Bishop Dr. Dwayne K. Pickett Sr. and his church have served the Jackson, Mississippi, community by handing out water for the past four water crises – from 2020 to today – but they didn’t get there alone.
Through the help of volunteers, partners and donors, they’ve given away hundreds of thousands of bottles of water to local families in need.
Here are four pieces of advice from Dr. Dwayne Pickett for others looking to raise funds to serve their communities.
Explain the ‘why’ of your fundraising
“First, people have to get over their pride. I had to get over the pride that this wasn’t about me. I needed to understand that the city needed help and the people needed help. And when I called my friends, it wasn’t me asking for help for myself, it was for people in need,” Dr. Dwayne Pickett said.
It’s important to get out of your own way when it comes to asking others for help. Before the crisis, Dr. Pickett had never fundraised other than requesting traditional tithes and church offerings. In pitching, it’s important to remember the people you’re serving and that you’re asking on behalf of them, not yourself.
Explain “what” you need in fundraising
It’s critical to be clear about what you specifically need to achieve your goals, otherwise people will donate things you don’t need.
“A lot of times, people want to send what they want to send. So everybody wanted to send a truckload of water. But honestly, initially we didn’t need truckloads of water because there was so much water already on the ground,” Dr. Dwayne Pickett said.
“The problem was that we could not get enough people to hand out the water. So we needed monetary resources at that time. I think a part of that is being honest about what’s the real need and getting that from people on the ground.”
With monetary resources, Dr. Pickett was able to pay volunteers to hand out water. This helped Dr. Pickett’s team retain volunteers while also giving back to the community since many volunteers worked full-time then also worked for hours day after day to hand out water.
Different crises and events have different resource needs, so being direct with donors about the specific types of resources you need will go a long way.
Explain “how” you will achieve your goals to donors
Finally, you can gain trust from funders through transparency about how you will accomplish the project you set out to do, spreading your message as far as possible.
Dr. Dwayne Pickett put it this way: “Saying to people: ‘We need your help. We want your help. Here’s what we’re gonna do. Here’s how we’re doing it. And if you want any accounting for anything, let me know; let’s talk about it, and I can show you.’”
Community and nonprofit leaders should take advantage of all social channels they have to bring awareness to the problems they’re trying to solve. Dr. Pickett suggests casting as wide a net as possible, even if you’re not big on social media, to reach new and even existing audiences.
“There are people who want to help, but believe it or not, a lot of people don’t even know what’s going on. So, when I began putting it on social media, there were people who were literally hearing about it for the first time, even friends of mine in Chicago. If I had not called them, they wouldn’t have known what was happening, even with all the national media attention. In order to really get the word out, you’ve got to leverage everything you can.”
Bringing it all together
Dr. Pickett and his church self-funded their response to the first two water crises. And with the help of supporters, they were able to continue those efforts as well as pay volunteers for their work day after day.
“It’s one thing for people to volunteer and give out water for a couple of days, but this was every day and sometimes months at a time. So thanks to Heal America and Dr. DeForest B. Soaries; Jr., and many others, we began to pay the guys in the neighborhood. Young men when they got out of school, we were able to pay them to help hand water out and provide for their families.”
Dr. Pickett credits his network of supporters for keeping them going. “At the end of the day, every dollar is going toward saving lives, so we must not forget to share that gratitude.”
“Thanks to the generosity and support, we were able to bring it all together and keep things going. It really was a blessing to the community.”