Leading Freedom (and Fundraising) Forward
"I know our donors care about making a difference. I'm not a reluctant fundraiser because I can see the difference we've made in America because of the money we've raised and the people we've convinced to support us," Romero says.
But tenacity aside, Romero believes the leader of a nonprofit organization must have unwavering belief in and passion for the cause, and that passion has to trickle down through the staff to donors. That, he feels, was the key to the ACLU overcoming its inferiority complex and, subsequently, the lapse between its supporters' passion for the organization and their giving habits.
As a result, the ACLU has become very good at highlighting its successes and tailoring its messages to donors' interests. Whether it be immigration issues, race issues or issues surrounding the LGBT community that a donor is interested in … the ACLU is fighting that battle somewhere in the country and can use that to reach the donor on a deeply personal level.
Another surprising part of LFF's success is that even though it began while President Bush II was in office, gifts continued to roll in even after the change in leadership to a president who said he would make civil rights a priority in his administration. And they continued to come even as the economy spiraled downward.
McKay and Romero attribute that to the fact that the ACLU successfully communicated the notion that no matter who's in the White House or what's happening on the national front, there will always be state-level threats to civil liberties.
"Part of it is about having people understand that the ACLU is a permanent fixture on the American political landscape," Romero says. "If the ACLU went down tomorrow, we would have to build a new one the day after tomorrow. The ACLU can never shutter its doors."