It truly does take a community of people to make NeighborLink work, even with how projects get funded. NeighborLink exists because there are needs in the community that no government office or other social service agency can meet, or are fully equipped to meet. They primarily don't do these projects because there are no consistent funding streams to sustain an operation to do so.
So, when those needs fall through the cracks, NeighborLink is design to be there to catch them and to help them communicate their need to their neighbors. We do our best to be the connector between need and volunteers.
Since there are no guaranteed funding sources, we also struggle to come up with the resources to help. We wish we could say yes to every request and pay for it all, but it's not possible. However, we do have a project funding philosophy that can help you understand how we approach getting projects funded.
Volunteers: The reality is that a very large percentage of projects that get done each year don't require any money at all. They just require time. When a project does require funding, we encourage our volunteers to contribute as much as they can when they take on projects. We encourage our volunteers to choose projects as if NeighborLink Fort Wayne never raised any dollars for project expenses. What we find is that it is often easier for the volunteers to buy the gallon of paint on the project than to work through NeighborLink to get that gallon of paint for them. Most importantly, we want our volunteers to experience the resource challenge that comes with all our projects. In order to truly immerse ourselves in the process of meeting neighborhood needs, we need to be confronted with how to secure resources to get projects done.
Once volunteers begin to do more and more projects and have a track record of funding projects on their own, NeighborLink is more than happy to begin giving more money to their projects. We know our volunteers cannot sustain all the burden of project costs, so we do more to help keep them active.
Homeowners: We've learned that many homeowners have resources or can access resources to cover the cost of materials for their projects. Some cannot, and that's fine, but we always ask those neighbors asking for help what they have to contribute to the project. We also encourage our volunteers to ask as well. We do this so they can take on as much of the burden as possible and to also maintain a sense of participating in solving their own problems. We're truly trying to come alongside homeowners in need and not simply do for them.
NeighborLink: We've been blessed as an organization to have generous donors who contribute on a regular basis. We even get a grant here and there that help cover the material costs of projects. Currently (always subject to change) we can offer up to $500 per projects to our Coaches who have taken on projects. We only distribute dollars to Coaches taking projects and who have connected to us before moving forward. We'll ask whether the homeowner can contribute or the volunteers can contribute. Our goal is to make sure the project can get done once full committed to by the volunteers. We never release funds directly to the homeowner.
Resources to NeighborLink Coaches:
1. Preferred Contractor Funds: We have a grant through the City of Fort Wayne that allows us to hire licensed contractors when need for projects. So, if you get into a project and the project is beyond what you know how to do and what volunteers should be doing, you can contact us and we'll work with you to get a contractor to work with you. NeighborLink then get's reimbursed for that labor.
2. CrowdFunding Tool: We launched a project fundraising tool on our website in the summer of 2012 to empower Coaches to help with the fundraising initiatives when it comes to funding individual projects. So, the next time you take on a project that is going to require $300 or more dollars in project expenses, consider hitting the "Request Funding" button on that project page and fill out the info. We've been able to raise over $12,000 for projects since that launched.
Each project is different and usually always requires some combination of all three of these and sometimes more. The point of this illustration is to let you know that there are no simple solutions to community issues and we all must contribute and get creative when it comes to completing projects. We're grateful that this model has worked for almost 10 years and we've seen tremendous fruit when this works.