For individuals with disabilities, riding a horse provides a feeling of freedom and independence that is often limited in their everyday life. Equi-Kids began as a grassroots effort in 1989 to meet this need—but by the 2000s, the program found itself at a crossroads. They had been operating from a borrowed 15-acre plot, and realized they needed their own, larger facility in order to grow and be financially secure for the future. Through a campaign planning study, our consultants determined that Equi-Kids needed changes to their board and fundraising structure if they were going to move in this new direction. Their solicitation format had been a “shotgun approach,” relying on the same donors year after year without a focus on major gifts. And they were also being led by a grassroots board, who were hands-on but lacked experience in major gift fundraising.
We first helped Equi-Kids build a new team to lead their capital campaign, elevating their overall board composition, with a focus on fundraising. From there, we crafted a strategic plan. Our consultants then helped them improve their board governance structure, and implement fundraising and marketing strategies. We also encouraged them to hire a development director—who quickly launched some events that raised awareness. Equi-Kids committed to the five-year plan we outlined, with defined goals and timelines—dutifully incorporating these goals into every board meeting. As the campaign got underway, we helped them connect with new, generous donors whose interests aligned with Equi-Kids’ mission and objectives.
In the end, Equi-Kids raised over $5.5 million and acquired the title to 92 acres of donated land from a local developer. They constructed an amazing new facility, which includes a 24-stall barn and indoor riding arena, administrative building and large storage shed. Now thriving and debt-free, it is one of the largest accredited equine riding programs in the country benefiting the special-needs community. They went from a few horses to more than 16, vastly expanding the number of riders they can serve. The program has also added a component called Equi-Vets, to serve returning veterans with physical and other wounds such as PTSD.
“There’s no doubt in my mind, this success was a direct result of The Curtis Group’s help. Keith and the entire group are highly respected in the community; they don’t waste people’s time. The community has recognized that it’s part of the value that The Curtis Group brings—when Keith knocks on the door, people know he’s not just there to ask for money, but to match them up with an organization doing something that they care about. By affiliating ourselves with The Curtis Group, it has also elevated our credibility.”
Don O’Brian, Past Board President, Equi-Kids