An Interview with Jenni Henry, development manager, Girls on the Run
FS: Can you describe a recent successful fundraising effort?
JH: We celebrated our ninth annual Girls on the Run Chicago Gala in November 2008. The event, attended by nearly 700 people, was held at the Park West and was comprised of a VIP cocktail reception; award presentation to the volunteer, coach and community partner of the year; live music by Underwater People; and a silent and live auction and raffle.
This year we raised a record-high $103,000, which was 20 percent more than last year's event. All proceeds from the gala will help Girls on the Run Chicago serve more young girls. Funds raised underwrite program scholarships for needy families and support program expansion in low-income communities.
FS: Any major difficulties or setbacks you've faced along the way? Things you would do differently with your fundraising?
JH: We've had some setbacks in terms of corporate sponsorships given the state of the economy. It's been increasingly difficult to sign on new sponsors. Recently we have been trying to streamline our messaging in order to give potential sponsors a clear idea of who we are and why we are fundable.
We are also redeveloping our sponsor levels so that we can offer our sponsors more visibility. Hopefully these changes will have a positive effect on our corporate sponsor solicitations.
FS: What advice would you give to organizations similar to yours, in size and annual operating budget?
JH: I think it's important to be smart in your fundraising attempts. Large-scale events seem tempting and like an easy way to raise funds, but they can also be very expensive to execute, and if they aren't done well, they won't raise much money. They are also very time-consuming to plan. Individual giving makes up 80 percent of all fundraising, and I feel that it's often overlooked, so I would definitely advise that an organization with a budget like ours focus on getting a solid individual-giving campaign up and running.