With an aspiration to create opportunities to help at-risk youth, under-served communities, and elderly persons thrive, we established Red String and although we have made great strides since our start in 2020, growing Red String has been a difficult road to trudge. Over the past three years, I have talked and written about the excitement and fulfillment, as well as, the challenges and, at times, frustration of starting a non-profit organization.
In the beginning, I assumed that giving back was a good thing and people always get behind good things. Because I was somewhat naive about that, it turned out to be a bit of a learning curve. A sort of field of dreams dilemma, that is, just because you build it doesn't necessarily mean they will come. Two of the biggest struggles in starting and running a nonprofit have been, and still are, around people and growth.
Firstly, leading an organization takes effort and time and finding the right people willing to be active members to help lead and serve in unpaid positions is not always easy to come by, let alone holding on to them for the long-term. Secondly, non-profits rely on donations to sustain and grow their operations, but finding donors is hard and keeping them is even harder. At the end of our second year, we had lost 65 percent of our first-time donors. This may seem high, but as I learned, it is not unusual. Nationwide, 75 percent of all first-time donors don’t return to the organization the following year. Nonetheless, losing so many of our donors was a difficult pill to swallow.
I found myself having to face into these issues, and over time, have come to realize that whether someone decides to give back by volunteering and/or donating, it is almost always a very personal choice.
Looking back, I was no different. I spent a good part of my life busy with living my life, and even though charitable giving was a part of it, I never really had much affinity with my giving, typically selecting charities that my family or I knew about. My epiphany came after my brother, Jeff, unexpectedly passed away. It was one of those moments that we all have from time to time that make us stop and take stock of our own lives and how we are living it. I realized two very important things. One, the community out-pour after his death made me see how a person with the vision, passion, and commitment can make a real difference within communities and in peoples lives. Two, life is unpredictable and we never know when our time will come, so why wait to give back when I can start making a difference now.
My mindset about giving began to change. It was the beginning of Red String.
Over the years, as I worked with our partner charities, talked with their employees and constituents, and saw first hand the impacts of our collaborations, I have come to believe that giving is, in fact, actually receiving, but I also know that not everyone has reached this same point in their personal life. So it is important for us to help people see the value of giving back and do our best to get people to rally around our mission and causes.
Whether with time or money, people rarely give just to give. Quite the contrary, giving is very personal. Studies have shown that charitable choices are largely driven by a donor's own inclinations and preferences, a desire to help people they feel some connection with, and a partiality for certain causes as a result of personal experiences; in other words, the reasons why any person gives to charity are as varied as donors themselves.
Through our social media, blog, quarterly magazine, YouTube channel, and outreach events, we continue to work hard to reach this diversity of interests, create greater connections, and broaden our networks. All with varying degrees of success. We have yet been able to create the connections and relationships we are hoping to achieve.
So, how do we truly connect with people to create greater affinity to our causes and mission? It is a question whose answer I am still wrestling to find.
If you have any suggestions or ideas, please leave a comment.
(To be continued)