Small not-for-profit health care-focused agency in Ontario, Canada wants to increase their outreach program by creating a mobile service. The problem is that funds are limited and we're confused about what our next best step could be - since none of us has done this before! Apologies in advance for the wall of text that's about to hit you, but I don't want to leave out anything important.
Our agency is has less than 10 employees and features outreach, education, prevention, support, and medical treatment, that's focused on a specific illness. The agency is mandated to focus on "marginalized populations" (rather than, say, middle class people, though we certainly have patients in that category!) and, if I may be blunt, we're really awesome at what we do and how we do it.
To date, I've been providing all of the outreach and prevention services using my personal vehicle. This has become less ideal now that our client base is expanding. We want to increase the services we offer, too, and can't do it from my Kia.
You'll have to trust me when I say that providing mobile service is what we need to do - we've looked at all the other options (additional offices, sharing office spaces, etc.) Our entire team is on board with the idea of a mobile outreach van and our Executive Director is highly enthusiastic. Outreach is my department - so I've been tasked with making it happen.
We've determined that we need a vehicle that's at least cargo van-sized to meet our needs - something along the lines of this, for example
. We'll be using the van to provide home delivery of large quantities of harm reduction supplies, transporting 3 staff members (outreach, counsellor, nurse, for example), allowing space for our nurses to do blood draws and administer vaccines, we're hoping to offer medical treatment in the future, etc. The van will travel between rural areas of our region, some of the outlying areas of our city, and to any location that we've identified as high-needs for our services.
We have $50,000 that was given to us as a grant to get this program up and running. No matter how we roll the numbers, that money either buys the van and retrofits it OR pays for the operating costs. Not both. We started investigating how best to make this happen a few months ago and, really, haven't made a lot of progress yet.
A few years ago, a bunch of agencies in our city attempted to put together a "mobile outreach van" - and, after months of discussion and investigation, most of the agencies involved pulled out because they couldn't agree on some important details of how it would be run. I have all the documentation from those meetings and have read them thoroughly - things tanked because no one wanted to take the lead (or couldn't afford to take the lead). These agencies all serve the same population that we do, albeit in different ways (housing, employment, psych outreach, addictions, etc.)
We've approached many of those same agencies about our plan, asking if anyone would like to partner with us, and received a lot of positive responses - all of which included some variant of, "We'd love to be a part of this.. once we see how it's going to work." It is unlikely that those agencies can afford to contribute financially - but very likely that they'd contribute staff hours, supplies, and other things that would make a legitimately positive contribution to our outreach efforts. We feel very strongly that "if we build it, they will come".
How do I get this mobile outreach project up and running when our budget seems to be about half of what we need?
Ideas thrown around:
- find a local car dealership that would be willing to donate a new or used van in exchange for a tax credit and/or free advertising. This seems less and less likely as I investigate it further - there isn't a huge benefit to the dealership; our clients are generally from marginalized populations and not buying cars regularly. I have no idea what to say in a letter to dealerships - or even if a letter is the way to go with this.
- use the $50,000 to purchase and retrofit the van, hopefully at a discount, and find some way to raise the funds for operating costs. This is a challenge because our clients can't afford to donate and our agency's focus, while really really important, is not as compelling to people as a lot of other fundraising campaigns in our community. It's also challenging because we're a small agency and we all have full-time jobs to do!
- use some of the funds to lease a van and accept that we won't be able to modify it. Hope that, when the lease ends, we're either in a position to purchase it OR that we can afford to purchase a different vehicle, and that we have some great community partners on board who have seen the benefits to the program. This pains me because of the costs involved in leasing.
- some other option?
Any advice or help on what I should do would be REALLY appreciated, especially if you have any experience with fund-raising or mobile outreach programs!