Written by Service-Learning Student Morgan Steiner
In September when I was assigned my Service Learning Partner, Massachusetts Children’s Alliance (MACA), all I knew about MACA was they worked closely with child abuse prevention, intervention, and treatment programs. After working with in a group with three classmates, we have developed a Strategic Communications Plan to help MACA reach their SMART goal, which is to increase their average monthly private giving by 50% from new donors. Along the way, as a group we discovered myriad successes, and some obstacles, largely driven by MACA’s limited resources.
My favorite part of working with MACA is the enthusiasm all of the employees brought to our project. They were curious and excited about Northeastern’s involvement and our ability to help them achieve their goal. Whenever I have a question, the response comes shortly after sending the email with very useful, specific information. In each of our three face-to-face meetings with the team, they were excited to learn more about the opportunities and ways we could help the organization, and they have been very open to our new ideas!
My greatest difficulty, on the other hand, was related to the staff as well. Like many small nonprofits, MACA’s staff is made up of only five people, despite currently having more employees than ever before. This limited human capital, and the reality that MACA employees are already stretched beyond capacity in their current responsibilities, weighed heavily on me as I helped develop plans that MACA could realistically execute. When developing the plan, I had to remember to think of ideas within what I thought they would be able to accomplish.
My biggest personal and professional takeaway is that all of our ideas for fundraising and getting donations can only go so far in the face of realistic human resource constraints. I’m proud that our team stayed focused and pragmatic. We took our larger ideas and narrowed them down to one geographic target – Quincy, Massachusetts. This increases the chances of the project being successful. Additionally, in the future MACA could adapt the plan to apply it to other geographic regions, and expand to make it scalable for a wider region. In this way, we didn’t just give MACA one strategy or location to fundraise in the future, this plan could help them fundraise all over the state of Massachusetts.
Lastly, in my previous fundraising experience, I’ve become convinced that a hand-written thank you note is an essential component of successful long-term fundraising to receive recurring donations. Our group concluded that MACA could not realistically write personal notes to every single person that has donated to MACA. The solution we reached was to take the personalization of a handwritten thank you note, which is proven effective in securing repeat donors, and edit the current thank you template that they send out via email to be more personal. This is an example of narrowing a larger scale idea that we had.
Overall, I really enjoyed my Service Learning partnership because I was able to learn a great amount about MACA through getting to know each staff member and seeing the work that they completed daily.
Morgan Steiner is a Human Services Major from Northeastern’s class of 2022.