And the 2012 Winners Are ...
This year marked my fifth year as a judge for the FundRaising Success Gold Awards. As the day approached, I was just as excited to review the submissions as I was my very first time. I'm not sure what it is about direct mail — the compelling copy, the creative inserts, the personalized reply vehicles — but the truth is I love it. It is both an art and a science. How do you get someone you have never met to respond to you in just a few ounces?
It is also fascinating to me how the direct-response industry has transformed itself over the last decade, testing and investing in new strategies and capitalizing on technology. Our industry continues to evolve and adapt itself.
And so have the Gold Awards. Today we honor not just the tried-and-true direct-mail and telemarketing campaigns, but also full-fledged multichannel campaigns, online fundraising, special events and those organizations that are truly thinking outside the box. This year tried to level the field a bit more, so we attempted to split the submissions into two subcategories — annual operating budget of $7.5 million or less and more than $7.5 million. [Editor's Note: In the interest of full disclosure — there seemed to be some confusion about what exactly "annual operating budget" means. So, rather than have winners in each of the annual operating budget-based subcategories in each category, we went with two gold and two silver winners in each category. Most are based on the under/over criterion but not all. We thought this was the best way to handle the confusion this year, and we'll be sure to be more clear next year. — MB]
It was very interesting to see that smaller budgets don't necessarily equal less creativity. In fact, the larger nonprofit organizations can learn just as much from the smaller organizations as the smaller organizations can from the larger ones.
The night before the judging began, FS Managing Editor and fellow judge Joe Boland and I ventured out on the town in Philadelphia. We ended up at the SugarHouse Casino. My experience there got me thinking about the task at hand for the next day in terms of entries. What did organizations do last year? Did they take risks and gamble? Or did they play it safe? My anticipation grew.
Joe and I played more than a few hands of blackjack, and we rolled the dice a few times, but mostly we played by the book. And that's exactly what we saw the next day. Overall, we saw some very strong, but very traditional, campaigns — very few major risks or outside-the-box approaches. Was this a wise choice? It seems like it was, as most of the results we reviewed were incredibly strong. Joe and I lost a little money at SugarHouse. It seems like the organizations we judged did not gamble with their donors' money, but made smart decisions to maximize returns and persuade hearts and minds. In the end, Joe and I wished we would have played it a little safer and just donated that money to some of these worthy causes.
I would like to thank my fellow judges Joe, Pamela Grow and Paul Bobnak. I also would like to thank our fearless leader, Margaret Battistelli Gardner, editor-in-chief of FS. But mostly I want to thank each of you — you are all winners in my book. There were only two awards in each category, plus a few honorable mentions. And in a year with more submissions then ever before, our job was incredibly difficult. So whether or not your organization is mentioned in this issue, remember you are making a difference. Congratulations to our winners, and thank you — everyone!
— Dane Grams, director of nonprofit services at Care2 and co-chair of the FundRaising Success Editorial Advisory Board
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.