The Southside Mission has been serving the poor and vulnerable in Peoria, Illinois for 96 years. Rich Drager, the nonprofit’s development manager, says the mission has been “homegrown” in Peoria since 1925.
Drager says the mission is “in a season of change,” exploring new opportunities to reach and serve their neighborhood.
Recently, they have focused on diversity, including people of diverse backgrounds on their staff, board, and among those they serve.
The mission serves one of the poorest ZIP codes in the nation. Drager says people should support the mission “merely because they want to.” Donations allow the mission to connect donors to the inspiring stories of people they serve. Support comes as financial gifts but also through volunteering and prayer. Volunteers serve as mentors, and local teens are hired for summer programs.
Fundraisers like Drager see opportunities in challenges.
Drager’s favorite quote is from Winston Churchill: “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Despite the challenges of their work, the mission seeks innovative ways to help.
Drager has advice for fellow fundraisers: listen more than you speak.
“Be a great listener and observer, especially when you’re working with donors,” he says. “Hear what is on their hearts, what their passion is. Then work as a connector…to connect them to your mission.”
For nearly 100 years, the Southside Mission has worked to uplift their community’s most vulnerable with compassion and opportunity. By listening to donors and embracing diversity, this “homegrown” nonprofit continues finding new ways to spread optimism and transform lives. Their story is an inspiring example of nonprofit impact and longevity. Overall, their development manager has wisdom all nonprofit fundraisers can appreciate.
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