Staying on your toes is the way to remain competitive in today's burgeoning senior marketplace.
To introduce new programs and services, communities have to
raise the funds for their equipment, staff, space and promotion.
Here are the stories of several providers that have found fresh
approaches to fundraising.
Use Your Natural Resources
Gateway Terrace, a rental retirement community for lowincome
seniors in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has a sizable seawall along
the Intracoastal Waterway. In 1999, Gateway built eight new boat
slips, each privately landscaped and gated. Reasonably priced
for the popular yachting haven, the docks are in high demand
all season. Rental fees cover insurance, repairs and costly waterfront
Pedal for (Non)Profit
During a $1 million capital campaign for a special-care facility at Landis Homes Retirement Community, Lititz, Pa., its president, Edward Longenecker, and his wife raised $107,000 by bicycling cross-country over six weeks in 1997, averaging 80 miles per day. "The residents followed our trip [by map], which was a delightful experience and added excitement for the campus. Fifty or 60 residents even took a bus to Rehoboth Beach, Del., to welcome us. We had no idea they'd be there," remembers Longenecker, who was on paid leave during the journey.
In October 2002, the Longeneckers tandem-biked from Maine to Florida, raising $76,000 toward a $2 million building campaign. They recorded highlights of their journey on DVDs, which they sent back to Landis homes every two days, so residents could share the journey.
"You need a committee taking upon itself the responsibility of raising the money, and the impetus of someone who'll contribute a larger gift. It's best to have volunteers who are enthused and help carry the torch," Longenecker advises. Proceeds must go only to the specific campaign, and not toward the personal costs of the trip, he cautions, or people perceive the outing as a grand vacation.
Longenecker's only regret about his journey was that he was unable to receive his AAHSA Distinguished Service Award in person; the bike trip conflicted with the AAHSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore.
Modest bike outings can be effective fund-raisers, too. Residents' family members, for example, can have friends pledge $1 per mile for the distance they pedal along a specific local course, on a particular day or weekend. Ask a neighborhood bicycle shop to help plan an appropriate route. If your region has a bike path near a former railroad track, the Rails To Trails Conservancy (www.railtrails.org) can provide information about the trail, its facilities and services.
Putt for the Green
Approach Community Foundations
Vista Del Monte Retirement Community, Santa Barbara, Calif., raised $225,000 towards its $2 million rebuilding campaign, featuring a new fitness and aquatic center, from 13 community foundations -- each a firsttime donor. Executive Director Charles Frazier attributes their success to a commitment "to serve the broader community-especially older adultsand not just our own residents. By reaching beyond our own population, community service and commitment changed the perspective."
To choose community foundations, Frazier relied on personal knowledge of Santa Barbara, and a local fundraising consultant.
"She helped us target and locate the right prospects, see who had a focus related to what we were doing, and frame our proposals appropriately," says Frazier. After learning that the Santa Barbara Foundation had the best reputation in town for full duediligence evaluations, Vista Del Monte approached it first, seeking a "stamp of approval" other nearby grantmakers would recognize. "We'd gone to them in the past, unsuccessfully, partly because the project was internal to our community," Frazier says. This time, the foundation's $50,000 grant was an important endorsement. Another key was a strong, well-phrased case statement, summarizing services and benefits to be offered to the broader community. (The fitness and aquatic center is open to the public.)
Personal connections can definitely raise visibility and credibility. "We distributed a list of key decisionmakers at the foundations to our board members, staff and residents, telling them to let us know if they knew anyone on the list. Wherever we found a connection, we drew upon it," says Frazier. About 10 substantial connections were discovered.
Get a Celebrity
Both the mother and aunt of Alvin Gentry, coach of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, attend Life Enrichment Center in Shelby, N.C., Gentry's hometown. When Life Enrichment Center's Executive Director Suzi Kennedy asked him to be honorary national spokesperson for its fundraising and publicity campaign, Gentry readily agreed. Living in Los Angeles, Gentry knows not only sports figures but Hollywood celebrities. For a gala dinner and auction in August 2003, NBA, NHL and NFL stars will appear in Shelby, a suburb of Charlotte. The fundraising goal is $50,000 - $60,000, which will be used to build a second Life Enrichment Center in the same county. Auction items are being donated by players in several sports. Hopefully, the event will become annual, with Gentry continuing as honorary chair.
"The dinner's theme is 'Champions'; the real champions in life are the people at Life Enrichment Center and other facilities who take care of seniors," says Whitney Jones, president of a fundraising firm in Winston-Salem that is working with the Shelby adult day center. "Alvin says over and over that he doesn't know what he would do without this center caring for his mother and his aunt."
The two largest grants are from North Carolina foundations that support health care: the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and the Duke Endowment.
It isn't difficult to find a celebrity to spearhead your campaign. "Many communities across the USA have [at least] one sports or entertainment figure," asserts Jones. Check with the local high school, nearby colleges, and your own residents and board members, to see if anyone is related to or knows of a former resident who has become a professional athlete or entertainer.
Whatever type of fundraising campaign you undertake, be sure to start out close to home.
"Remember the real power of your residents, both in community fundraising and capital campaigns," urges Frazier. "Their families, connections, and your prospects (if you have a waiting list) are where you'll get the majority of your funds." By involving residents in planning, organizing and developing the case statement for your campaign, they're heavily invested before you start soliciting. "A resident was co-chair with me on one campaign," Frazier reports.
To seek a grant, an excellent starting point is the Foundation Center's vast Web site (www.foundationcenter.org), providing information about 2,000 grantmakers. You can check on private, corporate and community foundations, as well as not-for-profit public charities that give grants, and search by either geographic location or particular interests. Community foundations, for instance, are grouped by state, with a summary of interests for each and a link to its Web site. "Sector Search" offers brief descriptions of various foundations and links to their own sites. Incidentally, using "seniors" as an interest will find many programs helping students, in addition to those for older residents. "Senior citizens" brings far fewer results, but they are better targeted.
See the Resource box below for links to this wealth of material.
As good prospects, Whitney Jones suggests "new foundations created by the sale of a not-for-profit hospital to a for-profit corporation or another not-for-profit. Some portion of the proceeds are often used to create a new foundation, usually interested in health care. These tend to be public foundations, with a new board and a huge amount of money to give away. After the first few years, they'll start specifying [their interests]. Find one in your area, because they're very open at first."
Once you identify your prospects, you'll need ingenuity, perserverance,
a solid proposal ... and perhaps a ballet shoe.
Carol Milano, a health writer based in New York City, is the author of Profitable Careers In Nonprofit (John Wiley & Sons) and three other nonfiction books.