Last September, Kern Community Foundation, in a public-private partnership with the Kern County Board of Supervisors and fundraising technology and training giant Network for Good, announced a unique technical assistance grant opportunity for Kern County nonprofits.

Called Jumpstart, the program was conceived as a revenue generation model that weds the high-touch nurturing and cultivation of long-term relationships with individual donors to the high-tech use of donor development software in order to help nonprofits diversify and expand general operating dollars.

Locally, the grant was designed to allow five agencies, one from each county supervisorial district, to receive 12 months of technical assistance and access to user-friendly fundraising software from Network for Good, for a mere $79 a month.

Such a highly affordable opportunity was made possible thanks to a $3,000-per-agency subsidy made up of $800 from NFG, and $2,200 from the county board, with each supervisor contributing from their discretionary fund.

Kern Community Foundation’s contribution consisted of program launch, including publicity and the convening of a town hall meeting to help NFG answer questions for applicants, and grant application management and monitoring through the Foundation’s online grants platform.

High hopes at program launch

“Jumpstart will give nonprofits the ability to work smarter, not harder, by building upon the important fundraising work they have already begun,” Kristen Beall, Kern Community Foundation president and CEO, said at the time, referring to the many donor contacts Jumpstart applicants had obtained through the Foundation’s successful Give Big Kern 2018 online fundraising initiative.

Out of 15 Jumpstart applicants, five agencies were selected to receive the subsidy throughout 2019:

District 1: Indian Wells Valley Economic Development Corporation

District 2: Have A Heart Humane Society

District 3: Bakersfield Master Chorale

District 4: Bike Bakersfield/Bike Arvin

District 5: Bakersfield Homeless Center

Despite not having received a subsidy, a sixth agency, Independence Through GRACE, a faith-based enrichment program in Downtown Bakersfield that works to enhance the lives of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, decided Jumpstart was worth paying the full tuition amount of $3,948.

Big smiles six months later

Close to half a year since launch, we received a glowing report from Nate Nasralla, the certified fundraising executive and managing director with Network for Good who was the main presenter at last year’s Jumpstart town hall meeting. Some of his feedback highlights the accomplishments of individual agencies, including:

That Have A Heart Humane Society “has taken a very, very big leap forward, moving 580 paper records to an organized and clean digital record of all supporters,” and proactively e-mailed donors who have moved out of the county, in an effort to retain their support.

That Bike Bakersfield/Bike Arvin “has spent time cleaning and consolidating 1,360 contact records, which is the core of a successful fundraising program long term,” and is working with their Jumpstart coach to create more impactful communications to donors.

That Bakersfield Master Chorale “has already raised 80 percent of last year’s total revenue, less than just six months into Jumpstart.”

For her part, Catherine Waldon, Executive Director of Independence Through GRACE, raves about her relationship with her fundraising coach in a testimonial that is part of Nasralla’s report.

“During my coaching sessions,” Waldon writes, “I always get great ideas on how to leverage our current donors.” This worked “wonderfully” for Waldon during this year’s Give Big Kern online day of giving, and with good reason: Her agency, which was the top fundraiser in the Give Big Kern 2018 campaign with $20,158, outdid itself more than two times over in this year’s Give Big Kern, raising $49,485.

“Also, the information and tutorials from Network for Good are endless and exceptionally helpful,” Waldon continues. “Any questions I have are always answered, and if I ever need more help, I just press a button and, ‘Poof!’ help is on the way. Network for Good always responds until I solve whatever issue arises.”

From coaching to centralized data storage to the generation of reports, emails, letters, and even texts, she says, the program is especially helpful and cost-effective for small nonprofits — which means a lot more coming from the one nonprofit that didn’t get a subsidy to participate in the program’s year-one rollout and still found investing in it worthwhile.

“We are thrilled with the impact this unique collaboration is already generating and hope this cohort of participants serves as a shining example of what long-term donor cultivation using a 21st century approach looks like,” Beall said.

Louis Medina is the director of community impact for Kern Community Foundation. You can reach him at Louis@kernfoundation.org.

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