A Minute With Cathy Finney, Managing Director, Direct Response, USA for UNHCR — The UN Refugee Agency
FundRaising Success: What is the mission of USA for UNHCR — The UN Refugee Agency?
Cathy Finney: USA for UNHCR supports the UN Refugee Agency's humanitarian work to protect and assist refugees around the world. We strive to meet the needs of the world's most vulnerable people, building support and awareness in the United States for UNHCR's life-saving programs.
FS: What is the annual operating budget?
CF: $15 million
FS: How does the organization fund its mission?
CF: With support from private-sector donors including individuals, corporations and foundations located in the United States through traditional and emerging direct-response channels including mail, telemarketing, online and face-to-face.
FS: What are the organization's fundraising strengths/weaknesses?
CF: Our strengths lie in our face-to-face acquisition (canvassing) program, and the growth and stability of our internal teams. We're also beginning to put in place solid building blocks for a midlevel giving program. Our weaknesses exist within our balance of acquisition channels. We are currently limited to face-to-face and online as our sole source of new donors.
FS: Can you share a recent fundraising success? Why was it successful?
CF: In 2012 we created our first formal renewal series. The first renewal — a typical supporter card package — has done exceedingly well, outperforming (in gross revenue) the emergency appeal that mailed in the same slot in the previous year by 94 percent and posting a 7.1 percent response rate with an average gift of $67. The combined increases in response rate and average gift (up $20 over last year) combined with flat costs meant a 110 percent increase in net revenue over last year's effort.
FS: Any major difficulties or setbacks you've faced along the way as far as fundraising is concerned?
CF: Our brand awareness is a constant concern for us, as well as our inability to be able to consistently fund (or have funded) a direct-mail acquisition program.
FS: Are there any things you would do differently with your fundraising?
CF: Focus more on stewardship. We've made the investment in hiring a staff person completely dedicated to overseeing the stewardship of all our donors, but we could do better than that.
FS: What is the organization's fundraising philosophy?
CF: Will this enable us to help more refugees in need?
FS: What advice would you give to organizations similar to yours in size and annual operating budget?
CF: Use your data to work efficiently. Develop a multiyear growth scenario to break out of the fiscal year constraints under which we traditionally work. Yes, I know, we all have to meet fiscal year-end goals, but if you set multiyear goals and work toward those you'll encourage even greater growth.
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