Meet Debbie Yones, Executive Director of Voices of Hope for Aphasia in St. Petersburg, FL. Voices of Hope for Aphasia is a nonprofit organization focused on supporting individuals and families who have received an aphasia diagnosis – a language disorder commonly diagnosed after a stroke that disrupts an individual’s ability to communicate. Simply put, aphasia is the loss of language – not intellect. The disruption in an individual’s ability to communicate can lead to isolation and depression; and, what’s more, aphasia is not well known or understood – leading to those needing support not knowing where or how to get it.
Debbie works with a team of 3 to create a welcoming, engaging community for those living with aphasia throughout Tampa Bay. All of the activities VOHA offers are dually focused on supporting clients working to strengthen their speech ability AND creating a fun, inclusive community atmosphere for those that understand life with aphasia deeply. Despite VOHA’s small size, the organization not only “rode the wave” of COVID – 19, but branched out to virtual sessions, expanding the services they offer and the number of people they serve in a given year. In early 2021, VOHA proudly reached a huge organizational milestone – opening their first-ever dedicated aphasia community center in St. Petersburg! (Interested in learning more about Voices of Hope for Aphasia? You can visit their website here.)
Debbie and the entire VOHA team worked with Banyan Nonprofit Strategy throughout the Fall/Winter of 2020 to assess their current fundraising strategies and build an actionable, sustainable development plan that would support this expanded programming for years to come. Today we are checking back in with Debbie to see how things have been going in the past 6 months!
Prior to working with Banyan, we floundered a bit in our fundraising planning. We were successful in raising individual donations but began hitting a wall that would have stopped us from growing the organization. We consistently relied on the same set of major donors for the majority of our funding, which was a risky situation to be in. Grant writing was a new revenue channel for us and we spent (wasted) a lot of time investigating and applying to foundations that did not result in awards – or were small and didn’t offset the effort. As the Executive Director, I worried about maintaining and developing a strong revenue path for the organization and was unsure of how to go about this effectively. We recognized, as an organization, that we had reached a point where we needed guidance and structure from a professional.
From the first interaction, during the discussion to prepare the quote, it was clear that Bonnie’s approach was thoughtful, client-focused, and knowledgeable. Other quotes were standard format, while the one from Banyan took into consideration our specific needs, our size, and with an eye to our future. That attention to our particular needs carried through in all of our discussions, deliverables, and final product.
Banyan Nonprofit Strategy rates are designed to be manageable for a small nonprofit. Bonnie understands the specific needs of a small, but growing organization, so her rates are reasonable and her work is highly efficient so every moment is valuable and generates productive and effective outcomes.
We now have an effective development strategy and an achievable, sustainable plan to execute that strategy! The work we completed with Banyan has significantly streamlined processes for me and my staff and Board, and has generated a substantial increase in individual donors, donation amounts (both in $ and quantity), and successful grant applications. I now refer to the plan developed by Bonnie as my “bible” — I know what my weekly, monthly and quarterly goals are, and know exactly what activities will help me reach those goals.
We are eternally grateful for Bonnie’s professionalism, expertise, and especially her ability to very quickly understand our particular mission and the value that we provide to the community. This understanding threaded through all of her work but was especially helpful in her ability to update our organizational messaging. Her ability to communicate our value in a way that reflected our plans for growth and our commitment to our community has been extremely helpful in so many areas of our work. From fundraising campaigns and grants to social media and conversations with individual donors, the statement of support Bonnie helped us to craft has resulted in increased engagement and giving and productivity/efficiency for our team.
I, personally, am grateful to Bonnie as she helped me find confidence in my role as a fundraiser. Having come from a background in corporate leadership and program development, I always felt like I was not doing enough – or not doing the “right” things – to secure VOHA’s financial future. Bonnie helped me to understand what strategies would be most impactful for me to focus on, what to delegate, and what we, as an organization, needed to have the courage to say “no” to. Bonnie helped demystify the fundraising world so that I can be sure the work I am doing will pay off in the long run. My days are more focused because of my time working with Bonnie.
But truly, beyond our dedicated work together for three months last fall/winter, in the time since Bonnie has made herself consistently available to answer questions and provide one-off support when and where we need it. Her coffee chats have also been incredibly valuable for me. It is wonderful to know that there is a little safety net – who already deeply understands our mission and goals – that is available to help when needed! Having the ability for on-call support like this makes such a difference for our small team.
If you want to learn more about Voices of Hope for Aphasia, you can visit their website here.
Interested in working with Banyan Nonprofit Strategy? Click here to set up an introductory call to see if we might be a good fit for your organization. You can learn more about Banyan’s services here.
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