We have reframed AARP Foundation, giving it a new mission and simplifying its emphasis on helping struggling older Americans meet their basic needs for food, housing, stable income and connection with other people. Most gifts to the Foundation are for general support, rather than one specific impact area, which tells me that the public is getting our message that all four needs are interconnected.
Not only has our focus on helping people meet their everyday essentials dramatically changed our work, but also the way we talk about it. Potential donors have three basic questions that need to be answered before they open their wallets: What is the need? Why should I care? and Why do I need to give money today?
Our messages answer those questions. We tell potential donors clearly and simply about the millions of older people who are struggling in the United States today - people who never thought they'd be asking for food or for help keeping a roof over their heads. Once our donors hear about the enormous extent of the poverty problem in the United States, they respond with compassion and contributions.
Finally, our efforts to improve our own efficiency in raising money are paying off in a big way. Back in 2007, it cost AARP Foundation 69 cents to raise $1. Today it costs us 33 cents. That gives us much more money to spend helping people age 50+ who are so desperately in need, and to try out promising new solutions to the problems they face.
While we've been busy lowering our costs, we've also dramatically increased our number of individual donors. In September 2011, we reached our goal of 1 million donors three months early, up from 750,000 from the beginning of the year. Today we have 1.3 million donors, up 39 percent over the past year.
Of course, we can't afford to rest on our laurels. The older adults we serve are still in desperate need of help. So take a look at your office. Are you getting tired of seeing the same posters on the walls? Just contribute $100 to AARP Foundation. You'll receive the first edition of an exciting new map of AARP Foundation's work across the United States - and the satisfaction of knowing you are part of the solution.
Also of interest: Helping older workers get jobs. »