An Interview with Pamela Brannon, Executive Director, Children of Uganda
The mission of Children of Uganda is to support and empower hundreds of orphans and vulnerable children in Uganda to lead successful and productive lives.
FundRaising Success recently spoke with Children of Uganda Executive Director Pamela Brannon …
FundRaising Success: How does Children of Uganda fund its mission?
Pamela Brannon: More than 50 percent of our annual income is derived from individual child sponsorships.
FS: What fundraising venues/strategies do you use?
PB: Direct mail, e-mail solicitations, social media, major gifts, third-party events.
FS: What are your fundraising strengths/weaknesses?
PB: Our fundraising strengths are really in our sponsorship program. Our children write letters directly to the sponsors, and a number of those sponsors keep in regular touch with their child. Our sponsors feel a very strong bond to the children they sponsor as we encourage a consistent exchange.
Our sponsorship program has also proven to be one of our weaknesses as well. We rely so heavily on these donors, and many of them have begun to reach their "expiration date." Donor fatigue has been a big challenge for us in our sponsorship program.
We're also a staff of two and have not had the opportunity to develop a strong grant program.
FS: How do you engage donors and other supporters and potential supporters in ways other than purely fundraising efforts?
PB: We maintain a Facebook page with regular updates, send out a newsletter once a year with updates from the ground, and we also recently introduced a monthly e-mail newsletter and a quarterly one-page hardcopy newsletter. Donors have loved this!
FS: Can you share a recent fundraising success?
PB: We recently launched our second annual "30 in 30" campaign. This is an online campaign where we invited 30 of our most passionate donors to raise $1,000 in 30 days. Our goal was to raise a total of $30,000 in 30 days. We ended up raising over $30,000 and at very little cost to us. We used FirstGiving as our fundraising platform. Each donor had their own page, and we highlighted 30 of our new recruits.
Our most successful donors exceeded their goals for the simple fact that it was an example of how people give to people not to missions. The FirstGiving tools are so easy. We also set up everyone with individual fundraising pages, which helped people say yes to fundraise. They could each personalize their page.
We also did weekly updates and featured the top 5 donors each week to elicit some healthy competition and to gently remind people they had to keep asking their friends and family for donations. We reminded them that the "build it and they will come" fundraising does not work. We were thrilled with our success.
FS: Any major difficulties or setbacks you've faced along the way?
PB: We've faced many of the same challenges that nonprofits of our size and mission face — small staff, very limited fundraising budget, serving another country, etc.
FS: Things you would do differently with your fundraising?
PB: Engaging more donors on the ground in Uganda. When donors go to our children and see our work on the ground, they come back to the States on fire. They become almost evangelical about our work. They truly become our strongest and most passionate ambassadors. This is something we really want to focus on moving forward.
FS: What is your organization's fundraising philosophy?
PB: We are very donor-focused — especially with our major donors and individual child sponsors. They are the backbone of our organization. We do a great deal of cultivation and nurturing of these relationship. We truly want these donors to feel like friends and not simply ATM machines.
FS: What advice would you give to organizations similar to yours in size and annual operating budget?
PB: Always say thank you!!! We cannot thank our donors enough. We call, e-mail, send thank-you letters, have the children write letters, board members call to thank special donors, etc. Whether it's $10 or $10,000, a simple thank-you goes a very long way in keeping a donor engaged. I have personally donated to other organizations and either never received an acknowledgment or received one weeks or months later. This does not engender me to that organization.