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Blessing Bags

Helping People Grow... Overseas... One Bag at a time... #HelpingPeopleGrow Homeleness Those in poverty Faith Based Supported by YOU

Tuesday, January 9

What it's like operating a small nonprofit

People often ask me about running Blessing Bags, more than just making them that is. Honestly, it's a LOT tougher than running a business, when I owned a video company a few years ago I could sell my services to people, I  had something to give in exchange for funds.

As a non-profit, I do have a little bit of help form the board members and several volunteers, but beyond that, it's harder than anything Ive done before in my life and trust me, I've done lots already.

I still work a full time job at Roanoke College as a web and database developer, I love it there! I work 40+ hours a week, make time for me and my girlfriend, make time for my daughter when I  have her, TRY to keep my place together with two new kittens, work on remodeling my house and just, live.

Running this small non-profit takes two things, time and money. 

Time, I usually give about 20-25 hours a week making bags, writing up donation letters, doing social media, meeting with possible donors and smooching them with Starbucks or something similar, meet and deliver bags to homeless people, families in real need, some seniors and I also educate people about the importance of what I do within the Roanoke community.

The Easy Part

The easiest part for me is just making the bags, it's very little effort honestly, I've got it down to a science. I can make about 50-60 bags in an hour or two if I sit there and listen to music and focus on what I'm doing. 

There's really not much to putting them together. Open a bag, put in a postcard and all the goodies for that bag. They do slightly difference from male and female, what I put in them that is, but otherwise, they all pretty much get the same thing. Soap, shampoo, razor, toothpaste, piece of candy, toothbrush, hand santizer or anything else that I  have on hand.

The other easy thing is passing them out to people that need them here in the Roanoke Valley. Since I lived downtown, I pretty much know that those that are homeless there will be taken care of by another organization, so while I do go there, I try to focus on efforts where the others don't venture much.

I've already got PLENTY of volunteers and I'm so extremely happy for the help in making the bags, passing them out, etc. I could really use someone with some grant writing knowledge and fundraising experience truth be told, those are two things I'm having a hard time with.

The Hard Part

The hardest thing about running Blessing Bags is the funding, or lack thereof.  As of today, 1/9/2018, the program has just over $425 left in the account, enough to get me through another month or so, but it's not enough to grow, to pay for my fuel, cover wear and tear on my car, pay for an office location or even supply MORE bags to the many people that ask for them on a regular basis. People THINK a non-profit is just rolling around in money, it's not! While many non-profits run on budgets of ten's or hundred's of thousands of dollars, the BBP doesn't.

Today, I got 4 emails asking for bags and one Facebook message asking for the same thing. I'm SO happy to be able to provide people with these bags, but I need more.

Having to ask people for money, be it online or through email or snail mail is hard and honestly, sometimes......embarrassing.

I've got BIG hopes and dreams for the program, well,  BIG to me anyway, in hopes of reaching an annual budget someday of $20,000. This year I'm trying to raise just $13,000 which will grow it tremendously.

Beyond the Basics

On any given typical week, I  usually meet with about 10/20 people in person giving them bags or picking donated items or items for us to auction off to make revenue. Most of the time it's in the evening, after work or on my way home.

When Ii do get home, I usually spend 2-3 nights a week writing emails to people, replying back to them, doing social media, keeping up with Google Ad Grants which provides me with FREE advertisements, working on fundraisers, ideas and ways to share with people what I'm doing too.

When I'm not on the PC, I'm usually in the basement unloading boxes filed with items we purchase for the bags. This week, it was 200 razors and 100 bars of soap from Amazon, who I've partnered with to get many items WAY below normal cost.

As far s meeting with possible donors, I do that once every other week for a few hours. Usually Mill Mountain Coffee or Starbucks, giving my non-profit sales pitch about why they should give me funds to keep it going.

If I have time during the week, I usually spent it learning how to write grants fr the non profit here. grants are a great way to get funding form large companies and government in order to keep things scrolling along. While the program hasn't received any grants yet, I'm hopeful that the program can get a few small ones this year to help stream things along. Well, that I can at least get good at writing grants, ha!

Yes, I often have to deal with people and their antics when it comes to doing what I do. Some people really give me praise, others give me grief in trying to help others. I'm no means perfect in life, but overall I try to be a good person, I love doing what I do and knowing that I have support behind me with the community is something that I love seeing!

Is the director of the Blessing Bag Program which started in 2016. From personally funding the program to becoming a small non-profit, Joshua not only oversee's the making of the bags ,but works with others in the community to make sure they get into the hands of the homeless and needy. Joshua runs the program in his spare time when not working fulltime.

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