Recently in Fundraising kudos Category

March 10, 2011

Hawaii Library Shows Link Between Fundraising and Volunteerism

The headline in American Libraries' magazine aptly reads, "The Little Library That Could." The article, by Brian Matthews, describes how the largely volunteer-run Makiki Community Library in Honolulu manages to stay afloat even without collecting library fines for overdue materials!

What I'd like to know is how, beyond the "aloha spirit" mentioned, the library manages to do such a great job keeping volunteers interested. They've got some volunteers willingly cleaning the bathrooms, for God's sake! That sort of commitment doesn't come without effort on the part of the organization, and good leadership -- which it sounds like the Makiki Library has, in the form of a former librarian turned Friends group president, Wendy Maxwell. 

In any case, it's a fine example of how rallying volunteers can supplant some of the need to raise straight cash.

December 15, 2010

Fundraising Kudos to the Friends of the Packard Library

. . . for its creative spin on the walkathon idea, and one that non-athletes can get involved in. This Friends group had volunteers line up sponsors for guerrilla readings of poems by Emily Dickinson, at unlikely spots throughout the town of Marysville, California -- such as a bar, gas station, and laundromat.

The amount earned wasn't overwhelming -- $1,000 -- but it no doubt raised the library's visibility, and it got some press coverage, to boot -- read all about it in the Sacramento Bee, here.
November 20, 2010

Fundraising Kudos to: Alameda County Community Food Bank

It's the season for holiday appeal letters, and given the flood of them, it takes a lot for one to stand out. But I received an appeal card from the Alameda County Community Food Bank recently that took a clever approach.

The front of the card showed an incredibly cute smiling baby, with the words "'Tis the Season." Upon opening the card, you see the words, "To Fill Hungry Tummies." But here's what I thought was the kicker: The next line says, "Before you read any further, look at the little guy on the front one more time."

And you know what? I did. With that one simple command, the writer stopped me in my usual tracks -- which normally involve tearing up these letters -- and got me to look into the face of a (presumably) needy kid. (Actually, he looks about as well fed as a kid can. But as I said, he was cute!) Drawing the reader's attention in for a closer look has to be the number one goal of charity appeal letters, and this one did that admirably. The rest of the letter was pretty darn good, too. 
August 19, 2010

Fundraising Kudos to: Monterey Bay Aquarium's Free Desktop Wallpaper

FIrst, a confession. When I'm bored at work, I surf the Web in search of a new and fabulous image to decorate that glowing screen at which I stare for untold hours.

Which is why I was so pleased to come across the Monterey Bay Aquarium's selection of free desktop wallpaper. Cuddly otters, surreal jellyfish, and even a Pacific spiny lumpsucker are all there, in high quality photo form.

What does this have to do with fundraising, you ask? It's easy -- one of the cardinal rules in making connections with donors through your website is to give them a reason to keep coming back, and this wallpaper does just that. In fact, in the Aquarium's case, it may have already have driven other people to the site, who came into my office and said, "Ooh, cool jellyfish, where's that from?"

Interesting visuals are always a good way to give your site drawing power, and have the added bonus that you don't need to spend time drafting and proofreading them. I read a recent account of a real estate agent who writes a blog; and one of his most popular entries was a mystery photo, where he asked people, "What is it?" (That has the added bonus of being interactive, another way to establish a sense of connection with Web visitors.) You could do that too!

For more comprehensive advice on making your website serve your fundraising goals, see the free article on Nolo's website, "Using Your Nonprofit's Website to Help Fundraise."
August 9, 2010

Fundraising Kudos to the Tahoe Rim Trail Association

I wasn't planning to think about fundraising while on vacation in Tahoe last week -- but in another illustration that nonprofits are everywhere, and an integral part of our enjoyment of life, I happened to take a hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail. It's a trail that wouldn't exist but for the Tahoe Rim Trail Association.

Of course, I wouldn't have known that if they hadn't cleverly posted a sign at the trailhead explaining the association's history. It's an interesting account of how the founder, Glen Hampton, started out with a dream of a trail that circled the ridges of Lake Tahoe.
Thumbnail image for tahoe rim sign.JPG
Hampton was an avid hiker and Forest Service employee, who pursued that dream while a grad student and then a guest instructor at the University of Nevada-Reno.

The association was officially begun in 1982, and had to raise over a million dollars in order to complete the trail -- which it did, in 2001. Now the Association continues to maintain the trail, as well as sponsor hiking trails, discussion boards, and other events of public interest.

trail box.JPGAfter reading the Association's inspiring story, I thought, "Ok, so where's the donation box?" I was getting mentally ready to write a "fundraising oops" blog -- until I got about fifty feet up the trail, and there was a big green box.

I guess they didn't want to seem grabby, or at least wanted us to appreciate a little bit of wilderness before pulling out our wallets.

And what wilderness it is . . . below is a view from further up the trail, looking down toward Spooner Lake.
tahoe rim view.JPG 
By the way, the Rim Trail Association website does a great job of advising people how to get involved, including stories of other donors and what moved them to pitch in.

And if you thought only children or animals could be "adopted" by donors, don't fail to notice their "Adopt a Vista" program!

May 20, 2010

Kudos to: Berkeley East Bay Humane Society, After the Fire

It's the type of situation that could give nightmares to anyone working in a nonprofit : A midnight fire, the building gutted, the recent remodeling job in ruins. And in the case of the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society's fire last night, a dozen cats who died.

Today is usually my day to walk dogs at the Humane Society, and I was looking forward to seeing some of my favorite four-footed friends. Instead, I stopped by this morning to find people in tears and staff trying to figure out what was next, with their offices gone or unusable.

But in terms of disaster response, their handling of the situation can offer lessons for any group facing something similar. First off, everyone there has remained positive, assuring the media and other contacts that they plan to rebuild -- and to keep on finding care for the affected animals and placing them for adoption in the meantime. That's crucial for anyone making a donation, because no one wants to think it will go to a lost cause, or to merely reduce the insurance company's liability.

Second, they've made themselves available to the press, with plenty of coverage explaining to people how they can help, where to donate, and how the donations will be used. 

Technology has been a help to them. Even without an office, they've gotten onto email and started sending out messages to volunteers and other supporters, alerting them to the situation and what can be done.

Here's hoping the response leads to a speedy rebuilding, and a better-than-ever space for the animals! In the meantime, think about your own nonprofit's disaster preparedness -- would you be ready with off-site lists of supporters and means of reaching out to them? What steps can you take now to make the tasks easier?  
April 20, 2010

Fundraising Kudos to: American Cancer Society

According to a survey in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the American Cancer Society (ACS) was number one among nonprofits doing online fundraising last year. It raised $114 million online, an impressive 13% share of its total contributions.

What is the ACS doing right? I don't have the behind-the-scenes info, but looking at its website, I can make a few, hopefully educated guesses. Notice, for example:

  • The home page contains interesting, substantive content. Studies have shown that people rate substantive content number one in importance when evaluating a nonprofit's website. The ACS offers a host of topic links, like, "Learn About Cancer," "Support Programs and Services," and "Cancer Facts & Figures."
  • The home page also leads people quickly to donation opportunities. Readers can click to "Join the Fight Against Cancer," "Get Involved," and "Donate Now," not to mention on a special headline inviting people to participate in the Relay For Life.
  • When you click the "Donate" link (under "Join the Fight"), you're given an introductory reminder of the good that your gift does, plus various options for how to donate. And in case you remain unconvinced, there's another link called "Learn How Your Donations Help." This provides even more detail on ACS's research, advocacy, service, and other programs supported by donations.
  • The payment page is simple to fill out, provides logos with assurances about the security of the information you'll be transmitting, and actually has an 800 number that people can call for help! That last bit probably isn't realistic for most smaller nonprofits, but at least put your organization's phone number up, with information on when to call if need be, and who to ask for.
Well done, I say. And have a look at my free article for more information on "Using Your Nonprofit's Website to Help Fundraise. "

April 16, 2010

Fundraising Kudos to: Lawrence Hall of Science

The Lawrence Hall of Science, in the hills above the UC Berkeley campus, is known primarily as a place to take your kids to learn about math and science. So you've got to hand it to whoever there thought up "Geek Out Night," their new-ish monthly event where adults can mingle, meet scientists, play with the exhibits that are usually surrounded by a crowd of kids, and visit a cash bar.

It's not an event that every nonprofit can repeat -- but worth noting is how the organization took its existing assets and found a new (and fun) way to use them, reaching a different audience.

Too bad I missed the one where you bring in your broken old electronics (toasters, DVD players, etc.) and their experts helped you take it apart, put it back together, and see if you could make it work!
November 5, 2009

Fundraising Kudos to: The Nature Conservancy

I'm always on the lookout for a good way to convey the notion of "planned giving" to your donors. It's hard to find a middle ground between vague, circular statements like, "Plan a planned gift today!" and overly direct statements like, "At least leave us something when you die!"

That's why I was impressed by a recent ad in Nature Conservancy Magazine, which displayed a number of gorgeous landscape and animal photos, and read:


Clever, huh? And the "If you will it" was in orange (which unfortunately I don't know how to reproduce on this blog screen). This little tag line manages to convey the positive side of planning for one's demise -- making a lasting difference to the best parts of this world -- while actually getting the word "will" in there.  

Of course, now that they've come up with this word combo, other nonprofits can't simply copy it. But it's a great illustration of the infinite combinations that words offer -- play with the possibilities long enough, and you may come up with a great tag line of your own.

August 24, 2009

Fundraising Kudos to: Portable Playhouse

It's always fun to read about an unusual fundraising idea, and here's one that caught my eye recently: Portable Playhouse, a nonprofit that visits pediatric units in hospitals and recovering women in outpatient cancer centers and helps them make their own beaded jewelry, is going for a Guinness World Record.

They aim to string together the world's longest necklace, over two miles long. For a dollar, donors can add a bead to the strand.

And as a bonus, this project is bringing them media coverage, including the following article on the Philanthropy Project's website.