PNOLA Update from The Boss!

In the second part of the series, I'd like to discuss PNOLA's funding situation: how do we raise money, where does it go, why is a dollar at PNOLA worth more than a dollar elsewhere, etc.? This seems only fitting given the holiday giving season, the recent up-swell of donations we have had, and the fact that we continued to do more and more with the generosity of our donors!

On a Shoe String:

PNOLA has never had a lot of money. We have often worn this as a badge of honor, but we also recognize that it is as a result of not having a proper development and marketing staff to do a great job of keeping y'all up to date on what we are doing, and raising awareness of new donors who don't even know about us. This is something we learned a little too late, after the Katrina donation high was over. That said, y'all read last month how we have leveraged the support from the United Way and AmeriCorps to keep our costs low and our work rolling, so where we made some mistakes in fundraising, we have made up for in partnering.

More importantly, we have learned how to stretch a dollar. Sure our tools are dinged up, we couldn't go right out and buy a brand new truck, and everyone who works here works twice as hard as normal for half as much money as they deserve. But it costs less than $11,000 monthly to keep our little ship upright, which includes all salary, insurance, fuel, rent, insurance, utilities, ink and stamps, insurance, a healthy dose of paper clips and....insurance. If that seems like a lot to you, then you should DEFINITELY continue reading to see what we accomplish for all that. If it seems like too little, then make sure you give a solid pat on the back to your friendly neighborhood PNOLA-er. Either way, please click donate! For every dollar we receive in donations, we are able to save homeowners around $25 in labor costs. Another way to put that, we hope to raise $40,000 this year which will save homeowners over $1,000,000 in labor costs.

We don't have fundraising or marketing costs built in. Our admin costs are restricted to managing the homeowner, volunteer, and financial data directly related to making sure that houses get built properly and donors get thanked. Our Director (me!) makes half of what any other Director of a New Orleans rebuild agency does. We are a no frills type of organization and pump everything we can into getting work done well for our homeowners.

In addition to our operation budget, of course we also have project budgets, which is where most of the money that we bring in from grants goes (homeowners also chip their own money in). We have worked hard to think like a contractor when it comes to spending money - while we aren't trying to make a profit, we are trying to squeeze some pretty thin project budgets so we want to get the most for our money. We have great sub-contractors who give us huge price breaks since we have a relationship with them. Also, we have a contractor account at Home Depot and generally receive 20%-30% off of items due to an open ended bulk purchasing discount. We also don't have to pay sales tax (10%!) on these materials. Of course, all of those savings are passed onto the homeowner, so we can get the work done for the little money that is available.

Low Cost, High Impact:

The level of impact we have comes at such a low cost due to our ability to combine our construction expertise with the effort of unskilled volunteers. There is hardly a task in a house that we can't do with volunteers because they have constant supervision from one of our full time staff who are trained and have experience in construction. As you know, these staff are all AmeriCorps, which comes at a cost of a fraction of a regular salaried position. For $8,000 per member, PNOLA is able to deliver 1,700 hours of direct service to the community BUT our members enable an additional 15,000 hours yearly from hundreds of volunteers who work right along side them who couldn't have accomplished anything without them. We are also able to host close to 15,000 hours worth of NCCC members! So for a cost of $40,000 for 5 staff members, we are able to give close to 40,000 hours of free labor to homeowners in need.

Donors Like You:

United Way and AmeriCorps are HOW we exist - without them we could not do what we do. Additionally, individual donors play a big role. Last year we raised a little of $60,000 from donors like you - this year we are hoping for at least $40,000. With the oil spill, Haiti, Nashville/Mass/ATL floods and the time that has progressed since Katrina, we certainly understand donor fatigue. Every time we get a donation online or in the mail, I know about it right away, no matter the value. We cheer every deposit we make because we know what we can do with $10 bucks. Our little team is fueled by your generosity because it shows that you value what we do. Money is harder to come by for you just as it is for us, so we truly appreciate whenever we get a contribution.

My birthday wish to raise as much money as possible was a great success. This has been a very difficult few years for me as I have continued to work towards our goal of every house in New Orleans returned to being a home for a family - I have been re-inspired continually by every volunteer who comes to help and every donor who pays to make that a possibility.

We walk a very thin line financially. Sometimes we have many thousands and sometimes only a few hundreds. The 'who can we pay' is an oft asked question. Despite that, we are thriving as an organization. In the last eight weeks we have hosted more than 100 volunteers on regular builds, more than 300 on our KaBOOM! build in which we built a playground in two days, and a group of 10 very special NCCC members who have accomplished so much and who we will miss (leaving Friday!). We have had Steve Zahn show up at our worksite and we have had Roman Harper and Darren Sharper fund two of our projects and attend a special media event at one of these homes. We have sheetrocked Ryan's, Lucinda's, Landa's, Warren's, and John's houses, done finish work at Judith's, Ms. Frank's, Toni's, and Dan's. We have secured funding for Nell's, Lyle's, and Marsha's and are on our way to getting funding for Marie's. We have been awarded rehab financing to repair two homes that we plan to purchase very soon and will be selling to first time, low-income homeowners once they are complete. We got a new van, have some new tools coming in the new year, and have raised more than $13,000 in donations.

In other words, when we get more money we just do more work. Your contributions do better in the homes in New Orleans than in our bank account. But, keep 'em coming, so we don't lose our momentum! PNOLA could not do what we do without your help, and your help is put to the most good so that we can fully honor your generosity.

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