Sancho feeding one of our babies
Fundraising is a recent challenge for us. For over 12 years we had managed to fund our entire operation using our private income. But circumstances change, and we have had to change with them.
Our first hurdle was to find a way to reach donors and offer incentives to give. Enter Global Giving: a fabulous means to connect with donors by offering rewards such as tax-deductible donations and matching donations on double-up days.
Thanks to our engaging subjects of over 200 rehab parrots, we already had a fabulous facebook following, so we decided to use them to tell their own story – “Hello, my name is Sancho and I am a white-fronted parrot. Belize Bird Rescue rescued me from an unpleasant situation: I was sick and miserable and boy, just look at me now! Thanks to my rescuers I will soon be enjoying a free life in the wild” This approach was nothing new for our Facebook posts, but we decided to add a special little fundraising one-liner at the end: “if you would like to help other birds like Sancho, please support Belize Bird Rescue by donating here” (click to Global Giving…)
We got our usual 50,000 likes and 200+ shares and yes, even a few donations, (and we thank you all!), but in among the standard comments of “oh poor baby” and “thank you for all you do” we got The Troll. “Scam, Scam, these people are pulling at your heart strings and bleeding you dry for their own end” This guys went on and on, posting everywhere he could. We were mortified that someone would think of us in this way. We answered each and every one of his comments, tried to reason with him but he would not quit. In the end we posted several more stories to try and ‘bury’ this one. We didn’t mention fundraising at all, and eventually he went away, probably moving on to another unsuspecting organisation that is just trying to make a difference. We still have a very raw nerve when it comes to asking for money. Every time we mention it, in the back of our mind we wonder if people are thinking ‘scam’. It makes us question everything we say or do. It’s certainly a delicate skill, getting the right balance of sympathy to promote action without driving people away by making them feel guilty or annoyed at you for asking. We know exactly how that feels!
We learned from our mistake and are slowly developing better approaches. We have developed a few different tactics: we have written a children’s book and produced T-shirts, both of which are used as incentives to give donations. We have several of our projects listed with Global Giving, which hopefully brings a level of understanding of what we can achieve with limited resources. And more than that, we no longer play the sympathy card. Instead, we are matter of fact about things, informing potential donors how much it actually costs to put Sancho through the rehabilitation programme to release, how many staff we are responsible, our weekly fuel bill, vet bill, feed bill. We try to show people the reality of our day to day struggles in a practical and undramatic way.
This strategy is working slowly. We thank people like yourself for standing by us and believing in us. We tripped and fell and failed. We still have some bruises and, oh my goodness it was embarrassing. But at least we failed forward!