So much more effective

Posted on September 06 2013

​One of my clients, Portland Homeless Family Solutions (PHFS), was ready to embark on a midyear campaign that would include visits with donors.  The organization doesn’t have a Development Director.  Instead, I have been focusing my efforts on coaching and consulting with Brandi Tuck who is the Executive Director, and the board. Because of Brandi’s willingness to learn, gregarious nature and hard work, she has been very successful in raising more funds since we started working together. Here is a story that illustrates why she is raising more money than ever before.

Last year for their midyear campaign, she sent a letter to the PHFS donors and asked if they would support a homeless family for a month, which costs $1,500.  They had a few people sign up at the full amount and they raised about $9,000.

This year we added a little more juice to the appeal by creating a clever marketing piece, adding personal visits, a direct mail letter and an email blast.  While I was talking with Brandi about how to frame the appeal, I asked her how she came up with the $1,500 amount.  She told me it takes an average of 34 days for a family to find permanent housing through PHFS, that 90% of the families stay in their housing permanently and it only costs $1,500.  Wow.  This was so much more than shelter!  Knowing that donors like to support programs that are focused and tangible, I knew that this would be appealing.

Next we created copy for a marketing piece that highlighted one family that had gone through the process and represented success for the program. Brandi got some pictures and quotes from the happy family sitting in their new home.  We then asked graphic designer Jim Parker to create something that could be handed to or mailed to donors.  As usual, Jim’s piece was beautiful and captured the feeling perfectly.  While we were waiting for the printing to complete, we started looking at a list of donors that had been giving to PHFS, whom we thought had the capacity to give more.  After coaching and creating a strategy, Brandi started making time to pick up the phone, call them and ask if they would meet.  As to be expected, many of the donors declined to meet but appreciated the call.  However, there were several who did agree to meet with her and some board members helped set up some meetings too.  The results of these visits and the mailings were very positive and profitable, bringing in over $25,000, nearly triple last year’s figure.  

Why did this campaign work:

1. It had a specific ask that made it easy for the donor to understand the need and how they could be part of the solution. (versus asking for general operating support)

2. It had a marketing piece that was used as a prop on visits, which appealed to donors who received it in the mail.  It was succinct and visually beautiful.

3. The ED met with donors in person, thanked them for the past support, listened to them, and asked them to become more involved.  There is a formula in Development that is quite simple.  # of donor visits = number of $.  The more visits, the more money you will raise.*

4. The campaign was staggered over a couple of months and used a variety of modalities for the Ask.  Some donors respond better to direct mail, others email, and then of course the most effective way to raise funds, the in-person request.

Do you have a small campaign story you want to share? I would love to hear it!

Always yours, Sally

*PS Brandi wanted me to share with you something that she learned.  She noticed that donors would send checks 2-3 weeks after their meetings.  This was a pleasant surprise and helped her to better understand that the checks weren’t always written right on the spot.



Partial rendering of donor materials

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