Category Archives: Fundraising Kudos

Fundraising Kudos to: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Remember that flood of emails that ended just a few days ago, from every nonprofit you’d ever had contact with, containing urgent subject lines like: “Only a few days left to donate!” “Last chance!” “24 hours left!” and so forth?

You’d think that donors were motivated only by tax deductions, or that the nonprofits were going to stop accepting donations the minute the ball dropped and 2012 began. (As if.)

So it was refreshing to receive a simple “Thank You” email from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, containing a video reminder of the work that they do. (I don’t usually even click to watch videos, but they’ve got the advantage that bird and wildlife footage is fun to watch.) They didn’t even ask for money, which was just fine by me. It brought them to the top of the stack in terms of charities I’ll pay attention to in the coming here.

And here’s the video itself: Holiday Thank You and Video Dec 24, 2011


Can Your Donors View Their Names Online?

I recently received an email from my college, with the subject line, “View Our New Online Honor Roll of Donors.” It allows all alums, with a password, to view the name of everyone (class by class) who made a donation in the last fiscal year.

Of course, I clicked through, just to see my name. I felt silly as I did so, but hey, it’s a matter of human (or at least donor) nature. Which is just what the college was counting on. And as I viewed the list of other classmates who’ve also given, many of whom I remember well, I got that warm feeling of belonging to a special group. The college was no doubt counting on that, too.

There are no new lessons here, but a new-ish application of some old truths about donor recognition and sense of belonging. It shouldn’t be too hard to create such an online list for your own organization.

Fundraising Kudos to: Montclair Pet and Wildlife Fund

You know how I love fundraising that makes money by selling something that costs the nonprofit nothing, and the Montclair Veterinary Hospital’s Pet and Wildlife Fund’s “Pet Mayor Contest” is one of the best examples I’ve seen lately.

Here’s how it works:

  • People pay a $25 registration fee to enter their pets in the annual “Pet Mayor” race, fill out a simple nomination form, and send digital photos.
  • Local businesses sponsor pet candidates and provide polling places , where people can vote for their favorite, on their premises.
  • The winning pet gets a $100 gift certificate for veterinary care along with pet food, treats, and services donated by local vendors. The pet mayor’s responsibilities don’t sound too onerous: According to the Fund, the winner “serves as an ambassador of goodwill to all creatures in the community: two-legged, four-legged, furred, feathered and scaled,” enjoying “media attention and the chance to appear in public on behalf of the Pet & Wildlife Fund.”

This is apparently the Fund’s most popular fundraising event of the year. And it’s a proven publicity-generator — I read about it in the local neighborhood paper.

Fundraising Kudos to: Rockridge DVD Project

These are tough times for libraries, businesses, and donors, but the Rockridge DVD Project has come up with some creative solutions that unite all three.

The library was offered a chance to buy, at low cost, the inventory of a DVD rental store that was closing. With a loan from the library, the newly formed DVD Project did so — but then needed to pay the loan back, by an October deadline. The group started soliciting neighborhood donations, through means such as publicity in local publications and setting up an information table in the library.

I confess, I was initially skeptical about the importance of this project. After all, I like books, and questioned whether the library should turn into a DVD rental outfit.

But after talking to a volunteer at their table, I understood the brilliance of their strategy: DVDs bring people into the library — people who then tend to check out books, as well. When library circulation goes up, city funding goes up, and it becomes easier to advocate against, say, library closures (which Oakland has been threatening a lot lately).

It’s more than a fundraising effort, it’s a strategy for library advocacy. The urgency of the upcoming deadline is also a fine way to raise the library’s profile. And if the effort raises questions (like mine) about the ultimate purpose of libraries, all the better — the end conclusion can only be that they’re incredibly important community resources.

Fundraising Kudos to: McNay Art Museum

I’m an art museum addict, so while at a recent conference in San Antonio, Texas, I managed, in the few hours before my return flight, to fit in a trip to the McNay Art Museum. (Maybe I should mention how graciously they fit all of my luggage into the coatroom and called a cab in time to get me to the airport, too.)

But aside from the pleasures of the collection, I was struck by something I’d never seen before: Wall postings next to selected paintings containing patrons’ recollections of what that particular work has meant to them over the years.

The accounts included everything from adults describing their childhood favorite paintings — or in one case, a man describing how a Modigliani became his ideal when searching for a wife — to a child saying of Monet’s Water Lilies, “My favorite picture was of the pond and lepads.” (I think I’ve got that right — I know I remember her spelling of lily pads correctly!)

What a great way to get people to reflect on what the museum means to them, using the power of storytelling. It’s a subtle strategy to build loyalty and a sense of affinity with fellow patrons, which of course leads to donations.

Also, the tendency for people to consider what the art has meant to them over a lifetime also inspires the sort of reflection that translates into legacy gifts.

My one criticism is that I couldn’t find any of these patron accounts on the McNay’s website. (Or maybe they’re there somewhere, but too well buried to be useful.) They’d be perfect additions to the donor pages, which are otherwise rather dry.