Leading Freedom (and Fundraising) Forward
Romero and McKay agree that part of the campaign's success can be attributed to the fact that it was born from very specific program needs — needs that were made clear in response to a challenge from a donor.
"I was asked by a donor to reflect on a challenge that if they were to give a significant sum of money, a one-time gift, what would be the legacy that would be left behind in terms of building a program — not in terms of an endowment, but in terms of a sustainable civil-liberties program," Romero says.
He took that question to his development staff, which created a map of where the ACLU's staff members where situated across its 53 affiliates around the United States. Then they overlaid that against a map of hot spots of civil-liberties challenges — "where there are the biggest issues around immigration, racial issues, where the death penalty is still in effect, where there are LGBT battles being fought," he says. The overlap — or lack thereof — was both disturbing and enlightening.
"My gut said that we would be strong on the coasts, but I didn't know how things were in the middle of the country," he adds. "It became clear that our staff resources were not where our program needs were. I pitched the idea [of bolstering the smaller affiliates] to the donor, who turned us down. But it was such a great idea that we decided to do it anyway."
That exercise was the germ of the ACLU's Strategic Affiliate Initiative, which is one part of the three-part Leading Freedom Forward campaign. In addition to beefing up the ACLU affiliates in these threatened areas of the country, LFF was designed to further bolster the East and West Coast affiliates and pump up the ACLU's program of cutting-edge legal and legislative services.