CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When they check in at Hospitality House, guests are greeted by a volunteer and get a quick rundown of services at the nonprofit shelter for families of patients at Charlotte-area hospitals.
They also learn it costs the nonprofit $60 to put them up at no charge for the night, and that they will be expected to handle a chore such as vacuuming a hallway, sweeping the front porch or taking out the garbage.
“They may or may not be able to give money, but they can always give time,” says Kimberly Melton, executive director of Hospitality House.
And giving time actually can lead to an increase in contributions, she says.
“We are seeing that our guests definitely are giving more than they used to,” she says, “and we find the reason is we’re making them more aware of our mission.”
Communicating the story of Hospitality House to families and the community is a top priority for Melton, who joined the group in July 2008 after a career in marketing and management.
Marketing is part of a larger effort to streamline operations and institute business practices she learned in the for-profit world.
“We run our organization like a business,” she says.
Hospitality House was formed in 1985 in response to a study three years earlier by the Mecklenburg Medical Alliance and Endowment that found families from out of town visiting relatives in local hospitals often could not find an affordable place to spend the night nearby.
Initially operating as the MMAE’s Inn, a 14-bed facility in a former house it owned on Scott Avenue, Hospitality House in 1996 added 15 beds in a wing of St. John’s
And last year, Hospitality House opened a 22-bedroom facility at 1400 Scott Avenue that can sleep 50 guests a night.
Yet despite doubling its total beds, the nonprofit still is full every night, and has a waiting list, reflecting the fact that the facility is the only one of its kind in Charlotte
and serves eight hospitals with 2,000 beds in a two-mile radius.
Hospitality House also faces a financial crunch because of the recession and its own expansion.
While its annual budget has nearly doubled, to $416,000, foundation support is down 40 percent and corporate support has plunged 90 percent, mainly because of the recession and an operating budget that is higher than anticipated.
So Hospitality House is ramping up its fundraising and communications.
The group has hired veteran fundraiser Susan Ross as its development director, and she aims to boost the group’s annual campaign and develop a planned-giving program to increase its $1.2 million endowment.
And on Sept. 29, the group will host a fundraising breakfast featuring Michael Tarwater, president of Carolinas Healthcare System.
To better tell its story, Hospitality House has launched an e-newsletter and created a speakers bureau and scheduling talks about the organization at area hospitals, religious congregations and corporations.
“I call us the ‘unknown nonprofit of Charlotte,'” Melton says. “My theme this year is communication.”