Leading Freedom (and Fundraising) Forward
The northern California affiliate, for example, raised $25 million. Washington State followed with $10 million, and San Diego came in with $4 million. The numbers are even more impressive when you consider that much of the money raised by the large affiliates was meant to be distributed to smaller ones that existed in states where the need for ACLU representation far outweighed the support they were receiving from local donors.
(Even outside of this particular campaign, the ACLU's long-standing resource-sharing strategy provides for support for all affiliates regardless of their individual ability to raise funds. Contributions to the national organization are shared with local affiliates. This spirit of cooperation between the national office and affiliates was key to the success of the campaign, McKay says, because the structure encourages camaraderie and eliminates competition.)
The LFF campaign was decidedly low-tech and focused on tried-and-true major-gifts fundraising strategy. Development staff members stayed offline and out of the mail, relying instead on "shoe leather," phone calls and face-to-face meetings. State affiliate executive directors and volunteers from across the country met with donors at dinners and parties, on flights, at the theater and other social events. They spent a whole lot of time on the road, did a whole lot of talking and took a whole lot of inspiration from their leader.
Romero believes successful fundraising comes from the top and a nonprofit's CEO also needs to be its chief fundraiser. According to McKay, Romero was involved in securing all of the top gifts of the campaign, and his persistence was an inspiration to his team. For example, she tells how the staff created a T-shirt for him when he finally nailed a more than $10 million gift after courting a prospect for more than four years. The shirt was emblazoned with the words "Anthony's Tenacity Tour" and, in true rock concert fashion, listed all of the places Romero had met with the donor before closing the gift.