Learning as I Go

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Rachel Olstein Kaplan is the Associate Director of Yahel - Israel Service Learning, an organization that partners with grassroots organizations to run sustainable, educational volunteer programs in communities throughout Israel.

I used this ROI Micro Grant to receive one-on-one support from a fundraising consultant. One of my major responsibilities in my role as Associate Director of Yahel is to fundraise. Yahel is growing quickly and we have far more volunteers and communities who want to work with us than we can currently fund. One of our primary concerns is learning how to make our model sustainable and to build a funding base that is diverse and does not rely too much on any one funder. The consultant I worked with reviewed past grants that we had submitted and made suggestions about how to make the language more powerful and convincing. She also helped me in preparing some current grants that I am working on.

Reflecting on the experience, much of what I learned was actually information that confirmed so much of what I had already suspected. Fundraising, at the end of the day, is about personal connections and who you know, far more than about the words you write on a page. The best written grant will often fall upon deaf ears if a specific personal connection does not help bring a grant request to the top of the pile. The consultant made suggestions about how to tailor our language to the interests of each foundation and she also encouraged me to reach out personally to foundations before submitting grants “cold turkey.”

What I learned, too - or reaffirmed - was the value of being a part of the ROI network. Working for a small, grassroots organization, it can often be challenging to know where to turn for help. Knowing that I am part of a community designed to support my professional development and help my success is invaluable. I felt in this grant, as I have so often in the past two and a half years since joining ROI, that I have at my back the support of a community and a network, ready and willing to provide whatever kind of support I need in my career. From the individual ROIers whom I can turn to for countless questions, large and small, to the Micro Grants which open up professional development opportunities to me that I would never otherwise have, this recent experience was just one small way in which the community has helped me grow professionally. Because of ROI, I am able to be more successful at the work that I do. Because of ROI, I am able to grow professionally and have access to opportunities that would never otherwise be available to me individually, or to my organization.