What I Learned On My Spring Vacation (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series of two articles, I shared three learnings from my participation as an Association of Fundraising Professionals delegate on a People to People citizen ambassador trip to Brazil. Those first three learnings were:

  1. Start where the people you want to serve already are.
  2. Diversify.
  3. If you want something to go viral, you may have to step out of your comfort zone.

So, be honest — what did you think about the video done by SOS Mata Atlantica? Did it make you say “Wow!” or “Yuck!”?

The fourth learning from this trip also comes from SOS Mata Atlantica Foundation, but is a bit less “in your face.”

Simplify your brand
A few years ago, the staff at SOS Mata Atlantica looked at all its programs and realized that it had 14 different brands. These were all good programs, but it was challenging to communicate the scope of the work since everything had its own identity.

Today, the organization has only four brands, and each one builds on a central theme. Its main logo is reminiscent of the Brazilian flag but has a large corner of the green background torn away, representing the deforestation the organization is working to reverse. Now a Brazilian who has the SOS Mata Atlantica branded credit card from a nationwide bank will recognize that it’s the same organization that is carrying out the public-policy campaign and teaching school children the importance of planting trees.

Measure outcomes

ACER Brasil, which whelps children living in slums succeed in school, careers and relationships, is determined to measure outcomes. Non-government organizations in Brazil have long focused on process more than results. ACER, by contrast, looks at the difference made in the lives of the people it serves. One way this manifests itself is that the ACER board is focusing on sustainable ways to change the situation in which people find themselves. For example, teenagers living in difficult situations work with a coach who helps them create and then execute a plan to improve their lives and the community. This helps ensure that ACER is investing in solutions that work in real life, not just on paper.

This focus on measuring outcomes has paid off for fundraising, as well as in the lives of the community. ACER is receiving funding from corporations and a foundation outside Brazil, through an annual event, and even from a growing group of individual donors (unusual in Brazil).

Share what works

One of ACER’s core commitments is to be a social incubator. It currently has three new nonprofits operating within the context of ACER; these will be allowed to grow and then spin off when they are ready to function independently.

And given the onerous amount of paperwork non-government organizations have to do in Brazil, ACER is serving the NGO community by doing administrative work for them. This not only lets a number of groups share costs, but provides work for young adults from the community who learn accounting and other administrative functions through ACER programs.

Looking at how other nonprofits operate is a beneficial exercise because it both reaffirms what we are already doing, and shows us different ways to approach the same challenges. Thank you to the Sao Paulo, Brazil, nonprofit community for allowing us to prod and poke – and learn from them.

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Author: PJBarden

With a professional career in strategic fundraising that spans more than 35 years, Pamela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to working with nonprofit organizations. She specializes in writing fundraising copy, grant proposals, P.R. materials, instructional articles and blog entries, as well as developing and executing fundraising strategy for her clients. Pamela is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE); an instructor for UCLA Extension School’s Fundraising Certification Program and the University of La Verne, College of Business and Public Management; a frequent webinar speaker; and author of two online courses for UCLA Extension. Pamela earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in 2015; her doctoral project (dissertation) was entitled “Nonprofit Organizations’ Awareness of and Preparation for Legislation, Regulation, and Increasing Scrutiny.” She is a past winner of a Gold Award for Fundraising Excellence and an ECHO Award from DMA; recipient of a Distinguished Instructors Award from UCLA Extension; a weekly columnist for NonprofitPRO (formerly Fundraising Success); and a monthly contributor to Blackbaud’s blog, npEngage.

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