Category: Resource Development

Accelerator spotlight: Easter Seals of Central Texas

By on December 04, 2014 under Resource Development, Strategy & Planning

Last April, Easter Seals of Central Texas, along with seven other finalists, pitched to a sold-out crowd at Philanthropitch. All eight nonprofits had one goal in mind: to gain support and funding for a program that would dramatically impact Austin. The wonderful folks at Easter Seals delivered an outstanding pitch which earned them $53,075 and entrance into Greenlights’ first-ever Accelerator, a rigorous, four-month program designed to help enterprising nonprofits grow or scale an innovative program or service.

Instead of enjoying a relaxing summer, Easter Seals was one of five select nonprofits that worked alongside nonprofit experts, business entrepreneurs, mentors and consultants to build out their business plan. “The Accelerator program was intensive,” said Tod Marvin, CEO of Easter Seals of Central Texas. “Greenlights brought very successful, local entrepreneurs to each meeting. We were able to hear from a host of people who have been in our shoes. To be given access to that level of expertise was amazing.”

The initiative they were hoping to grow is called Easter Seals Lawn & Landscape Services, a residential and commercial landscaping business with huge potential to create jobs for people with disabilities.  One such employee is Bruce Marshall (pictured below), known by his co-workers as “Bubba” and “Big Dog.” Bruce is a landscaper employed by Easter Seals Central Texas’ Paid Job Training program who has become totally responsible for his own personal, financial and medical needs. In addition to job placement and regular incomes, Easter Seals provides additional ‘wrap around’ services to help their workers, like Bruce, live independently, and that’s where the team at Easter Seals sees the most potential for growth and expansion.

Thanks to the support of Accelerator classes and mentors, Easter Seals of Central Texas developed and refined their business plan in preparation to pitch to Greenlights’ Social Venture Partners (SVP) for further investment. And what a successful business plan they had! After an in-depth deliberation process, the selection committee agreed: Easter Seals earned top honors, a $35,000 investment, and three years of business growth consulting and mentorship from Greenlights to help grow and scale their paid jobs training program, Easter Seals Lawn & Landscape Services.

“Our wrap-around services provide people with the skills and knowledge to pursue their hopes and dreams through paid job training, financial literacy education, and other necessary life skills. The investment we received through the Accelerator will be vital in scaling this initiative,” said Lucas Wells, Chief Programs Officer of Easter Seals Central Texas.

We all know that Austin entrepreneurs have access to investors willing to provide the capital they need to scale and grow. At Greenlights we believe that nonprofit innovators deserve that same opportunity. We’re so proud of our first class of Accelerator participants, and look forward to promoting and advancing many more enterprising nonprofits like Easter Seals. “Easter Seals of Central Texas is setting an example of creative earned revenue streams which we know to be crucial to the long-term sustainability of a nonprofit,” says Greenlights’ CEO Matt Kouri.

Check-Presentation

Pictured: Rick Thomas – Easter Seals of Central Texas, Paid Job Training Supervisor; Bruce Marshall – Easter Seals of Central Texas, Paid Job Training Crew Member; Lucas Wells – Easter Seals of Central Texas, Chief Program Officer; Kiki Johnston – Greenlights, Chief Innovation Officer; Denise White – Easter Seals of Central Texas, Chief Development Officer

Get Involved

Greenlights’ Social Venture Partners are business leaders and social entrepreneurs who make a powerful commitment to our community by investing in high-impact nonprofits. By sharing their expertise and resources, Social Venture Partners help local nonprofits scale innovative programs and services to better solve big community problems. Know a nonprofit that could benefit from the Accelerator program? Applications for the next class open in February.

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All Aboard for Fund Development!

By on April 30, 2014 under Culture, Resource Development

all aboard

Image from All Aboard Cafe & Inn

My father was the long serving director of a local nonprofit agency in Austin. Because of this, I have many child memories of sitting around the dinner table with my family as he discussed ideas for the next big fundraising event (anyone remember the Volleyball Tournament or Festival of Trees?).  While I had an understanding that these fundraising efforts were important, I don’t think I had much awareness or appreciation for all of the hard work my dad and others were doing to sustain and grow the organization.  Later, as I pursued a degree in social work, my interest and focus was  learning how to work with clients and develop and manage programs. While I knew I wanted to work for a nonprofit, I again lacked a full appreciation for fund development staff, and viewed the work of fundraisers as something very much separate and distinct from my own.

It has only been more recently, after having worked for several nonprofits and served on a board, that I began to understand that fundraising is something that everyone in the organization must understand, value, and embrace. Unfortunately, as the national study UnderDeveloped first reported, many organizations struggle to build the organizational culture that leads to fund development being seen as a shared responsibility. In Greenlights’ own soon-to-be published benchmark study of local fundraising practices, we found that many Central Texas nonprofits do not have sufficient involvement from everyone across the organization, and staff and board may not always value the work of fund development staff.

Check out the following stats: (continue reading…)

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How Long Should a Project Take? (As Long as It Takes to Do It Right)

By on March 27, 2014 under Resource Development, Strategy & Planning

Has your nonprofit planned or completed a major new program or capital project? How did the end result compare to the project originally envisioned? Did it take longer than expected? Was there a relationship to the amount of planning that went into it and the quality of the end product? Just how long does it take to do a project right?

Come along, boys, and listen to my tale
 I’ll tell you of my troubles on the old Chisholm Trail
Coma ti yi yippy, yippy yea, yippy yea
 Coma ti yi yippy y, yippy yea! **

Jessechisholm

Jesse Chisholm, 1806-1868, Indian trader, guide, interpreter, spoke 14 languages (source: Oklahoma Historical Society)

Back in the 1870s, a young cowboy in need of money could sign on to wrangle longhorn cattle from South Texas, up the Chisholm Trail all the way to Wichita, Kansas. Provided he survived, he would get paid a handsome $20 most of which he would “invest” in a shave, a bath, new clothes, a steak, whiskey and women. (The rest they squandered.) Most were broke when they got back home (and most never drove cattle a second time), but they were rich with stories to tell.

I learn this and much more at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum in Cuero, Texas. Just opened last November, this gem of a small-town museum tells the fascinating stories of the early history of Dewitt County and surrounding counties in South Texas.

The museum in Cuero didn’t just happen overnight. In fact, it took 14 years in the making, and how it came about has everything to do with how a nonprofit comes into being … at least when it is done right. (continue reading…)

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3 Incredibly Simple Tips for Improving Donor Retention Rates and Making Supporters Smile

By on March 25, 2014 under Resource Development

Frank Barry, BlackbaudThis is a guest post by Frank Barry (@franswaa), Director of Digital Marketing at Blackbaud.

Fundraisers rejoice! Charitable giving grew 4.9 percent in 2013. Of particular interest to me was the fact that online giving grew 13.5 percent, accounting for 6.4 percent of total giving in 2013.

Yet donor retention rates are struggling. In fact, 27 percent of your new donors will not return after their first gift. It seems our sector has settled for declining donor retention rates. Over the past ten years they’ve fallen from 33 percent to 27 percent — a statistic no fundraiser would be proud of.

In the spirit of improving donor retention rates in 2014, here are three simple tips to help nonprofits turn things around. (continue reading…)

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Are you listening to your grant partners?

By on March 19, 2014 under Collaboration, Resource Development

Gone are the days of the rote grant cycle – apply, receive, report, repeat. The transactional relationship between grantor and grantee has transformed. Now most grantors expect and desire a true partnership with their grantees.

A new video from our fundraising series is now available in the 501(c)ommunity as an exclusive feature for our members. The topic is near and dear to me – Developing Relationships with Grant Partners.  Among the great recommendations offered in the video, the one that stands out the most to me is “Listen to New Ideas.” (continue reading…)

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