And quite often, it changes lives.
A powerful example of this happened during the final months of 2014. Housing Resources Inc. is a nonprofit agency in Kalamazoo, Michigan, that helps the homeless or those at risk of becoming homeless find permanent, stable housing. It’s an outstanding organization with a dedicated staff helping thousands of people find a place to call home. (Full disclosure: I serve on HRI’s board and have provided PR support.)
Last year was especially challenging. According to HRI Executive Director Michelle Davis, requests for assistance were double what they were in 2013. With such a huge need, Davis and her team decided to take a different approach in appealing for support. They committed themselves to putting 80 households in permanent housing in time for the Christmas season.
“Every family deserves a home,” Davis said when HRI launched Project Home For The Holidays last October. “Sometimes shelters are necessary as a temporary strategy for this basic need. But the only solution to homelessness is housing.”
In setting a people goal instead of a financial goal, HRI was able to connect the Kalamazoo community with the opportunity to make a powerful difference in the lives of others. HRI gave regular updates to news media and engaged people in the effort through social media, urging supporters to post selfies with paper snowflakes and the hashtag #KzooHome4Holidays.
The result? HRI estimated it would need to raise $50,000 to place those 80 households; supporters gave $120,000. By New Year’s Eve, 87 households—including 98 adults and 128 children—had homes of their own. The additional funds will allow HRI to serve many more people.
The response was strong because HRI forged a human connection between supporters and the people they helped. Every gift became more than just a tax deduction; it became a “Welcome Home” mat for real people in real need.