Nov 16, 2010

A One-Woman Fundraising Pitch That Worked

I always enjoy The New York TImes' annual "Giving" section, and this year one theme that stood out was the power of individual action.

Take, for example, the article, "Pooling Small Contributions Hoping for Big Results." It profiles a 20-year-old volunteer named Kelsey Warner, who got involved in a charity in Waltham, Massachusetts called Small Can Be Big. This organization tries to reach the young, wired generation, inpsiring them to solicit modest donations to help with individual cases of need, via social networks.

Warner got interested in the case of a single mom named Raquel Rohling, whose child had developed cancer. Rohling had, as a result, become unemployed and was living in a homeless shelter.

In 400 words, Warner wrote a brilliant summary of the issue and the case for support -- one that more experienced fundraisers could learn a thing or two from. Here's my annotated excerpt:

"Mrs. R was once employed, with an apartment, a car, and furniture." [Good way to make the reader think, "Oh, she's just like us, not someone looking for a handout."]

"When Little R was diagnosed with (leukemia), everything changed. Mrs. R sold all of her belongings to pay for treatments . . . " [Uh oh, she's just like us but with unimaginable bad luck -- and she's a sympathetic mother figure, sacrificing everything for her child, to boot.]

"Putting this mother and son into a safe apartment would be one step in a long process of returning to the life they once knew." [Warner points to an achievable solution -- this isn't just another hopeless news headline for us to turn away from.]

"$1,500 by December 20th gives this family a very happy New Year, and a place to call home. How can you help?" [Brilliant! A sense of time urgency, and a way to make a major change in this needy woman's life -- who wouldn't want to donate?]

In fact, this pitch was highly successful -- 18 people from across the United states donated enough to reach the $1,500 goal, and Ms. Rohling moved into her new apartment. Now, how can you craft your pitches to reach similarly achievable goals?