Board Members Get Personal

Board Members Get Personal

Corpus Christi Metro Ministries

Corpus Christi, Texas—Rosa Pizzi, CEO and executive director of Corpus Christi Metro Ministries, of Corpus Christi, Texas, had three goals she hoped to accomplish with the help of the Benevon Model: inspire active board participation, unite staff members, and increase awareness of the poor and hungry population in the community.

The line at the food bank Corpus Christi Metro Ministries

Corpus Christi Metro Ministries supports 7,000 to 8,000 hungry, homeless, and working poor people every year. The organization provides a free primary care medical clinic, a free cafeteria called "Loaves and Fishes," a shelter and transitional housing for homeless women and homeless women with children called "Rainbow House," a shelter and transitional housing for homeless men who are mentally ill, physically disabled, or elderly called "Rustic House," and a program called "Vineyard Social and Employment Services," which provides homeless prevention assistance, distribution of hygiene products, clothing, and case management services.

The wide scope of services requires Corpus Christi Metro Ministries to have a skillful approach to fundraising. Pizzi knew that the grant-oriented fundraising tactic that her organization was using prior to Benevon wouldn't be able to provide sustainable funding. The answer lay in individual donors—donors that she and her organization hadn't yet met. Pizzi wanted the help of board members in reaching out to those donors.

As the organization concludes its first year with Benevon, Pizzi says she already sees a difference among board members.

"It's so beneficial to have a structured fundraising activity that they can be involved with and participate in," she says. "The approach is a little more hands-on, a little more personal, and means that they do more than just bring back information to me."

That engaged attitude has been mirrored in staff members, who used to operate as separate entities depending upon the program in which they worked. Using the Benevon Model has helped Pizzi express the message that "we all work for Corpus Christi Metro Ministries. We are all a part of this."

With a united staff force, Pizzi and her organization have successfully been holding Point of Entry tours. Tour attendees see the kitchen where food is prepared, the line of people waiting to eat in the free cafeteria, the unemployment services office, and the men's and women's shelters. Tour guests also hear stories and written testimonials.

These tours have helped to share the mission of Corpus Christi Metro Ministries.

"Many people are awed," Pizzi says of the tours. "They had no idea we did all this, and that we had so many poor people in the community. When they hear the stories, they understand—they understand about the mental illness of the homeless."

One such story is about a homeless woman who carried her belongings around in large, black garbage bags, and regularly slept outside Corpus Christi Metro Ministries' main offices. As a paranoid schizophrenic, the woman resisted the organization's assistance for many years. After much work, staff members were able to gain her trust, and have provided her with an apartment.

Corpus Christi Metro Ministries building

After hearing such stories, many people leave the Point of Entry tours wanting to become involved with the organization. To date, eleven people have become Ambassadors solely based upon their attendance of a tour.

That passion was clear at Corpus Christi Metro Ministries' first Ask Event. Held at lunchtime, the event featured moving testimonials, including those of homeless children.

"Those really touched people's hearts," Pizzi says. "One girl said how other children at school wouldn't want to play with her if they knew she was living in a shelter. They are so ostracized. It was a very powerful statement made by those children."

The event, which had 250 people in attendance, raised $360,000.

Pizzi says board members helped in calling and writing donors to thank them for their donation.

"They know now that they need to build relationships with donors," she says of board members. "That way people donate every year, all the time, not just at crunch time."

Pizzi hopes that the success her organization experienced in its first year with Benevon will continue.

"I hope we can maintain momentum—as a team, as a board, so we can reach sustainability."

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