An Interview With Perry Jowsey, Director of Development, Freedom Service Dogs
FS: How would you describe your fundraising philosophy?
PJ: In a phrase, grassroots. We rely very much on person-to-person introductions for new donors and dedicate very few resources to traditional "donor acquisition" strategies. We create meaningful opportunities for core, medium and major donors so they can feel the impact of their gifts. We evaluate our target markets (dog lovers, veterans' affairs and those who support people with disabilities), and we provide direct funding mechanisms to make the biggest difference in the area that is most personal to them. In the end, fundraising is all about aligning donor passions with giving opportunities in a way that makes the biggest difference possible.
FS: How do you reach out to supporters and potential supporters in ways other than purely fundraising? Are you engaged with social media and social networking?
PJ: It's important to regularly schedule outreach in alignment with a well-conceived moves-management philosophy. We strive to "touch" donors and prospects throughout the year without the intention of soliciting funds. Our donors receive quarterly newsletters via standard mail, and we strategically intersperse events that have a fun flavor but also showcase what we do as an organization. We have biannual "graduations" where we invite the community to come and celebrate the conclusion of training a class of service dogs and passing the leash to their new partners.
Regarding social media, we do have a presence and have used it to publicize events and direct members to other media outlets. For our organization, the fundraising element of social media has been much more indirect, and my belief is that you set yourself apart more in a negative way by not being in this game than you actually gain revenue-wise from making social media a top priority (exceptions being very well-branded national programs).
FS: Can you describe a recent successful fundraising effort?
PJ: I believe fundraising to be much more reflective of a process than an event; many elements function in concert to create a cumulative effect. Thus far in 2010, Freedom Service Dogs has received more charitable dollars year-to-date than at any point in our history, and we're doing so with less operating expenses than in 2009. Fundraising is interconnected to ongoing donor communication and stewardship, visibility via public relations, and creating opportunities for active engagement. As for a specific effort, we created an event from the ground up this August in three weeks that was well-received, with 250 paid guests who came out for an opportunity to enjoy cocktails in a $20-million mansion in support of our mission.