Social Services

Open Avenues

Rogers, Ark.

Key Takeaways

A campaign to replace the nonprofit’s old, failing facility achieved more than the organization expected. Their building was too small and the repairs were too extensive to be cost effective. Not knowing where to start, they knew “it was time to take a leap of faith” and hire fundraising professionals. “After Kinetic came into our lives, we were like the little engine that could! They took our dreams and showed us how to make them a reality.” In addition to a new building, Open
Avenues gained greater visibility and a much larger donor base. As a result, they not only exceeded their fundraising goals, but gave their entire organization a boost in confidence for the future.

I always knew we had what it took to have a successful capital campaign, but I also knew we couldn’t get started on our own. Kinetic took our dreams and showed us how to make them a reality.

– Allison McElroy, Open Avenues Foundation Director (former)

Building a Better Environment: 
A Campaign for New Building, Bigger Dreams

Since 1976, Open Avenues of Northwest Arkansas has helped adults with disabilities reach their full potential by providing them with meaningful employment and practical life skills training.

Executive Director Brenda Neal and Foundation Director Allison McElroy realized that Open Avenues (then called the Adult Development Center of Benton County, Inc.) would need similar help to reach its own potential. The organization was in desperate need—and had been for several years—of a new work center for its clients to continue providing production services for OA’s business and industrial partners.

“The old building was too small, it leaked and it was not properly air conditioned or heated,” McElroy said. “We had outlived that facility, and we were determined to get our clients a new building that met all their needs.”

The problem? The upgrade would be a costly one, and the OA directors had little fundraising experience.

“I always knew we had what it took to have a successful capital campaign, but I also knew we couldn’t get started on our own,” McElroy said. “It was time to take a leap of faith and begin a campaign—and find counsel.”

After putting her business card in many consultants’ fish bowls at the AFP International Conference, McElroy received many glossy packets in the mail.

What set *Kinetic apart?

“They didn’t mail anything—they simply called me to ask about Open Avenues,” McElroy said. “Once we talked, I knew they would be the group to bring the much needed campaign.”

Kinetic President and CEO Matt Beem began work with an OA campaign team comprised of McElroy, Neal, Campaign Co-Chairs Rhonda Woodruff and Sarah Kendall and Honorary Campaign Chair Sharon Washburn. Together they set a campaign goal of $6.5 million for land, furnishings, equipment and construction.

Starting with an individual gift of $100,000, the Building a Better Environment campaign soon brought in one exciting gift after another—including more than $500,000 from corporations and a local family foundation, as well as an unexpected gift from a board member of his and his wife’s life insurance policies worth more than $700,000.

The campaign also received a crucial challenge grant from the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation, and that gift resulted in a $640,000 grant.

Beem credits the success of the campaign largely to the fact that individuals and institutions of significance in Northwest Arkansas invested so fully in the campaign.

“The members of the Open Avenues campaign team weren’t afraid to cultivate prospects and then ask them to consider commitments to the campaign at a level that would positively impact the organization and its mission,” Beem said.

Beem also praised Executive Director Neal for the long hours she spent becoming an expert in new market tax credits, which provided more than $1 million in philanthropic resources to take the campaign across the finish line.

“The team may not have started our campaign work together with significant fundraising experience, but each of the team members held a strong conviction for the difference Open Avenues makes in the lives of those it serves, and the positive opportunity they were sharing with others by inviting them to make major gifts to the organization’s campaign,” Beem said. “As a result, the campaign not only met but exceeded its goals.”

McElroy agreed that Neal’s strong involvement in the campaign was crucial. “The CEO or Executive Director is the key in fundraising—the Development Director cannot do italone,” McElroy said. “To keep the CEO/ED engaged and a part of most of the planning, strategizing, prospecting and some of the face-to-face asks was a huge key to our success.”

The other key? Hiring counsel who would keep the organization on track while leading it to new heights. “Most of the time, it takes an outside force to help you dream and think bigger,” she said. “If we had not engaged with Kinetic, the day-to-day fires and responsibilities would still be the only thing we focused on. “They were the catalyst to our success, and helped us see that we had the tools all along—we just needed their support to get us going, and keep us on the path to victory!”

McElroy said the Building a Better Environment campaign was a tipping point for OA—providing not only a new building that finally represented its excellent programs, but a boost in staff and client morale.

“We didn’t realize how much our old building was holding us back and keeping us from thinking bigger,” she said. “It kept us from attracting more people who needed our services, as well as the Industrial Partners that could use us for their work. “When we moved in, the response was overwhelming. People in the community were overjoyed and so proud of our new place.” Client count increased almost immediately, and OA gained several new industrial partners.

“Kinetic helped us achieve what I thought was impossible,” said Executive Director Neal. “There is no way to describe all of the positive changes the campaign, and subsequently the better environment it provided, has made to the lives of the people with disabilities we serve and to the Open Avenues staff.”

With such an increase in clients and partners, Open Avenues is now ready for yet another campaign to expand its facilities and programs. Neal and McElroy have no doubt that through a continued partnership with Kinetic, this next campaign will be a success as well.

“After Kinetic came into our lives, we were like the little engine that could!” said McElroy. “Kinetic took our dreams and showed us how to make them a reality.”

*This campaign took place prior to Hartsook becoming Kinetic in 2022.

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