available and flexible in his approach to working with our team. The Institute staff also found that John’s extensive international and cross-sector background meant he had the experience to give proper advice across a range of issues.
John Bouza helped Ottawa Riverkeeper develop a three-year financial sustainability plan. We were a young environmental organization at the time with a mission to ensure that future generations are able to swim in the Ottawa River, drink the water and eat the fish from the river.
In a timely fashion, John and his associate did an analysis of our organization and members, interviewed several of our directors and met many times with me; then executive director. Together we came up with a plan that we felt would work well for us.
John recommended we focus our revenue generating strategy in three manageable areas. He set reasonable targets that he thought we were capable of achieving each year. He also recommended necessary action for implementation of the plan. John attended a one-day retreat for our board of directors and presented them with the plan and fielded questions and discussion. It was an extremely successful day.
John did more for us than write a sustainability plan. He helped our board of directors to realize our potential. His enthusiasm for our organization was contagious and each meeting served to infuse us with energy and vision. The sustainability plan was a critical piece of work for our organization that helped us to secure a renewed two years of funding from our major granter and guided us through our first growth phase.
I highly recommend John Bouza for his expertise, experience and warm personality. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at 613-321-1120 x 1002 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.