The Children’s Home Society of Idaho has been serving young people since 1908, when it began as the city’s orphanage. The last adoption took place there in the late 1960s. Since the mid-1970s, the old orphanage just east of Downtown Boise has been an outpatient counseling center.
The society provides mental, emotional and behavioral health care services to children and families regardless of their ability to pay. It provides counseling and therapy at the former orphanage and at its office in Meridian.
The society regularly receives calls and visits from people who lived at the orphanage as children. Many are seeking records or family information. With the rise of the foster-care system, the orphanage transitioned into a nonresidential treatment facility in the 1960s.
Executive Director Anselme Sadiki answered questions. He joined the society this summer. Originally from Congo, Sadiki arrived in the U.S. as a refugee in the mid-1990s. He recently returned to Idaho after working for several years with the United Nations in programs around the world focusing on economic development and poverty reduction.
Never miss a local story.
Sadiki invited Jane Ahl, development manager, to join in this Q&A. Ahl worked for 20 years with the Department of Defense in Australia. After coming to Boise, she spent a decade raising money for the Discovery Center of Idaho before joining the Children’s Home Society.
Q: Of what are you most proud as an organization?
Sadiki: What makes me most proud is when every morning I come into the office. There may be a child coming in with some behavioral or mental issues. Parents are able to engage their children after a few counseling sessions. I will see the child playfully allow a parent to hold their hand, happy, smiling, so different from when they first came in.
Knowing the behavioral and mental issues our therapists deal with on a daily basis and being able to provide the quality services to all children regardless of ability to pay make me so proud to be part of such an organization. Mental illness has created so much stigma and fear in our society.
Q: Who supports the organization?
Sadiki: Our community. This organization belongs to the community. We have been very fortunate to have individual and corporate donors. Through grant writing we have received donations from a number of foundations, but also fundraise through annual gala events.
Ahl: The organization benefits from its long presence in the community and the opportunity to build historic associations with donors. The Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation, for example, has contributed to the Children’s Home since its days as an orphanage The late Moore Cunningham’s father, C.W. Moore, was one of the founders of the home. Moore Cunningham herself served on the board for more than 30 years.]
Unlike many nonprofits, the Children’s Home Society also has an earned-income stream, thanks to clients who are able to pay for mental health services. Currently, 62 percent of our client base is Medicaid. This is significant. because for-profit counseling centers typically don’t take children on Medicaid, or they limit their numbers because of the administrative costs. The Children’s Home Society is able to pay for administrative costs through its fundraising. It’s also able to see children quickly, within a few days of an initial call.
Q: Have you noticed certain trends in who [or what organizations] support your organization?
Sadiki: We are proud to be affiliated with organizations that are keen on providing support for children and mental health care services in particular. There are also quite a few companies that have a multidisciplinary approach to supporting social services that are closely linked to our mission, such as mental health, youth development, youth education, etc.
Q: When it comes to fundraising, what has been an effective tool?
Sadiki: Open communication and building relationships with donors. Once you build a relationship, it becomes paramount to communicate to the donors the impact of their support.
Ahl: Our history in the community is a huge part of building relationships, What’s been really helpful is when we get the opportunity to impress upon people that mental health is like physical health. Left untreated, issues become more serious. When we can share that kind of information with donors, when kids are dying more from suicide than from cancer, it resonates with them. And, too, impressing upon people that it’s better to treat children when they’re young rather than letting mental health issues manifest themselves for years.
Q: What hasn't worked for fundraising, or has been a misstep?
Sadiki: When you have a gala every year, there’s sort of an event fatigue. People lose interest and don’t want to go every year. We have realized that. Even though we were so fortunate to have Albertsons support our gala last year, we realized that a number of people who used to come to our events did not make it this time. We knew we needed to do something different, something new. So our gala will have a British invasion theme. We want it to be fun, not just the usual kind of event.
Ahl: We want donors raving about the gala. We’ll have a Beatles cover band. And I’m on the hunt for an Austin Powers impersonator to emcee.
We used to do a lot of little fundraising events. They were very labor intensive, and the return didn’t warrant what we put into them. But it’s difficult when donors are generous, offering their space and other supports. Saying no can be tricky.
Q: What are the best ways you’ve found to build relationships with donors?
Sadiki: I’m grateful to the board members who have gone beyond the call of duty. Each of our board members has made an effort to invite a number of donors for lunch. It’s a very informal way to share what the Children’s Home is doing, but also to get a bit of feedback from the donors. To ask what else they think we could be doing to improve services for children.
Donors often know the lay of the land better than we do. A donor is not just the one who gives money. It is also someone who goes out and becomes an ambassador for the organization and tells people they believe in the organization’s mission. For me, that’s as valuable as someone who’s sending in a check.
Q: What benefits do you offer donors?
Sadiki: We welcome and encourage donors to tour the facility, and whenever possible, we sometimes invite them to participate in meetings, or to meet our clinicians.
Q: Who is your competition when it comes to raising money?
Sadiki: We see other organizations more as partners than competitors. Meeting the needs of children who suffer from behavioral and mental illnesses is not a simple task. With the amount of work that this community needs to do for children, if anyone thinks they can do things alone, that’s a delusion. Finding a way to create partnerships and collaboration will help us become more efficient and effective in our approaches.
For example, I work closely with Bea Black from the Women’s and Children’s Alliance and its shelters that care for children. I’ve had quite a few discussions with David Duro at the YMCA about how we can collaborate. We’re all going for the same dollar. We need to learn to work together and create synergies in our programs.
Ahl: In years past, collaboration was not something we thought of doing. Now, we look for opportunities to collaborate with nonprofits with similar missions. It’s awesome. We get smarter as we get older.
Anna Webb: 208-377-6431, @IDS_AnnaWebb. This story appears in the December 21, 2016-January 17, 2017, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine as part of a special section on nonprofits. Click here for the Statesman’s e-edition, which includes Business Insider (subscription required).
The Children’s Home Society of Idaho
Address: (Main office) 740 E. Warm Springs Ave., Boise
Annual budget: $2.3 million