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Donor Participation Project

Southside Mission: Changing Lives Through Compassion and Opportunity

The Southside Mission has served the poorest residents of Peoria, Illinois for 96 years. Rich Drager, the nonprofit’s Development Manager, shared how the organization is evolving to expand its impact.

Drager said the Southside Mission aims to meet the holistic needs of those facing economic disadvantages in its neighborhood. “We’ve been around since 1925 right here in Peoria, kind of homegrown,” he said. The nonprofit provides meals, youth programs, job opportunities, and other resources to help vulnerable community members get back on their feet.

Recently, the Southside Mission has focused on increasing diversity and inclusion. “Both in terms of our staff, in terms of our board of directors, and in terms of those we serve,” Drager said. By engaging people from a variety of backgrounds, the nonprofit hopes to better understand and serve the diverse needs of its community.

According to Drager, fundraising success comes from building genuine connections between donors and the mission. “One of the great things we get to do as fundraisers is tell stories and connect people,” he said. Through sharing stories of impact, fundraisers help donors see how their support changes lives.

The best fundraising advice Drager ever received was simple: “be a great listener and observer.” By listening to donor’s interests and passions, a fundraiser can find natural connections between them and the organization’s work. Drager aims to “connect them to your mission in our case or to your cause.”

Overall, Drager emphasized the rewards of fundraising for a meaningful cause. Despite facing difficulties, the Southside Mission chooses to see “opportunity in every difficulty.” The nonprofit’s longevity and community impact highlight the power of compassion through action. By diversifying, listening to donors, and focusing on optimism, the Southside Mission models how nonprofits can evolve to achieve sustainable change.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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