04/25/2012 10:08 am ET | Updated Jun 25, 2012

To Help the Homeless, Advocates Get Creative

A few weeks ago, I was invited to appear in a video being filmed by Volunteers of America. Then, a few days ago, I was given a preview of a new video produced by The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition. Volunteers of America is a nationwide organization dating back to 1896, and it serves about two million people in a variety of ways, including housing. VOA is my landlord in Gainesville, Fla.

The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition is a regional nonprofit involved in just about every charitable undertaking in the Florida Keys. FKOC is my "alma mater" -- having provided shelter at a time when I could not find affordable housing.

Both of these nonprofit organizations are making the documentaries in an effort to enlighten the public -- and potential donors -- about their programs and the good work they do. They hope to replace the revenue lost when government agencies, charitable foundations, and donors -- due to the lingering fiscal crisis -- have had to curtail their generosity, and, cut back on their financial commitments.

Other homeless advocacy groups have expanded on previously successful special events to raise desperately-needed monies in these troubled economic times.

In June, the Wyoming Coalition for the Homeless will have a "Walk In My Shoes" march through downtown Cheyenne, with sponsors making pledges and donations for each mile walked. And in July, Family Promise out in Wasilla, Ala., will set up "Cardboard City", where, for the price of a donation, people can experience for one night what it is like to sleep in a makeshift shelter.

Some organizations seek "new" money by finding new donors. Episcopal Charities in South Florida is a good example -- having success raising revenue by way of special luncheons.

I've been honored to "keynote" a couple of these events, in Palm Beach and Key Biscayne. Twelve tables with places for ten people each provides an affluent gathering of 120 prospective donors.

And then there are the individual homeless advocates, who are truly creative. Such are the volunteers who operate "The Home Van" in north central Florida. They make the most of small donations to deliver food and material goods to the homeless who have fallen through the cracks of other programs.

What a happy and rewarding time I had the evening I was invited to go along on a "drive out." My job was dishing out the chili to a lot of very hungry, and most appreciative homeless men, women -- and children.

All of these organizations are being inventive with their fundraising, and that must continue, for it would seem as though we have entered a new era for funding charitable endeavors.

Our national debt, and budget problems at all levels of government make it necessary for nonprofits to look more and more to the private sector for the monies they need to continue the good work that they do.

To help the homeless, advocates must be creative.