Success Hasn't Changed BC Women's Charity -- It's Just Made Their Lives a Lot Easier

The employees of the Servants Anonymous Society Surrey (SAS Surrey) have good reason to be pleased with themselves. Using BIG Online to great effect, they've managed to achieve an outstanding 65-70% grant proposal success ratio, securing tens of thousands of dollars in new funding along the way.

SAS Surrey, which assists sexually-exploited young women to exit the sex trade and make more positive choices in their lives, recently received a $54,000 grant from the Lotte and John Hecht Memorial Foundation. Executive Director, Linda Cunliffe, believes SAS Surrey's string of fundraising success is helping to build momentum for her organization.

"When you can write to a new funder and say this foundation or corporation supports us in this way, then everyone else wants to get on board. It's just easier once you start getting funding."

Even though they still get a lot of "thank you, but no thank you" letters, Cunliffe says SAS Surrey has also received many smaller grants. One notable donor was Honda Canada. SAS Surrey sent them a letter late last year but wasn't really expecting much when a reply arrived in the mail. "We opened the letter and a cheque for $1,000 dropped out."

Cunliffe adds that both the TD Bank and Happy Planet Foods have come on board recently to support SAS Surrey. Happy Planet, for its part, made a generous donation of a year's supply of its widely recognized organic fruit drinks.

With the clear understanding that relationships take time to build, Cunliffe says SAS Surrey has also worked hard to cultivate local forestry heavyweight Weyerhauser. "We feel that we're comfortable enough now that we can do something together if (the right project) came up."

The Sound of Success
SAS Surrey sent out approximately 700 Letters of Inquiry last year from leads it generated surfing BIG Online. Of their last four major proposals, SAS Surrey received the grant from the Lotte and John Hecht Memorial Foundation, one was a definite 'no', one is pending, and the last one, a government grant, "we're just waiting for the Federal government to give their final approval."

Having recently attended BIG Online's National Seminar Series in Vancouver, Cunliffe says she's always eager to learn new "tricks of the trade". When it comes to BIG, she particularly likes the donor profiles, which tell her in the space of two or three pages whether a prospect is the right match. "This makes it really easy to go through and say we fit here, here, and here."

The SAS Surrey team then takes all that information and pastes it on a wall, which they use to track and manage their entire grant writing process. Cunliffe says this system is not dissimilar to a giant whiteboard. "We can just go in there and look at it and say: 'let's work on this one now.'"

With the right tools in the front office and early support from their local firefighters, SAS Surrey went out in the community and started making friends wherever they could find them. Even though they were virtually unknown three years ago, "we just started building relationships with the local business community."

Cunliffe, however, is very selective about where her organization's money comes from and has a preference for private funding, as it tends to give them more freedom to operate. "We seek private funders who reflect our high ethical standards and to further insure our integrity and accountability to our donors, we have become a member of the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy and have adopted their Ethical Fundraising & Financial Accountability Code as our policy."

Cunliffe explains that seeking donations in the local community gives them a chance to educate people who live and work there. If local businesses, private donors, or foundations get involved and educated, this creates a more knowledgeable community, where people's attitudes are more accepting and positive.

"Whether they give us a hundred dollars or one hundred million dollars, they become part of the solution."

To learn more about the good deeds of SAS Surrey, visit

BIG Picture: The more successful you are as a fundraiser, the easier it is to convince other donors to climb on board. If you've had a recent run of success, don't slow down. Success builds its own momentum, but it needs to be maintained.

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