By LANCE CRANMER firstname.lastname@example.org
COLUMBUS – Kimberly Shields was one of hundreds of National Church Residences employees in the crowd at last April’s Puhl/Sanchez Regional Conference listening to the National Church Residences philanthropy team’s “Philanthropy Road Map” presentation.
When it ended, the audience was asked which of them would be interested in learning more about finding ways to raise money in their community.
“I was so excited at the presentation. I threw my hand up,” Kimberly recalls with a laugh. “After I did that I thought, ‘What did I just get myself into?’ But I’m so glad I did it.”
Kimberly, the Service Coordinator at National Church Residences Boardtown Village in Starkville, Mississippi, ended up being one of a select group chosen to participate in the first-ever “Philanthropy Boot Camp” program.
“It lived up to the hype,” Kimberly said.
Launched in the summer of 2015, the Boot Camp pulled together 10 properties from Regional Vice President Todd Puhl’s portfolio to participate in the 12-week program.
“Each week a different topic was covered relating to philanthropy and volunteerism and the participants received specialized training on these topics and more,” said Stacey Kyser, National Church Residences Senior Director of Volunteer Services and Annual Giving. “They were also offered one-on-one coaching to assist them with the specific needs of their individual property and how to identify and work with the potential funders within their community.”
Stacey, who facilitated the program along with other members of the National Church Residences philanthropy team, said that every other week the 10 properties joined in on a conference call and in weeks between received a personal follow-up call to discuss how that lesson directly related to them and their property.
“What we really emphasized here is that it’s about making relationships and being an advocate for your property in the community,” Stacey said. “For reasons, even beyond philanthropy, it’s important for people to be involved in the community and committed to outreach to find donor and volunteers that can help meet the needs of the residents. Ultimately, though building these relationships you start learning about other opportunities that can lead to finding resources for your property.”
Stacey said that the individual approach was very important because rarely do the needs of one property perfectly align with the needs of another.
“Different communities have different make-ups,” she said. “The funding opportunities are different. It really does boil down to knowing your property and what’s available in your specific community.”
Starkville, for example, is a community of less than 24,000 people about two hours northeast of Jackson.
“We are definitely in a small town,” Kimberly said. “When we were in the classes I would hear people talking about the opportunities they had and I knew I’d have to go over 100 miles to find an opportunity like that. But (the instructors) made it so that whether you were in a small town or a big city, there were still ways to get resources.”
Sixty-four National Church Residences properties applied to be part of the first Boot Camp and 10 were chosen.
Stacey said the high number of applicants showed that many properties are interested in learning more about the ways to find resources within their communities.
“The philanthropy team is here to support them with their initiatives and provide them the tools they need to be successful in fundraising,” she said.
At the end of the program all of the participants were invited to complete a grant application and two applicants were funded through grants from the National Church Residences Foundation.
Thanks to the submission put together by Kimberly and property manager Ibia Thomas at Boardtown Village, their property received $1,000 from the National Church Residences Foundation to create a computer room for residents at their property.
“When I started here (three years ago) we had a computer room that was really, really old. We don’t have one right now,” Kimberly said. “This was such a wonderful experience. I gained a lot of skills I’ll be able to use in the future. The grant we got will be for a computer learning lab with three computers and printers and software. With the new lab we’ll be able to do classes for the residents.”
Kimberly added that with the skills she learned in the Philanthropy Boot Camp she is already actively seeking other opportunities.
“My next endeavor will be trying to get some transportation for my residents. Everything here is so spaced out and we need some transportation,” she said. “I’m actually looking forward to another grant and now I feel I have the tools to apply.”
Brooks Manor in Charleston, West Virginia, received the second Foundation grant and received $1,000 to expand socialization opportunities for its residents.
A second Philanthropy Boot Camp is scheduled for this spring. Stacey said those interested can inquire by e-mailing email@example.com for more information.