Evergreen Treatment Services (ETS) is transforming the battle against opioids across Western Washington.

I was addicted to heroin for 12 years. I was in and out of prison, and I was sick of being sick and destitute .I just really wanted to change. You can’t work on your addiction until you get stable and take control of your life. Methadone (medication-assisted treatment) helps with that.

Now I’m back in school; I have career plans; I have my life back. Recovery is a constant process. I’m grateful that Evergreen has been there for me.

— Brandon, ETS Client

Brandon’s story is not unique. Today 2.1 million people across America struggle with opioid addiction, and it’s become a daily headline. Though we hear more about it today, the truth is that opioid use disorder has plagued our nation’s communities for decades.

Evergreen Treatment Services has been working to transform the lives of individuals and their communities through innovative and effective addiction and social services in Western Washington since 1973. Alford Group has had the honor of walking the path of success-amid-epidemic with this remarkable nonprofit since 2014. Its task is far from complete, but its story – and its successes to date – are worth highlighting today.

Stigma of Addiction

Opioid abuse not only flew under the radar of the general population for many years, but also flew under the radar of the philanthropic community. This was largely due to the stigma associated with the addiction.

Is there any social issue more stigmatized than drug addiction? We know that we’ve saved lives, brought families back together, and made a real difference. Yet over many years we never dared talk about our work with our friends, our neighbors, our colleagues. Just like our clients suffering from opioid addiction, we Board members were judged negatively for being affiliated with such an ailment. We too felt the sting of stigma.

— Jack Eckrem, ETS Board Member

What the “sting of stigma” has meant for Evergreen Treatment Services is that, since 1973, it has been operating legally, but without philanthropic support. Broad community awareness was low-to-nonexistent. Outreach and networking efforts were confined to public agencies directly responsible for services to this population.

Rise of the Crisis

Fast-forward to 2014. Deaths from opioid overdose now surpass deaths from traffic accidents. Opioid addiction is now identified as an epidemic by virtually all professional societies and public agencies. The gravity of the issue has become impossible to ignore and is now talked about openly and publicly whenever and wherever people gather.

Transformation of Evergreen Treatment Services

2014 was also the year for new staff leadership at ETS. A new executive director quickly assembled a talented and energetic executive team, and in step with the Board of Directors, they set forth to serve more clients from more clinics, broaden the package of services for better long-term outcomes, and move the dial on this epidemic.

What does this have to do with philanthropy? Just about everything!

  • In 2014, ETS had previously received a few cash and in-kind donations, without ever asking. The cumulative historical donor list, after 40 years of operation, consisted of a few dozen individuals.
  • By 2018, the donor base contained 385 donors and hundreds of prospects.
  • In four years, the total annual philanthropic revenue increased from $5,670 to $171,867.

The revenue and donor numbers may not seem impressive to larger, established organizations. But moving the dial on philanthropy – from $5,670 to nearly $172,000 in four years – has been transformative for this vital community organization. And these are only the first few data points on a trajectory firmly headed in one direction!

Four Elements of Success

There was no magic, no windfall, no single benefactor who made possible this growth. ETS staff, board, volunteers and donors worked diligently over four years on the four most important elements for long-term philanthropic success:

Image & Reputation
  • After nearly 40 years of vital service to the community, ETS was largely an unknown entity. Staff and Board members contributed names of friends, relatives and colleagues to develop a large and broad mailing list.
  • ETS created and distributed a brief fact sheet, describing who they are and what they do. Periodic e-newsletters keep ETS and its successes in front of supporters.
  • The executive director joined the local Rotary Club, accepted invitations to speak in front of groups both large and small and began publishing op-ed pieces in the local newspaper. That led to radio and television interviews, which in turn led to invitations to speak to other service organizations and community groups.
  • ETS has always had a seat that the table with local, regional, and national experts on opioid use disorder, but began to talk more broadly about this important work through mailings, e-newsletters and public speaking engagements.
Case for Support
  • As helpful as constant media coverage can be for any issue, it is important to control the message about who you actually are and what you actually do.
  • The entire executive staff invested much time and expertise in developing the strongest possible case for support, using a common grant application form as a template.
  • This same broad-based team is tapped regularly to keep the case for support updated. They also help to personalize grant requests as needed.
  • Just as executive staff leadership evolved, the Board of Directors also expanded and evolved. New Directors were recruited strategically for skills and experience in a range of subjects, including finance, communications and health care, with an eye on expanding networks and spheres of influence.
  • One important position of strength is a pipeline of future Board members, and a cross-trained executive staff that can absorb transitions as necessary.
  • ETS hired its first-ever Development Director in FY2017, and results of her efforts were evident in FY2018 fundraising results.
  • The executive staff leadership team is fully trained as spokespeople for ETS, and these individuals lead site visits and clinic tours with current and prospective donors.
Financial Support
  • Staff reviewed the organizational budget and summarized sources of revenue and broad categories of expenses. They worked together across departments to confirm, clarify and articulate the difference philanthropic support could make to the big picture.
  • Little by little, one appeal at a time, requests for philanthropic support reached an ever-expanding group of supporters through a variety of means:
    • Board giving
    • Corporate and foundation grants
    • Personal solicitation
    • Email and social media appeals re: GiveBIG & #GivingTuesday
    • Direct mail
    • Private networking events

But Wait! There’s Hope!

As a nation, we are far from ending the opioid crisis, but thanks to growing philanthropic support, Evergreen Treatment Services is well on the way to serving more clients; doing more outreach; addressing immediate safety, security and compliance priorities; and saving more lives. To learn more, please visit www.evergreentx.org