By Heather Barrow
High Risk Hope is not your traditional nonprofit organization. We are for purpose, and conduct our daily operations with the head of a for-profit company and the heart of a nonprofit. This unusual business model has raised a few eyebrows in the local nonprofit community but also has enabled HRH to realize significant accomplishments and impact in 3 short years. HRH is getting it right, your favorite nonprofit should be too, here’s how.
–Roll out the red carpet for every donor. If you have ever donated anything to HRH, you have been thanked at least seven times. We thank donors with a tax letter, hand-written thank you note, on the HRH website, in The Heartbeat, on a donor list at the Tot Trot and also via email/text/phone call/in person when the opportunity arises. I remember every HRH donor and donation, and they know it. For some families, their $25 lemonade stand proceeds may be all that they can afford to give to a charity for the year. For other families, that amount could be $1,000. I want both families to know that their donation is not only appreciated it also makes a difference by enabling HRH to reach one (for the $25 donor) to 40 (for the $1,000 donor) families in crisis. Our sincere gratitude for every donation means our donors not only stick with us, they increase their donation the minute they can afford it.
–Balance collaboration with competition. It amazes me when I see two charities that serve the same population constantly competing instead of collaborating. I am all for a little healthy competition in my professional life. When it comes to our families, HRH cannot reach every family in the world at risk for a preterm delivery, it’s impossible. It is always in HRH’s best interest to help other nonprofits that help families in crisis. I will never forget when I was researching forming HRH in early 2011; I reached out to a national charity (that is 25+ years old) that provides phone support to pregnant women on bed rest. I spoke with an executive about my idea and asked for guidance on filing HRH’s tax application for 501(c)(3) status. The executive basically hung up on me and sent me an email saying they could not aid a potential ‘competitor’. Well, this ‘potential competitor’ quickly received HRH’s 501(c)(3) status without their assistance and HRH is now positioned to exceed their annual revenues for 2014. I use that experience as a lesson and have never turned down a request from someone who is looking to form their own non-profit, especially if it relates to HRH families. I know that my helping them will not take away from HRH but will make our community stronger, which is best for everyone.
–Consistency is key on social media. I love to be on HRH’s Facebook page, and some HRH Board members call me out when I spend too much time there. The reality is I love seeing our moms and dads interact on Facebook, as I know there are current HRH families trolling our page from their hospital bed and receiving encouragement all day long. We are great at social media because we listen to our followers and provide consistent daily posts that they are interested in. We do not shy away from controversial articles if we feel the information should be provided to our followers, whom we trust can make informed decisions on their own. We also follow basic social media etiquette with other nonprofits. For example, if I see a video/article/photo posted on another Facebook page that I want to share with HRH’s followers, I share directly from that Facebook page, rather than going to the original source and sharing the link. When you engage and support other like-minded Facebook pages, your page will attract more followers and further your reach.
–Act as if you are spending someone else’s money, because you are. Since inception, 85-95 cents on every dollar donated to HRH has gone directly to HRH families, and all online donations are a guaranteed 100%. At HRH, we stretch every single dollar to the fullest because we know someone else worked hard to earn that dollar to donate to our families. Sometimes this is to a fault, like last week when I insisted we use the $0.05 bulk mail stamps we would no longer need after we purchased a nonprofit insignia. We needed ten for each of the 200 envelopes we mailed so it took all of us a while! For the most part, this model has served us well as we question every quote on goods or services. If something doesn’t look right, we figure out why rather than just accepting a high quote. The minute anyone at HRH becomes complacent with our donors’ hard-earned money we’ve lost the ability to best serve our families, and we won’t let that happen.
–Develop self-sustaining revenue streams. Although we love our donors and could not be here without their support, we also realized it was imperative for HRH to develop self-sustaining revenue streams to ensure our survival during cyclical downturns in the donor market. We do not want to become so reliant on a single donor, government grant or external organization that if that money disappears, so would HRH. Just like the for-profit business world, we have focused on diversification from the beginning. This year, thanks to a $25,000 incentive offered by the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County; we developed our first social enterprise, the HRH online store. The HRH online store will generate a new sustainable revenue stream and enable HRH to reach families in hospitals and women on bed rest across the United States.
We joke about running an HRH awesome train (complete with whistles), and if you can’t stay on it, get off at the next stop. Does your favorite nonprofit have an awesome train? If not, it may be time to jump on ours!