Through Open Doors: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Our Capital Campaign -

Friends & Neighbors

Through Open Doors: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Our Capital Campaign

In November of 2020, when Beth Vann-Turnbull asked Becky McNeer and me to co-chair the Opening Doors for Families campaign, I hadn’t fully realized that we weren’t starting a capital fundraise, rather we were beginning to wrap one up. For the world, we kicked off our campaign on October 20, but we’ve been raising toward our $4.4 million goal for over 3 years now. For the next several months, we’ll be celebrating how far we’ve come, we’ll be marching toward our ultimate fundraising goal, and we’ll be constructing our expansion. We will also be extending invitations to those in the community who don’t know us to become a part of our family and help us fight to end homelessness.

We’re asking individuals and families to help us get over the finish line by raising $250,000 before the end of our campaign, just a fraction of the total needed for our expansion. Since so much time and effort goes into planning and launching a big capital raise, we wanted to invite you behind the scenes so you can get a look at the work that goes into it and the people who are making it happen.

Through this series, I’ll share a unique perspective that I hope widens your understanding of the sweeping effort required to pull this off and connects you closer to our mission.

HFF Board Members (from Left to Right): Elizabeth Nice, Becky McNeer, Will Melton, and Kelly Evans

Finding Permanent Solutions for Families in Need

I joined the board at Housing Families First in March of 2020 after connecting with Beth through our Leadership Metro Richmond Quest Class of 2020. Through past board service, I’ve worked to both collect food for and feed people who are experiencing homelessness. Through my observations in that work, I’ve always been discouraged by the nature of the solutions available to actually remedy homelessness.

When I learned about the rapid rehousing model that Housing Families First leads with, I saw a solution that made sense. Providing shelter, addressing needs surrounding sustainability, providing a robust support system, and extending much-needed guidance all provide for a successful model for moving homeless families into permanent, stable housing.

Since joining the board, I’ve had the great honor to call on supporters and thank them for their contributions. In every single one of those conversations, donors express their unwavering support for Housing Families First and often tell of an urgent need to give because of a feeling of helplessness during a sustained crisis. For the same reasons, I have also felt an overwhelming urge to give. It is that common refrain that gives me the confidence that we’ll cross the finish line and usher more families into safe and stable homes.

Opening Doors for Families Campaign Ambassador Skylar and Mom Represent HFF at the ODF Public Launch Celebration

It Takes a Village, Not Just Today

Housing Families First embarked on creating its most ambitious long-range philanthropy plan in January of 2020. One of the key principles of our philanthropic charter is that we value gifts of time, talent, and treasure — because it takes more than just dollars to run this operation. As we began discussing our goals for the Opening Doors for Families campaign, we didn’t want to just focus on a monetary goal, we wanted to grow the size of our family.

In addition to monitoring progress toward our fundraising goal, we’re also tracking a number of non-revenue metrics like social media followers, email subscriber growth, donor retention and other key data points that will help us to fund our expanded operation once construction is complete. For instance, one big initiative that we’re championing for the duration of the campaign is A Donor a Day with a goal to add one new donor to our rolls for every day of the campaign. It’s all about power in numbers, and inviting our neighbors to become a part of our family.

In order to grow our family in an authentic way, we must be ready to give each and every contributor a personal experience with Housing Families First that connects them to our cause. As a part of this campaign, we’ll be introducing a host of recognition events and initiatives and we’ll communicate with donors, volunteers and community partners in a more personalized way. We’re already identifying and will continue to think up new creative ways for supporters to connect with us and with one another.

Campaign Ambassador Skylar Steals the Show at Our Public Launch and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony in October!

We’re Celebrating & We Invite You to Join Us

Having raised $4,136,825 as of posting this, we’re already in celebration mode. We’re planning some exciting fundraisers, donor appreciation events, public art installations, new community partnerships, a new flashy peer-to-peer fundraising platform full of contests and awards, and so much more. Our brainstorming sessions are so full of ideas that we’re playing rock-paper-scissors in board meetings to decide which we can fit into the schedule. (Not really, but there is really so much creativity coming out of our planning sessions.)

Over the coming months, I’ll take a pause from time to time to acknowledge those who are working behind the scenes and share more details about what goes into making all of this happen. I hope you’ll read along as I document this pursuit and I invite you to celebrate with us along the way.

Right now, at this moment, you can take three small steps toward showing your support in a very BIG way and it will only take 3 minutes.

1. Sign up for our email newsletter and never miss an opportunity to participate in our events and celebrations.

2. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn and engage with our posts when you see them. Every like, comment, or share gives us just a little more exposure to the community.

3. Commit to making a monthly recurring gift. Even if you just divide your annual gift by 12 (and add a dollar or two) it helps us grow our individual gifts and project how many families we can serve in the future. It will also serve as a regular reminder to you of your important contribution and valued connection to Housing Families First.

Of course, there is always more you can do, such as organizing a Peer-To-Peer campaign or volunteering for one of our events. If you have any questions about ways you can contribute or partner with us, please reach out. Our doors are always open.

Will Melton is a member at large on the Housing Families First Board of Directors and co-chairs the Opening Doors for Families Campaign. He is the founder and CEO of Xponent21, a digital marketing firm committed to making the world a better place to work.