Beyond Philanthropy: The Power of Donor Relationships
PEPY staff is committed to having honest and open dialogues with our donors and advocates. This is, in large part, to maintain a relationship of trust that ensures they will continue to provide us with the funding necessary to support our students. However, there is another, perhaps equally important reason that we share our strengths and shortcomings with the wider community; we hope to find opportunities where donors, who are highly skilled and have a wealth of relevant experience, feel welcome to contribute their expertise and advice.
Much like PEPY’s willingness to collaborate and share resources with similarly minded organizations, we believe that being receptive to new and diverse ideas and allowing qualified donors to give skill development sessions, benefits our organization as a whole and strengthens the PEPY community.
During the month of October, we were fortunate to have two major supporters who are focused on improving the effectiveness of our work facilitate sessions. One of those visitors was Robert, whose relationship with PEPY started in 2016.
Robert and his wife Robin were looking for organizations to feel passionate about and found PEPY through Go Philanthropic (an organization that connects donors to causes that they would want to support). Robert can still remember the first time they visited PEPY, citing the presentation with our Executive Director Sarakk and meeting the students both in our Learning Center and in our high school Dream Management class as key reasons for wanting to invest in our organization.
He said that Sarakk’s ability to be direct about the organization’s current short comings and areas in need of development resonated with him. Robert has a background in the health care industry and is excited by organizations that have a clear business model, as well as those that are able to show they are financially clean and trustworthy. Then, he was able to meet the students and see the effectiveness of our programs firsthand. Robin was invested in the success of our female students and was happy to see our initiatives that were focused on empowerment.
After already feeling happy with the organization, Robert met Chhunnay during his visit in 2017, one of our current Dream Management Project Officers who was a new staff member during Robert’s visit. Chhunnay had been working on a blog that he asked Robert to read. Robert says reading Chhunnay’s blog really struck him, and he can remember reading the passages to his wife and mother. He admired that Chhunnay’s blog was focused not on self pity, despite coming from a challenging background, but on his journey to success. After all of those experiences, Robert and Robin were invested and quickly became part of the PEPY family.
While a strong partnership had already developed, it was not until 2018 that Robert’s visits became more involved with PEPY’s activities and work strategies. As he became more invested in the students and the organization’s success, he began to give trainings on professional skill development to both the students and the staff.
In October of 2018, Robert spent about a month at PEPY providing sessions focused on up-skilling staff and getting more involved in program activities to offer insight and advice. The PEPY staff have a strong relationship with Robert, and communicated observed concerns and issues with the productivity of our work. Robert took this feedback to shape it into additional trainings and discussions to facilitate necessary changes in the organization. In 2018, Robert also sponsored workshops like Writing Through and supported the expansion of PEPY’s ICT (computer and technology) Lab.
In his most recent visit, that lasted from October 1st-23rd, Robert talked to staff members individually and worked intimately with our Management Team to identify areas where our staff could use support. This led to sessions on topics like Monitoring and Evaluation, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and giving elevator speeches. Robert also had the opportunity to work with our students in behavioral interviewing and elevator speeches. Robert’s trainings were well received and seen as beneficial by all of the participants. Robert plans to make yearly visits to PEPY to continue checking in on us, and his wife Robin will be coming in the near future to offer her valuable feedback and suggestions.
Robert has a few wishes for PEPY’s future. The first is that we continue growing through increased donor support. He wants us to be able to to have a high level of impact and make a lasting difference. In addition, he looks forward to PEPY staff endeavoring to find ways to meet the desires and demands of our partner organizations to lead to a future where PEPY covers “more regions, more students, more scholarships.”
If we did not work in an environment encouraging donor’s professional support and advice, none of these beneficial exchanges would have been possible. Through training with Robert, PEPY has evolved as a professional organization and is better able to communicate the work that we are doing to our wider community and with each other. Moreover, some of these sessions would have likely cost us considerable time and financial expense had we done it with an equally experienced consultant. Our donors, Robert especially, prove time and time again to be invaluable resources far beyond their financial support.
We thank Robert for giving us his time and allowing us to pick his brain. We truly believe that improvement and positive changes come from open hearts and open minds and we thank all of our donors who are invested in our skill development.