At the onset of COVID-19 and the pandemic’s impact on the nonprofits we serve, ESC piloted a new pro bono initiative for organizations who might not otherwise have access to our services due to budgetary constraints.
Our first client Ready, Set, Read! promotes childhood literacy development by training parents in low-income bilingual households to read aloud to their children. And while Ready, Set, Read! has found success programmatically, its Executive Director Deb Burgin had been seeking ways to find long-term, financial sustainability through a more strategic fundraising approach.
“When ESC asked me if Ready, Set, Read would be willing to be the first nonprofit pro bono project, I jumped at the chance! For a small nonprofit with few resources, time is always an issue. Before, we had focused on programs rather than fundraising. We knew we had to add fundraising as a priority on our list.” – said Deb.
The pro bono consulting engagement that ensued looked different than ESC’s typical consulting engagements. For instance, instead of focusing on a single capacity building area, the engagement was customized to touch different aspects for strategizing and strengthening both fund development and board development.
In fact, the fluid nature of the pro bono initiative made it possible for ESC consultant Leslie Horowitz to tailor Ready, Set, Read!’s needs specific to the culture of the organization. With this in mind, Deb and Leslie set out to shift Ready, Set, Read!’s fundraising culture through the creation of a fund development plan and resetting the board’s involvement in fundraising. Leslie also led a couple of board training sessions to help them better understand their roles in fundraising.
“Without ESC’s generosity to consider Ready, Set, Read for a pro bono project, we as a small nonprofit would never have had access to a consultant and coach like Leslie. Every time Leslie spoke with us, we came away with so much knowledge — and felt informed and enthusiastic about our next move,” said Deb.
Through the fund development plan, Deb began diversifying Read, Set, Read!’s fundraising efforts through individual giving, whereas the organization had previously solely focused on corporate and foundation grants. And although there have been unexpected challenges in cultivation and stewardship pThrough the fund development plan, Deb began diversifying Read, Set, Read!’s fundraising efforts through individual giving, whereas the organization had previously solely focused on corporate and foundation grants. And although there have been unexpected challenges in cultivation and stewardship practices in a remote environment, Deb, her board, and team have been quick and creative in adapting their outreach and engagement. With their first virtual workshop series successfully launched, Deb and her team implemented two fundraising events online, with plans for a third one this September.
“We continue to focus our marketing and fundraising messaging on leading with the mission” Deb emphasizes, “as recommended by our consultant, Leslie, and it’s working!” With new fund opportunities arising as a result of their intentional donor stewardship, Ready, Set, Read! continues to provide bilingual literacy workshops to low-income parents and kids in a digital format, noting the importance of sustaining the learning for both the staff and Los Angeles community.