In 2009, the Northwest Texas Council got some distressing news. Volunteers and professionals learned the council would lose funding from a major agency, effective immediately.
That’s when the Boy Scouts got to work. Volunteers met with the council to discuss ways to replace the missing funding source.
A few months later, they did more than just replace the lost money. They elevated the fundraising abilities of an entire group of life-changing nonprofits by creating Hands to Hands, a community fund that brings together eight agencies in Wichita Falls, Texas.
By combining with other community organizations, council volunteers and professionals regained the ability to approach local corporations and their employees for donations.
Note that many companies won’t let individual groups, like Boy Scout councils, conduct campaigns inside their walls. But they will let a collection of agencies, like Hands to Hands, make presentations and offer payroll-deduction options for employees wanting to support their community.
Hands to Hands, which will begin its seventh campaign this fall, was an instant success. The fund raised $350,000 in that first year, ensuring the BSA local council and the other agencies could continue to provide incredible experiences for young people.
I recently spoke with the teams at the Northwest Texas Council and Hands to Hands to learn more. Theirs is a model for success that could be replicated in other councils that have lost funding.
Forming a team
Ty Thacker, a council volunteer, said that when the funding went away in 2009, it impacted the council’s ability to serve youth.
Not willing to accept that fate, the council thanked the previous funding agency for their support through the years. Then they got to work.
“We’ve taken the positive road, the high road — and haven’t looked back,” Thacker says.
Hands to Hands includes the local BSA council and these seven agencies:
- The Arc of Wichita County
- Boys and Girls Club of Burkburnett
- Camp Fire North Texas
- Child Advocates (CASA)
- Children’s Aid Society (CAS)
- Friendly Door of Iowa Park
- Straight Street
Together, these agencies “feed the elderly, watch over neglected and abused children, care for children and adults with developmental disabilities, provide shelter for children living in harm’s way, and grow and develop tomorrow’s community leaders,” a statement on the Hands to Hands website reads.
Keeping the lights on
The success of Hands to Hands became overwhelming by the spring of 2010, and “it became evident to me that we’re all very busy, and we weren’t going to survive with a bunch of volunteers trying to keep a communitywide campaign going,” Thacker says.
So they turned to Nancy Brown to serve as executive director of Hands to Hands. That’s when things got even better.
“She keeps the lights on,” Thacker says. “She’s a go-getter.”
Giving more to local agencies
Hands to Hands operates with almost no overhead. Each agency gives Hands to Hands an annual payment for campaign costs, but that’s about it.
“At least 98 cents of every dollar collected during the campaign goes directly to the agency or agencies you choose,” Brown says. “That’s an enormous difference from other community chest organizations.”
And because the agencies operate as a team, they can conduct payroll-deduction campaigns in “businesses, industries, banks, schools, local hospitals, city governments — anywhere they’ll let us go,” she says. These campaigns would be impossible for any agency to conduct alone.
When visiting a local business, Hands to Hands conducts a short presentation featuring programs from each agency.
“They sell themselves,” Brown says. “It’s just a 12-minute presentation, but at the end everyone at the table is laughing and/or wiping their eyes.”
Appealing to other Scout councils
Randy Hoenig, Scout executive of the Northwest Texas Council, doesn’t want the success of Hands to Hands to be a secret.
“We could see this happening all over the United States,” he says.
And other councils who try a similar model wouldn’t just benefit from the increased funding. They’d also gain exposure, says Jim Rushton, revenue growth specialist with the BSA.
“It’s not just the money,” he says. “It’s also the public awareness for these agencies.”