Every Dollar Counts

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Cassandra Sanborn & Maggie Johnson

Although the Clinic’s two-week run in this year’s Brackets For Good competition is at an end, fundraising is a year-round necessity. Cassandra Sanborn, Director of Engagement, spends her days working on grant writing and reporting, on planning events and solicitations. And together, with Development Coordinator Maggie Johnson, she conceives of and implements strategies to reach out to and engage with new donors. The task of asking for money is not an easy one, but Cassandra says, “Fundraising research says that the number one reason people give money is because they’re asked.”

Committed to honing their process, they never want there to be a disconnect between the donor and the Clinic—a faceless person writing a check to some unfeeling entity. “We try to share stories pretty regularly in all of the fundraising materials that the donor receives,” Cassandra says, “So that they’re seeing the impact that their gift had on a specific person.” Maggie adds, “We try really hard to make them feel like they don’t just give us money, but legitimately are partners in this.”

The two are not just paying lip service to the idea of relationship building. In fact, the first Wednesday of every month, they meet with new and potential donors in various coffee shops around the city. They believe there is much to be gained by interacting with donors in this way. Cassandra says, “Our community members are smart, and so we want to hear them, not only because we want to give them information, but because we know they can help us improve our services.” In addition to these coffee shop meet-ups, donors can also arrange a tour of the office during new-client intakes, so they can get a sense of the work that the Clinic does.

A recent shift in donors has been especially encouraging to the Engagement Team. Maggie says, “2014 was the first year that we really had a surge in first-time donors who used to be clients … Now that they’re not clients anymore, they want to give back to people who are in their positions, which has been incredibly moving for us. We have clients sending in one dollar or five dollars—just whatever they can spare.”

Indeed, apart from grants and contracts, much of the Clinic’s work is buttressed by donations from individuals and churches. Programs like Project PEACE and Immigration, as well as less exciting, but necessary expenses like paper and postage, are made possible through such generosity. Even small donations can have a mighty impact. Maggie recounts seeing a conflict mediation workshop for Project PEACE that was completely packed. “My immediate thought went back to Giving Tuesday when we told people that $15 could cover a family going to that workshop,” she says. “And I just thought of all the people who donated $15 to make it possible for that roomful of people to be there.” And those smaller donations can add up too. Asylum cases, often literally a matter life and death, cost upwards of $1500. “So even people who can give $15 or $25, you’re still a part of making up that larger amount,” Cassandra says. “And, at the end of the day, that’s not so much to pay to save someone’s life.”

To learn more about how you can partner with the Clinic or to arrange a tour, please contact Maggie at mjohnson@nclegalclinic.org or visit our website to make a donation now.