M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

The Murdock Trust invests in capacity-building projects at nonprofit organizations across the Pacific Northwest. When one grant helps create new opportunities and increase the impact of a nonprofit’s work down the line, we call it the ripple effect. The Stories of Impact series on our website is intended to help shed light on the outcomes driven by some of the outstanding organizations the Murdock Trust has been fortunate to support in recent years.

In their 2018-19 fiscal year, Hand in Hand Kids received just over $400,000 in revenue and community donations. Two years later, they brought in more than $1 million in a single fiscal year. Non-monetary gifts had increased twelvefold, and donor relationships and community partnerships were stronger than ever. This enabled Hand in Hand to better accomplish its mission of serving children and families in need.

The difference? A new development director that had been the “missing link” in their fundraising plan. Thanks to the right person at the right time, Hand in Hand was poised to serve their community during COVID-19, even engaging a new donor base during the pandemic, increasing staff capacity, and expanding its impact.

A group of children stand under a colorful balloon arch.

Hand in Hand Kids

Hand in Hand Kids supports children and families in crisis through the foundational Christian teachings of respect, unconditional love, and compassion. Founded in 2010 by a group of foster parents, social workers, and child advocates, Hand in Hand seeks to improve how children are cared for in the foster system. It does this through outreach programs that connect families to resources, a Safe Place shelter that provides 72-hour emergency care for children initially entering the foster care system, and other wraparound support for families in need.

In 2018, Hand in Hand decided to apply for a grant from the Murdock Trust to fund a new development director. For eight years, the organization had been faithfully serving communities in Everett, WA, but they were ready to grow their reach. As a small staff of seven at the time, they needed new development support to get there.

“The need for the grant was because the need for services had exceeded our current capacity,” said Amber Sosa, Grants Manager at Hand in Hand. “We realized that if we wanted to serve families in the community well, we needed to invest in someone to help us raise funds.”

Nobody could have seen COVID-19 coming, but it’s almost as if Hand in Hand had a hint. After the Trust approved the grant, a development director was hired in 2019 and began creating plans, systems, and social media accounts. When the pandemic hit in 2020, they had just enough fundraising structure in place to be ready for what came next.

“We could not have asked for a better time to receive these funds,” said Amber. “When we applied, our goal was to meet a certain need, but then [in 2020] the need [had grown] huge. But we had a person to do that.”

In March 2020, the organization saw the same number of people that typically came through their doors in an entire month, come through in a single day. As children suddenly needed lunches that they weren’t getting in school, newly migrated families needed resources, and all families needed support, Hand in Hand was ready.

A room full of clothes and supplies with several adults and children sorting through them.

Establishing Connections and Building Capacity

Though the pandemic challenged their existing ways of fundraising, because Hand in Hand had a dedicated staff member to keep donations coming, they were able to rise to the challenge and succeed in a few key ways.

First, because they had just established a social media presence and begun to engage the younger members of their community, they had a fresh new donor base ready to help however they could.

“With social media as a fundraising tool, we reached that younger generation. It was amazing, because I felt like they were just waiting,” said Amber. “They were ready to be asked, and they were like, ‘Okay, cool, I am in.’ That was beautiful, because it challenged what I thought a funder could look like.”

Having a development director also allowed Hand in Hand to establish greater connections with grantors during COVID-19. Foundations who pivoted their funding priorities during the pandemic turned to nonprofits like Hand in Hand who were on the ground in their communities, asking where they needed help most. The development and grants teams at Hand in Hand were able to build those relationships and establish connections that have outlasted the pandemic.

“Maybe we didn’t always get the funding,” said Amber, “but we helped shift their funding priorities, and Hand in Hand has always been about community and relationships. And so [having a development director] was the missing link that we needed with grantors, and that we needed with millennials. So it’s been really powerful and shifted all our mindsets on fundraising.”

A woman wearing jeans and a black sweatshirt smiles for the camera while moving a cart of food outdoors in a parking lot.

The new development director also gave existing staff greater capacity to focus on serving the community directly. Prior to this hire, fundraising fell to the leadership team, grant writers, and program directors, but it was something every staff member had to think about.

“When I was helping a family, in the back of my head was always, ‘Where are these funds coming from? And how are we going to be able to do this for another community member?’ A lot of that pressure was on our line staff,” said Amber.

With a dedicated staff member for fundraising and development, existing staff were freed up to do what they do best.

“It was amazing to see the spirits of our staff lifted, but also some of the stress was lifted. Now our staff can really just focus on the families first.”

After all, the families are why Hand in Hand exists.

Families First

Since investing in a new development director, Hand in Hand has been better able to serve families who have newly moved to the United States, connecting them to resources within days of their arrival. They have been able to reach more children through outreach and Safe Place, and they have invested deeper into their community through an advisory council comprised of those they seek to serve. And as COVID-19 demonstrated, they have become an organization that is ready for whatever comes next, relying on the community of partners they’ve built rather than scrambling to find funds the moment they need them.

To all those at Hand in Hand who have helped build a community ready to help children and families when they need it most, thank you. May your service be rewarded and may your work flourish!

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