How We Roll: SCC’s Breed of Donor Development

April 4, 2018
How We Roll:  SCC’s Breed of Donor Development

Warmth, sense of welcome, generosity of spirit, tasty food . . . this is the common denominator of words describing every house party hosted by friends of SCC over the last several years as part of SCC’s Social Equity Campaign through the State Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC) program. We are graced to have such strong, committed leaders and friends of SCC whom have contributed their sweat equity to share the gospel and reach out to new people through our Social Equity Campaign.  Over the last 3 years, SCC has worked with a growing base of leaders to host house parties as a way to engage their own networks in SCC’s work through the Social Equity Campaign. The parties have been a great venue for people to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas about the changing landscape of Somerville, and the role SCC can play in keeping Somerville economcally viable for our broad population.

Marlene Fried, one of our Social Equity Campaign leaders who hosted a house party in the fall of 2017, shares her perspective on taking on this role:

What inspired you to host a house meeting for SCC’s Social Equity Campaign?

Marlene: It was a great way to help SCC create affordable, mixed-income housing in Somerville and have a wonderful conversation with an eclectic mix of friends and neighbors.

Why was your role important (personally and/or to SCC)? 

Marlene: We've moved here over 40 years because it was affordable, and we are concerned, like so many others, that Somerville is becoming increasingly economically impossible for so many people. We are honored to be part of SCC's efforts to stem this tide.

When we were first faced with the opportunity to increase our capacity by reaching out to new donors through the Community Investment Tax Credit program in 2014, we puzzled over how we would take this on.  Would we need fancy marketing materials, a new wardrobe and a collection of slick tricks up our sleeves to attract a new base of donors who would be interested in giving at the level eligible for the tax credits?  Would our strategy be one of reaching out to a handful of very wealthy donors or businesses who would amass large piles of tax credits in exchange for a donation to SCC?  And if so, who were these donors and institutions in Somerville, do we even know them?

As we tend to do at SCC when facing an important question like this, we decided to put a committee of people together to make our strategy.  With markers in hand, and flip chart paper on the walls, we charted out pyramids and diagrams and goals and timelines, and created lists of all the yet to be known donors that would flock to us. 

And then we remembered something very simple.  What we know and do best is grassroots organizing.  Everything we do is relational—it’s all about people talking to people who then talk to more people---to build trust, think creatively, and turn ideas into plans and action. We know that the people in our community—our leaders-- are best equipped to steer our ship to realize the kinds of results we need most.  As it turns out, this strategy, which is so much a part of our core identity, works exceptionally well for donor development.  It’s through personal conversations from one person to the next, direct involvement, and the leadership of a core group of members that has enabled SCC to amass an impressive group of donors over these years.  We’re not counting on a handful of large donors, we’re counting on dozens of people who give what they can to support our agenda. Of all the CDC’s participating in the CITC program across the state, SCC occupies one of the top positions for the highest number of individual donors.  This year, 110 people made CITC donations to SCC, compared to an average of approximately 35 donors per CDC across the state.  We are also so pleased to have an 84% retention rate this year—this means that 84% of all CITC donors from 2016 gave again in 2017.  We think, and hope, that this reflects a strong, long-term connection between donors and SCC—and that’s what we truly value most.