Charities forced to get inventive

Interested in having your name on the outside of New Life Mission? Pledge $100,000 and it's all yours.

The non-profit organization, which has been helping to feed, clothe and rehabilitate troubled souls for the past 21 years, is selling prime real estate on its sign outside 181 W. Victoria Street - home to the mission's outreach centre.

Just as sports arenas have sold naming privileges to corporations - think Rogers Arena, formerly General Motors Place, and Interior Savings Centre, formerly Sport Mart Place and Riverside Coliseum before that - charities and social agencies are realizing they could, and should, do the same.

And who can blame them? Government funding has dwindled, competition for grant money from foundations is as fierce as ever, and old-school fundraising efforts (mailouts, car raffles, membership drives) just don't bring in the kind of cash needed to keep programs afloat. Those methods may have been swell in the days of generous government funding, but they fall woefully short in the year 2011.

That's the reality charities are struggling with.

Like so many societal and corporate structures that have begun crumbling under the changing influences of a world empowered by the Internet, charities are realizing they must get savvy to the new ways of generating money and support, because no one is going to do it for them.

They are realizing that branding matters as much as the day-to-day delivery of services. A charity with hundreds of followers on Twitter and thousands of 'likes' on its Facebook page isn't compromising its morals or integrity. It's being smart.

It used to be that the only sponsorship names you'd find on a social agency's sign was Kiwanis or Lions or Gyro because service clubs often played a significant role in getting a program off the ground.

You don't see that much, if at all, these days, probably because those clubs are facing the same fundraising pressures as the non-profits like New Life Mission.

So, what's a poor non-profit to do?

Exactly what New Life Mission is doing.

The organization has itemized and segmented its operation into easily digestible chunks for potential donors to sponsor depending on desire and/or financial ability. Want to provide 100 lunches at the outreach centre? That's $325. Want to support a man who's trying to turn his life around? Sponsor a room in the residential recovery program for one year for $5,000. Want to help women in recovery? Become the title sponsor of the House of Ruth for $50,000.

And, if you really want to gain points for being a good corporate citizen, hand over $100,000 and yours could become the company that helps New Life Mission change the lives of citizens who need that help the most.

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