By Jessica Williams, Managing Director Stakeholder Relations, Catholic Family Service and Unlocking Potential Foundation

November 15, 2016 is National Philanthropy Day

It’s a predictable rhythm every year: Halloween decorations come down, Christmas decorations start to go up, and a stream of requests from charities flood your mailbox and inbox. If you’ve given before to CFS’s fundraising arm, the UP Foundation, our letter is now on its way to you.

It has been a big challenge for us to figure out how to grab your attention in the mix of all your other mail – to figure out a way to make sure you know your donation is urgently needed.

This year, we were tempted to communicate urgency by talking about the economy. With donations down 20%, it would have been easy to raise the alarm, telling you that unless you support us again, we may have to shut down some of our programs.

The truth is, CFS and UP are stable. We’ve been effective at finding creative ways to say “yes” to more clients while reducing already lean expenses. Proven and strong business planning, controlling costs and the continued support of our funders and donors have allowed us to meet our budget for the immediate future.

Here’s the thing: we’re also dependent on your donations to stay that way.

Unfortunately, “doing OK for now” doesn’t make for a compelling request for support. And if you’re making philanthropic decisions based on who you think is in the most need, as many donors do, UP can’t compete with organizations who say they’ll need to close their doors if you don’t give. Who would have thought that the hard work we’ve been doing to ensure stability and sustainability can actually hurt our fundraising efforts and ability to deliver on our mission?

Now we’re in a pickle.

We need your help to address many urgent needs for Calgary families. It’s urgent that without access to child care, financial support and mental health services, the 120 teen moms in school at Louise Dean Centre are not likely to graduate. It’s urgent that up to 40% of people in the Forest Lawn area – an area our Never Too Late (high school completion) program will expand to in 2017 – don’t have their high school diploma. It’s urgent that we have thousands of people who call us every year for counselling because they need help and their employee benefits have run out – or they no longer have benefits – and can’t afford to pay private counselling fees.

Like us, you want strong families and communities, and you deserve a strong organization working on your behalf. When you hear an organization is in urgent need, dig deep into what they mean. Look for the needs among the people they serve. Then look at the organization’s capacity to serve and continue serving. Find the organizations that can show an effective, sustainable response to the needs you care about. After all, it’s much more than being in urgent need that makes a non-profit organization deserving of your gift.

To read more about the Unlocking Potential (UP) Foundation or to donate, click here.