I am writing today’s blog post from Anchorage where I have been meeting with two of our firm’s clients: Camp Fire USA Alaska Council and Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center. Members of our firm are in Alaska on a pretty regular basis, and we have been watching development of the philanthropic culture in this region through our experience with several nonprofits. Our firm’s goal in partnering with nonprofits in Alaska is to help further a culture of philanthropy, and develop the practice of giving by individuals to support the organizations they care deeply about. In fact, this goal is not very different than with our clients in other parts of the Northwest. In most every campaign and major gifts program we provide counsel for, we are helping the nonprofits we advise expand their base of donors and cultivate those relationships to maximize support from their donors.
So, what are the keys to securing maximum gifts from donors?
- Sharing your vision so that it becomes your donor’s vision, too
- Hands-on engagement and up close understanding of the factors that drive your success and how philanthropy makes a difference
- Confidence that the positive outcomes for the community are significant and will have a lasting impact
Let me share a recent example of this. For the past five years our firm has been honored to serve as campaign counsel for Wellspring Family Services, a human service organization well respected for providing valuable services to the Seattle community for over 100 years, but also an organization with a limited fundraising program and no facilities it could call its own – until this year. About a decade ago the organization started its investments in donor relations and building a sustainable fundraising program, and committed in 2006 to move ahead with its first ever capital campaign. The vision of their experienced CEO, Ruthann Howell, and dedicated board was well articulated. Over a period of months, their vision for expanding services to provide permanent solutions to homelessness for 5,000 families was embraced by others, who decided to join them in creating a new home for the organization. Seattle Rotary selected the new center as its Centennial project, and Rotarians donated over $4 million dollars. With another $1 million from board members and the “extended family”, and investments from local and regional individuals, foundations and corporations, Wellspring Family Services is very close to surpassing its $12.5 million campaign goal. The vast majority of donors made their first ever gift to the organization through this campaign. And, during the past 4 years, the number of donors and total of annual giving has increased each year. Wellspring Family Services was successful at achieving each of the keys listed above.
Successful fundraising is not achieved merely by having a compelling vision. The effort to engage prospective donors in learning about your vision and making it their own can result in significant commitment to making the vision a reality.
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About the Author
Aggie Sweeney CFRE
Aggie is a sought-after consultant and speaker. Nonprofit leaders trust that she can tackle complex campaign issues and give them solid advice.