23 November 2021
Joëlle Pollentier has been director of Stichting Onze Kleine Weeskinderen/ Fondation Nos Petits Orphelins for almost three years. However the name of the organisation no longer describes the scope of who they work for. The foundation makes sure that not only orphans, but also abandoned and misplaced children and young people in Latin America and Haiti are lovingly cared for and supported in the children’s villages. Time for a rebranding and digitisation.
The main mission of Stichting Onze Kleine Weeskinderen is breaking the poverty circle for thousands of children in Latin America and the Carribean. It is an aid organisation that has been active for more than 65 years in 9 countries in Latin America and Haiti under the Spanish name Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos.
After a career in law and a management function in the environmental sector, Joëlle worked as a consultant for Maatwerkbedrijven for a while, before taking up her current job. As a volunteer she also works for De Wingerd, a care institution for demented people in Leuven. Joëlle is reponsible for obtaining and handling legacies. She personally contacts all major donors to thank them for their gifts. In addition, she regularly brainstorms with the team about fundraising actions and their follow-up.
Joëlle had no experience with fundraising before she became the director of the foundation. “What I took from my job as a lawyer into a job in fundraising is that you learn to be of service to others. You learn to listen to the needs of the donors and of the people in Latin America and react appropriately based on that”, Joëlle explains.
“We spent a lot of time personally contacting our donors by phone, just to ask them how they were doing and to show them our gratitude for the gifts they had made in the past."
Personal contacts during COVID 19 times
Despite Covid19 the organisation saw its income increase during the past year. “We spent a lot of time personally contacting our donors by phone, just to ask them how they were doing and to show them our gratitude for the gifts they had made in the past. That was one of the tips we got out of the FAB online meetups at the beginning of the pandemic. And the initiative of contacting them personally was really appreciated. We also sent out a letter explaining how COVID19 had impacted the situation for the children in Latin America and we got a lot of response to that.”
“Our Board did panic at the start of the pandemic. A Direct Mail that was already planned, was sent out without any referal to the pandemic and that mailing did give us less donations than usual. But every communication after that moment was a success.”
The organisation has a donor database that largely consists of elderly people who feel a strong connection to the theme ‘orphans’ or who are orphans themselves. “Direct mails with good positive storytelling (and a transfer slip attached) still work very good for our organisation. And also we get a lot of our income through legacies. But we are also working on expanding our digital fundraising. In may 2020 we launched our new website, we are building out our e-maildatabase, are using social media adds and campaigns. I have to say that our Facebook campaign to become godmother or -father for a child is being reacted to very well. And we do notice a difference in visibility for our organisation. We will have to see what the long term results are of these investments in digitisation and whether we get enough income out of it. In 2022 we will focus on getting fundraising from the digital investments.”
"The big challenge for us is to grow our income by creating more visibility, to enthuse new target groups for our initiatives and to find a trendier name for our organisation in Belgium."
Change of focus and target group
Joëlle and her board understand that they have to modernise the organisation that has now been active for over 65 years, not only by digitisation, but also by rebranding the organisation. “Our Latin-American organisation is not sufficiently known in Europe and Belgium. The big challenge for us is to grow our income by creating more visibility, to enthuse new target groups for our initiatives and to find a trendier name for our organisation in Belgium. An external firm will help us with the rebranding. Our name says orphans, but the name no longer covers what we do. Our focus now is more on families in trouble in Latin America. We have to find a new name and brand that covers all of that and think about the future.”
"In our team, the profitability of a possible action has to be thought through very carefully. I really make a point out of that."
Keep a close eye on costs
Investments in hiring external help for the organisation are decisions that are made with great care and consideration. “For me, that is one of the greatest challenges to fundraising: keeping a close eye on the costs of each action. After all, the aim should be to be able to transfer as much money as possible to the charity. As a rather small organisation with 4 people on the payroll we turn over every penny twice. Allthough there are quite a lot of companies focusing on working for non-profit, I still feel prices are to steep for organisations such as ours. So we really compare many offers before making a decision. In our team, the profitability of a possible action has to be thought through very carefully. I really make a point out of that.”
Joëlle looks up to innovative, modern fundraising campaigns such as gaming fundraising actions or other innovative ways to raise funds. “I feel as though in Belgium we are still quite attached to traditional ways of fundraising, I love looking abroad at inspiring actions. But I am also really impressed sometimes by fundraising actions here in Belgium, for example the recent campaign by Pelicano Foundation during the week of poverty, was well thought out.”