This may come as a shock to no one, but starting and running a nonprofit is not easy. Every initiative must be calculated; every mailing needs a purpose; and every volunteer and staff member should overflow with passion for the cause, or it just won’t work. Luckily, since I started working at the Elks National Foundation a year ago, I’ve noticed that last part comes pretty easily.
Recently, I had the privilege to attend a week-long fundraising course taught by two experts in the field—Jeri Pat Gabbert and Tim Seiler from Indiana University. They were engaging and provided fruitful information that seemed applicable to everyone in the class, from the students who worked for established nonprofits like the Salvation Army to one-person fundraising teams there to learn the basics.
The biggest lesson I took away from the course—aside from understanding the fundamentals of fundraising—is that the ENF is a well-oiled nonprofit machine. This is, in part, thanks to the staff, but also to the thousands of volunteers spreading the ENF’s message, getting their hands dirty, and making a difference across the nation. Not all nonprofits have the luxury of a team of Elks.
We might come up with the idea for a new grant or scholarship here at the headquarters in Chicago, but none of these ideas would become reality if it weren’t for Elks volunteers. After they listen to them, they present them to their Lodge in a way only they know will resonate with their fellow Elks and their community.
When participants in the class questioned how the ENF accomplishes so much and helps so many people, I told them it's entirely because of our volunteers. They were in disbelief at the commitment, and we are too sometimes. We know we have volunteers who work day in and day out on grant projects because they know they’re changing lives; the ENF is just the battery that’s keeping the powerhouse running.
So, if you’re reading this and you volunteer with the Elks, I want you to know that, not only is your dedication noticed, it’s appreciated and it’s imperative. No idea from the ENF is too big and no mission is too idealistic, and it’s because of you.
If you’re reading this and you’ve never volunteered with the Elks, I encourage you to consider it. Whether you’re a student in high school, a full-time employee, or a supporter of another nonprofit, the more people that get together to do good, the more good that will be done. That’s the art of fund raising.