Securing Donor Loyalty in Non-Profit Organizations: The SCAW Experience

In the past few decades, non-profit organizations have stood at the forefront of reshaping the socio-economic and political configurations of many societies. They create a strategic interest group that would balance the influence of state actors and corporate interests in socio-economic policies that affect millions of people. On the other hand, these organizations carry out different advocacies which little by little help in the uplifting of the quality of life of peoples of the world through various forms such as daily soup kitchens in the cities, human rights struggles in war-torn regions, medical missions in South East Asian jungles. However, at the center of the advocacies of countless non-profit organizations is the difficulty of getting sufficient funding for all its projects, researches and beneficiaries as the steady flow of funds come from a wide spectrum of sources, such as individual and corporate donors, annual fundraisers and financial grants from corporate and state institutions. Of these examples, donations from private individuals and corporations have been one of the most effective ways of income generation, as it taps on the continuous and deep concern of individuals on the advocacies an organization espouses. Renowned international organizations such as the UNICEF, Green Peace and Amnesty International rely heavily on donations like these, and have effectively maximized this system of donations to earmark funds for their different advocacies. As a result of successes like these, the research shall investigate how non-profit organizations manage to convince one-time donors to become regular donors in the context of a Canada-based international non-profit organization called Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW) which believes that it is the basic right of every child to have a comfortable night’s sleep. (“Our Core Values,” n.d.)

Nature and Principles of the Sleeping Children Around the World

Sleeping Children Around the World was founded by Murray Dryden and his wife Margaret, who were both thinking of ways of creating a retirement project. As it was Murray’s hobby of photographing sleeping children, the idea of giving away bedkits to indigent children came about.

Soon after, he and his wife, Margaret, decided to provide bedkits to 50 children in India in 1970. The concept grew and eventually became the focus of their lives. (“How SCAW Began,” n.d.) The spouses knew fully well that poverty did not only exist in developing and underdeveloped countries such as India, Bangladesh and Cambodia, but continued to perpetuate in developed countries as well. No better evidence can be had for this but in the United States where many African-Americans in inner-city neighborhoods are cramped in ghettos with little prospects in sight. Nonetheless, the couple decided that the mandate of SCAW ought to be on children in developing and underdeveloped countries as the level of poverty in those areas can never equal the relative poverty and welfarism existing in developed countries.

Murray Dryden articulated it perfectly:

I know the difference between being poor in Canada and being poor in     Bangladesh. Remember, they have no welfare system, no medicare, and very few            charitable organizations in these countries. It is when there is so little hope for          people, such as those people in the developing countries, that we must work    to improve conditions. (Dryden, 2004)

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Moreover, the basis for the choice of bedkits as an advocacy is clear – Dryden knew how vital a few hours of comfort and sleep could be to help one forget the extremes of temperature, the hopelessness, the sickness, and the pangs of hunger. (Dryden, 2004) The bedkits were also a practical choice for the couple as these came cheap especially when they decided to have them sourced from local distributors in their serviced countries, notwithstanding tacitly helping in the growth of a bedkit cottage industry in these countries and generating employment – all of which would inevitably contribute to local and national economic development. (What’s a Bedkit?,” n.d.) Curiously, the bedkits generally consists of a mat or mattress, pillow, sheet, blanket, mosquito net (if applicable), clothes outfit, towel and school supplies. These are the barest of necessities for a lowly Kenyan child, but would truly go a long way in ensuring his survival.

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Funding for Almost Forty Years

The SCAW has adopted one of the most rigid yet principled ways of procuring financial support from its donors they only spread the ideals of SCAW through personal contact and never through telemarketing, door-to-door appeals, mass-mailings or professional fund-raisers which is the usual and fastest route in procuring donations and securing funds for operational expenses, among others. More so, SCAW does not request or accept government funding, which is also a very principled way of asserting the independence of the organization from pressure and interference by national and even supra-national institutions. Such donation procurement has been in place for almost forty years yet they have continued to provide adequate bedkits for the most needy in many parts of the world.

One of the tacts of SCAW in ensuring donor support has been to package the small $30 bedkits donation as the “All Occasion Gift” which can be the alternative gift in  Celebrating births, birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, retirements, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, Chinese New Year’s, among others. It can also be offered as a meaningful “In Memoriam”, notwithstanding giving the donation as a thoughtful “thank you” for business associates, friends, etc. (“Bedkits – the All-Occasion Gift,” n.d.) Such a process in securing donors is one of the most ingenious ways of ensuring the steady flow of donations to the organization because in lieu of massive spending during special occasions and holidays, no better alternative gift can there ever be than knowing that one’s $30 would go a long way in giving safe and secure beds to poor children in Honduras, Guatemala, Kenya, and many other underdeveloped countries. I

n all these, it is clear that the basic requisite for gathering donors who will consistently give funding to a non-profit organization is for donors to be united in principle with the ideals of the non-profit organization, as the simple act of giving money is the least that a concerned individual can do to further the goals and objectives of the non-profit organization, especially a respected organization such as SCAW. (personal communication, March 12, 2007) On the other hand, another basic requisite in ensuring that one-time donors would be regular donors to SCAW has been its employment of a more proactive approach in post-donation activities, as the fundamental ingredient in ensuring the continued flow of funding from the same donors has been to assure and reassure past, present and future donors that their $30, small as it is, will never go to waste nor to the pockets of the Board of Directors of SCAW. As a result, the SCAW has ever been persistent in publishing its annual financial reports and even furnishing a financial structure to clearly state the percentages of funds according to its earmarked appropriation. (“Our Finances,” n.d.) Best of all, SCAW always sends donors photographs of children receiving their bedkits in the poorest parts of the world. Such a measure of reassurance goes a long way to convince donors further of the moral legitimacy of their cause and the need to continue supporting the organization. Without proactive measures such as these, there is doubt if SCAW would ever reach the prestige and stature it has at present.

Such a process with mobilizing the support of donors and securing their loyalty was validated by Dr. Edberto Villegas, a renowned political economist of the University of the Philippines, who has written much about grassroots nonprofit organizations According to Dr. Villegas (personal communication, March 12, 2007), in an email interview, “There is no other way for non-profit organizations to survive other than securing the loyalty and support of principled individuals who share the same ideals and goals as the organization.” He added that even the large international organizations today such as OxFam and Amnesty International started out relying much on very committed and concerned individuals who gave sufficient funding without expecting any recompense as they saw the act of giving funding as their small way of giving back to the community, society and the world, without having to do the dirty work themselves. However, Dr. Villegas (personal communication, March 12, 2007) also saw such a system of donation as a mere ruse by individuals to exculpate themselves from the painstaking task of active involvement in different advocacies in uplifting the quality of life of the people. He (personal communication, March 12, 2007) said that, “Donations by individuals usually becomes an excuse for people, especially those in the higher strata of any society, to be less guilty for not sincerely engaging in efforts to defeat poverty, hunger and AIDS, as though money entirely can answer for all the social problems these issues perpetuate.”

In all these, it has been established, in the context of a Canada-based non-profit organization such as the Sleeping Children Around the World, that the basic requisites to sustain the flow of donations would be the existence of unity in principle with the donors and employing a proactive approach in ensuring donor support. The former consolidates the commitment of the donors to the ideals, goals and principles of the organization. The latter ensures the loyalty of the donors insofar as assuring them that the money they infuse to the organization are all accounted for and never put to waste. If these basic requisites are met by any non-profit organization to secure adequate funding for its operations, the prospects of these organizations furthering their own causes and advocacies are assured in the long-term.

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