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Friday, July 24, 2020 | Volume 6

Welcome to the sixth Newspark newsletter.


We keep hearing from our friends in the nonprofit sector that the game has changed when it comes to fundraising. In the absence of in-person galas and auctions, nonprofit workers are taking to Zoom and learning to utilize a wealth of virtual resources to reach out to constituents and potential donors. And more than ever, the pressure is on to have a good social media presence.

We wanted to know more. And who better to ask than a nonprofit fundraising pro? Check out our interview with nonprofit consultant Janet Sherlip, below. And as always, catch up on the latest Newspark news at the bottom of this email.

If you work at a charity or are a nonprofit professional and would like to be featured in our next edition of the Newspark newsletter, shoot us an email at outreach@newspark.us.

You're one click away from making a difference.

Until next week,
The Newspark team

Newspark had a chance this week to talk with Janet Sherlip, the Developent Director for Trusted World. Trusted World provides resources — at no cost — to agencies and organizations that are helping people in need in Texas. Among their partners are churches, transition homes, schools and social workers. You can get updates in real time about the work Trusted World is doing on their Twitter page, here.

Janet is also the founder of JKS by Design, a North Texas-based nonprofit consultant firm. Previously, she's worked with March of Dimes, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Frankie's Friends.

We spoke with Janet about fundraising during the pandemic, the ways in which she revamped Trusted World's development strategy and her favorite nonprofit buzzword. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.


Newspark: How long have you consulting for nonprofits, and for Trusted World?

Janet Sherlip: I had an agency in Florida, and then I moved back to Texas (I’m originally from here) in 2017. And literally within a week of getting here, I got a phone call from a friend of mine who was living in Dallas, and said “Janet, I have an organization I want to introduce you to, they need help.” So it was kind of the perfect opportunity.

NP: What were some of the fundamental strategies you brought to Trusted World when you came on in 2017?

JS: A lot of different strategies. The CEO, Michael Garrett, he is excellent in Six Sigma and warehousing and manufacturing, that’s his background. He had a vision for Trusted World, saw a need in the community — that there was this underserved population that was facing situational poverty. He realized if we could step in, we might be able to turn it around for those families or individuals facing situational poverty and start decreasing generational poverty.

And then he thought, If I can find a way of getting these resources to those individuals without having to hire case managers and do the case management work, that would even be better.

Michael figured it out, and realized that if he went to first responders — social workers, school counselors, essentially the people that are on the ground meeting with these individuals — that they might be helping these individuals with mental or physical distress, but the first few things they need to do is assist them with clothing and food and toiletries. And once they can get that handled, then they can go and focus on the bigger picture and the bigger need. But for them to try and get those first things handled, it was taking 30, 60, 90 days because of the paperwork and the mere process of that all. So that’s where Michael stepped in.

I came on board, I’m like, “This is brilliant. How are you being funded?” And he said, “Well, that’s kind of our biggest challenge. We have one angel investor, but we’ve really got to diversify.” And I said, “Yeah, absolutely, because if you have an angel investor and they go away, you go away.”

So I said to him, first and foremost, because we are not out in the public and we’re working behind the scenes, we got to get people in the door. So step one was engaging volunteers and getting volunteers into the door, physically into Trusted World, so they can see first hand what they’re doing. Cause you got to be able to feel, smell, touch it to really get involved.

Step two, getting into the school systems, working through the schools and the counselors and the social workers to assist the unsheltered students and also assist those families that are slipping down the poverty line, because the first person who’s gonna see it is the teacher or the social worker. And if there’s a student in need, there’s a whole family in need.

We also started going into the community talking, with local leaders, the local rotaries, etc. So through those various avenues, we started expanding our donor base, and that list went from half a page to three or four pages.

So then what happens next is Hurricane Harvey hit in Texas in 2017. And we were called upon from the Dallas County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) to help out. Within three months, we had worked with 22,000 volunteers, processed millions of dollars worth of in-kind resources and then dispersed it down to Houston when it was needed, rather than just collecting and then immediately shipping it down there. By September 1, we found a temporary location at a 340,000 square foot warehouse.

So with Hurricane Harvey, and those volunteers and all the recognition that we’re getting through the media, that catapulted us from just a few pages of potential donors to now over 6,000 constituents.

Then after Hurricane Harvey kind of fizzled out a little bit, things kind of settled down and we rested back into where we are kind of today, up until COVID happened, and now we’re kind of back up in that Hurricane Harvey mode — constantly trying to find and adapt new ways of getting the food clothing and personal care items out into the community.

Trusted World in action, distributing food through local police departments. Courtesy of Janet Sherlip.

NP: What is one fundraising or marketing trend that’s popular right now that you’re really excited about?

JS: I love the virtual aspect of everything. I like it because, number one, as somebody that’s trying to get the message out there about Trusted World, and especially in a big market like Dallas-Fort Worth, sometimes I spend over an hour in my car trying to get from meeting A to meeting B, and then an hour in my car getting back to my office. And half my day was wasted just driving up and down the freeway. Now, I can jump from meeting A to meeting B in a number of minutes.

Sometimes, it’s hard to get people to come into the distribution center and take a tour to learn more about us. Now, we’re able to do virtual meetings. And so once a month we’re doing these online virtual chats. And we just kind of give an update as to where we are and what we’re doing with Trusted World, and have a conversation with whoever’s interested. I love that. And because it’s online, people feel very comfortable reaching out. They don’t have to turn their video screen on. They can keep that off. But they can ask their questions and they can type it or speak it, whichever one. That’s been really good for us.

NP: Do you think any of the transformations we're seeing now in fundraising strategies to adapt to COVID-19 are going to be permanent?

JS: I work with another nonprofit here in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. We just hosted a virtual event and raised the same amount, a little bit more actually than we did last year at the gala. We put this online virtual event together in about a month, month in a half, and raised essentially the same amount (if not a little bit more) and spent much less. And it sounds like moving forward they want to keep the virtual platform, because it is a way of engaging people and raising the funds without the additional expenses. And I am hearing a lot in the community for those who have done virtual events that they’re finding them to be very successful.

NP: There seems to be a lexicon with nonprofits, and I’m interested in how that plays out when you’re hearing those words all the time —whether you get sick of them or if they just become part of your vocabulary every day.

JS: Yeah, I think they become part of your vocabulary. “Best practices” is probably my favorite nonprofit phrase. I refer to that all the time, I’m like, “You know, best practice, best practice.” Because the one thing about nonprofit management is it works if you follow the formula. There’s a very simple formula. If you follow that formula, it works every single time.

Click here to donate to Trusted World.
Newspark news
  • We were featured in an Indianapolis Business Journal newsletter last week. Check it out here.
  • Coming soon: the new Newspark Chrome extension. It's still in the works, but we'll be sure to keep you posted when it comes out. We think you're going to love it.
  • We're continuing to connect with charities and have signed several nonprofits that are based in Indiana, so our featured charities can be as local to the content as possible. If you know of any charities with which you'd like us to partner, shoot us an email at founders@newspark.us
  • An article we ❤️: "What Big Philanthropy Can Learn From the Citizen Networks Helping Us Survive Today’s Crises," via The Chronicle of Philanthropy. It's an interesting look at the lessons we can all learn from mutual-aid philanthropy. Read that here.
Note: Trusted World is one of Newspark's charity partners.

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