5-Minute Interview: Howard Baskin, chairman, Big Cat rescue
FS: What are your fundraising strengths? Weaknesses?
HB: [Strengths are that]:
* We have a cause that lends itself to having visitors, and the cats capture people’s hearts;.
* We have developed strong video and photography skills and Web skills. Our podcasts have ranked highly on YouTube, Veoh etc.
* Thanks to wise management of Web crawlers and limited donated Web ad dollars, along with skill in creating appealing content, our Web site receives a rather extraordinary half million visitors (not “hits”) monthly.
As for weaknesses, we have much room for improvement in managing our database of donors and cultivating donors, and the array of donation options and benefits could be improved.
FS: Do you foresee any big changes in the way you reach potential donors and other supporters in the near future?
HB: No. We need to work on the weak areas identified above.
FS: How would you describe your fundraising philosophy?
HB: We are very focused on keeping fundraising as a percentage of dollars raised as low as possible so donors will have the satisfaction of knowing that almost all of their donation goes to the program. This is way we have avoided direct mail or hiring call centers or other solicitors, and have focused heavily on our visitors and the Web.
FS: How do you reach out to supporters and potential supporters in ways other than purely fundraising? Are you engaged with the new social media sites — MySpace, Facebook etc. — and online social networking?
HB: Yes. As mentioned above, we have dozens of podcasts that have become very popular. You can see many of these at www.bigcatrescue.org/podcats.htm. And we have blogs for supporters on various topics. (www.bigcatrescue.org/Blog.htm).
Our quarterly tabloid, color newsletter goes to about 70,000 people now. Very few opt out. Photos and stories of the cats are engaging. Our monthly e-zine, The Advocat, goes to about 30,000 opt-in recipients. And as mentioned above, our Web site generally has become the largest source of awareness of our work.