Leading Freedom (and Fundraising) Forward
"A major goal of the campaign was to substantially increase the ACLU's grassroots presence and effectiveness across the country by significantly increasing the programmatic and institutional capacity of its state affiliates," says Laurie Beacham, director of media relations for the ACLU. "The Strategic Affiliate Initiative, the centerpiece of the campaign, was based on a strategic decision to invest in states where civil liberties were most under assault and where opportunities outweighed the local resources — Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Montana, Mississippi, Michigan, eastern Missouri, Tennessee and Arizona.
"Smaller affiliates located mainly in the South and in the country's heartland were bolstered by increased resources from the campaign," she adds. "That enabled them to hire full-time attorneys, launch new advocacy programs, and expand communications and public-education initiatives."
With a very clear roster of goals that was created from the start in partnership with the ACLU's affiliate support department, thoughts turned to financing the initiatives. Romero and McKay saw this massive undertaking as an opportunity to turn the organization's development strategy on its head.
The ACLU's membership, though large and loyal, was aging (average donor age was 63). McKay says the organization's major-gifts program was "unevolved," and there was really no strategy in place to significantly increase planned giving. There also wasn't a lot of outreach to younger donors. So while the membership had recently doubled in size to 550,000, it was stagnating as far as long-term funding was concerned.
"We just knew that our ability to grow would depend on our ability to grow our major-gifts and planned-giving programs," McKay explains. "It's unusual to find a campaign that has both increased planned giving and outright cash as its goal, but we had an aging file so planned giving was most important to us.
"By adding a planned-giving element to the campaign, we allowed more people to participate that could not have otherwise," she says. "Many members want to give a major contribution but can't leave an outright gift. But they can leave a legacy gift."