Juggling and the Fine Art of Fundraising
Much to the chagrin of old-schoolers who fear and resist change, the days of single-channel communications are long gone, never to return. By now, many stubborn fundraisers who were too slow to adapt to the multichannel landscape that has matured the past decade-plus have fallen by the wayside. But those who have embraced this revolution know just how powerful and far-reaching multichannel communications are.
Multichannel integration works for everything from annual campaigns, to emergency relief appeals, to advocacy and influencing legislation. This month, FundRaising Success explores the fundraising versatility of multichannel campaigns.
Continuing our four-part series on successful fundraising campaigns from the past year, here are case studies on Stop Hunger Now's Haiti Relief campaign and the Salvation Army's annual Red Kettle Drive.
—Joe Boland, senior editor, FundRaising Success
Stop Hunger Now Haiti Relief Campaign
Given all the media attention throughout the general population and incredible publicity in the fundraising community, specifically regarding mobile fundraising, everyone is familiar with the myriad ways that donors all across the world responded to the 2010 Haiti earthquake that devastated the Caribbean country. Stop Hunger Now, the anti-hunger organization, had been working on the ground in Haiti long before the earthquake hit.
"We were positioned to respond directly to Haiti because of the relationships we had in place prior to the earthquake," says Chessney Barrick, director of development and communications at Stop Hunger Now. "We had several nonprofits, in-country partners that we worked with down there, and had sent more than 4 million meals to Haiti before the earthquake struck. So because of those strong partnerships we were able to mobilize some great relief efforts."
That put the organization in good position to respond to the crisis quickly, so Stop Hunger Now implemented a multichannel campaign almost immediately to raise funds and supplies for those affected by the natural disaster.
The day after the earthquake hit, Stop Hunger Now launched its relief campaign. Throughout the course of the year, it used e-mail, direct mail and social media to solicit donations to respond to both the short- and long-term effects of the devastation. Stop Hunger Now's history as both a hunger-relief and disaster-relief organization provided a blueprint on how to respond quickly and mobilize its resources as fast as possible. Before it began to package meals for the hungry, the organization was a crisis-relief nonprofit; it undertook a similar campaign during the 2004 tsunami crisis in Southeast Asia.
The first objective of the campaign was to mobilize the resources available to respond as quickly as possible. Stop Hunger Now was able to do that with its people on the ground and the work it was already doing in Haiti. On top of that, the organization wanted to raise as much money as possible for the relief effort. But since time was of the essence, it never established a specific dollar amount to shoot for.
"At the time, the hectic nature of organizing the meal shipments and the gift-in-kind shipments didn't allow us much time to think of a specific strategy and goal of the number we wanted to reach," Barrick says. "But the most important part of the relief aspect was mobilizing the resources as quickly as possible."
The media strategy encompassed reaching out to Stop Hunger Now supporters immediately and then updating them and continuing to ask throughout the year. That started with e-mailing its housefile of 9,000 e-mail addresses, sending quarterly newsletters on Haiti to its 18,000 direct-mail addresses and promoting the campaign via social media.
Stop Hunger Now wanted supporters to send in donations and gifts-in-kind to help the organization provide as many services as possible. Given the initial need and urgency of disaster relief, it expected a large response online, with more major donations coming in via mail.
The first creative sent was the initial e-mail, deployed the day after the earthquake hit. The in-house message had the subject line "Please help save lives in Haiti," sent the morning of Jan. 13. The e-mail included an image of some of the devastation in Haiti along with a brief, three-paragraph letter. It began, "Please help save lives in Haiti. Up to 3 million people have been reported to be affected in Haiti by the catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti just before 5pm Tuesday. … Stop Hunger Now is responding during this vital time of Haiti's crisis. We have been in contact with our many partners there and are also working through our strategic partnerships to deliver aid as quickly as possibly."
The e-mail wrapped up with a call to action and stated an initial fundraising goal: "Please consider a donation today to help Stop Hunger Now raise $50,000 to provide aid to our partners and the people of Haiti. Although this need is considerable, the need for relief in Haiti is greater. Please join in our efforts to respond to the life threatening crisis in Haiti and Stop Hunger Now's ongoing work in disaster and hunger relief."
Then the text, "We need your help today. Please click here," was hyperlinked and took those who clicked on it to the Haiti donation page. The donation page offered donation levels, as well as a link for those who prefer to respond via mail to download the mail-in form.
Finally, the e-mail had a personal touch by being signed by Barrick herself, not a generic signature from Stop Hunger Now. Subsequent e-mails followed with similar appeals.
The direct-mail component consisted of the quarterly newsletters. The four-page newsletter was considerably longer, as expected, than the e-mail. The lead story was titled "Help for Haiti." The copy described both the massive need in Haiti and all the things Stop Hunger Now has been doing thanks to the generous support of its donors.
The story hit on some best practices, using bullet points and lists, as well as a section on "How You Can Help," driving recipients online to organize meal-packaging events, volunteer, donate and spread the word. Inside, there was a report titled "On the Ground in Haiti," which highlighted the work Stop Hunger Now and its partners do, with images from the scene of the earthquake. The copy nicely balanced describing the work being done with thanking and acknowledging Stop Hunger Now's donors and supporters. Updates continued in each quarterly newsletter.
Stop Hunger Now also posted the need and asked for donations via Facebook, both on its main Facebook page and the Facebook Causes page it made for Haiti. It also incorporated video. A documentary maker offered to create a couple different versions of a documentary after traveling to Haiti with Stop Hunger Now in April following the earthquake. Two videos were put together — one as an acknowledgment to Stop Hunger Now's meal-packaging volunteers and the other highlighting Stop Hunger Now's partnerships, as well as highlighting several large corporate donors.
The videos were incorporated on the website, in e-mails and on Facebook.
Campaign strategy and deployment
The first communication was sent on Jan. 13, the day after the earthquake hit. After that, the newsletter was mailed in February, a couple weeks after the quake, and three more were sent the remainder of the year. The next e-mail was sent on Jan. 22, and follow-up e-mails continued a few times throughout the year, including a three-part e-mail series that went out around the holidays. Updates were always posted on Facebook too. Each communication updated the progress and work that was being done to aid Haitians affected by the earthquake.
The e-mails went out to the 9,000 addresses on Stop Hunger Now's file, and the newsletter mailed to the 18,000 subscribers. Haiti communications were sent all the way through the end of the year, thanking supporters for making the response Stop Hunger Now was able to provide possible.
The response to the disaster was staggering. Overall, Stop Hunger Now raised more than $3.8 million including gifts in kind — goods that come through that Stop Hunger Now coordinates the shipment and distribution of, such as meal supplements — valued at $2 million.
A large portion of response came from the online channel, especially with donation forms for specific high-value donors who were hosting their own personal fundraising campaigns for Haiti. Stop Hunger Now also got great response from major donors who sent in large donations via mail. Overall, 690 donations came in from individuals, mostly at the $15 to $50 mark, but the total also includes several $10,000 and $100,000 gifts.
Further, Hooters of America provided 100 percent of its sales during the fourth quarter of the 2010 Super Bowl to Stop Hunger Now in response to Haiti, which amounted to $103,000. The hot-wings giant got on board because of the disaster's high profile and a relationship Stop Hunger Now has with a private donor
"Our capability of responding so quickly worked really well," Barrick says. "We had a meal shipment shipped to Haiti in December just three weeks before the earthquake, so we were able to tell our supporters because of our ongoing support in Haiti and our relationships there that we were actually able to feed people the day after the earthquake with Stop Hunger Now meals.
"That positioned us as a trustworthy nonprofit working in Haiti. That was a huge part for our donors," she adds.
Barrick says that one of the challenges with the campaign was dealing with donor fatigue. "The crisis in Haiti is ongoing, and it continues to be an issue. Having individuals experience crisis fatigue is an issue," she says. "There was the crisis of Hurricane Katrina, then Haiti happened and then the oil spill [on the Gulf of Mexico]. Some people just get overloaded with crisis, and it's hard for them to continue to pay attention and continue to give toward that need."
That's why the multichannel effort was so important, says Rod Brooks, Stop Hunger Now's CEO. "[Our supporters] are getting the information in a variety of ways, so we certainly wanted to get our message out, communicate what our needs are in a variety of ways," he says. "The videos, the e-mail blast, updates to our website, everything provided a quick way for us to respond and keep people aware and informed of what we're trying to do."
Having disaster relief as part of its mission, Stop Hunger Now will certainly embark on a campaign of this kind in the future. It hopes to incorporate mobile and further enhance its communications online, and Stop Hunger Now will continue to raise funds and communicate with its constituents through a variety of channels. ●
Salvation Army Red Kettle Drive
There probably isn't a more well-known annual fundraising campaign than the Salvation Army's Red Kettle Drive, and for good reason. The campaign, which raises money and in-kind gifts for the needy in communities across the United States, first kicked off in 1891 in San Francisco, and it's continued to grow for the past 120 years.
With a campaign this ingrained in the American consciousness, the Salvation Army doesn't have to try too hard to raise awareness, admits National Spokesperson Maj. George Hood: "It's become somewhat iconic in that the American public anticipates the return of the red kettles and the bell-ringers on the streets outside of retail stores and supermarkets all across America. It's not something we have to work real hard to create an awareness of. It's expected, it's there and it has a long history of success."
So the Salvation Army doesn't have to work hard, but that doesn't mean it rests on its brand laurels. Actually, each year the Salvation Army looks for new and innovative ways to reach donors and volunteers to help grow the Red Kettle campaign, which explains why the annual fundraiser has survived and thrived now into its second century.
For the 2010 campaign, the Salvation Army expanded its direct-marketing scope for the Red Kettle. It continued to employ traditional efforts with volunteers, celebrity endorsements and corporate partners while integrating new technology and social-media tools. For the 14th year in a row, the Dallas Cowboys hosted the National Red Kettle Campaign Kickoff at Cowboys Stadium on Thanksgiving Day. In 2010, country singer Keith Urban officially launched the campaign with a live performance at the game. The Salvation Army also incorporated its first ever "Rock the Red Kettle" concert, a special event to raise more awareness and donations for the red kettles. And another event, the fourth annual Dream Drive by the Salvation Army, Sam's Club and professional football players' wives association Off the Field helped 10 needy families in 10 cities across the country as part of the Red Kettle campaign.
The largest marketing technique was the face-to-face aspect that the Red Kettle campaign has employed since day one: bell-ringers manning red kettles at approximately 25,000 locations nationwide.
Online technologies were also more prevalent this past year than they've ever been for the campaign. The Salvation Army integrated e-mail, personal fundraising websites via an online peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, social media and mobile. For the sixth year in a row, donors could raise money through the Salvation Army's Online Red Kettle. The Salvation Army developed free applications for the iPhone, including the brand-new Online Red Kettle iPhone app, to go along with the second year of its virtual Red Kettle Bell app that allowed users to ring a virtual bell on their phones.
Additionally, the Salvation Army launched its first national text-to-give program to support the red kettles. So as you can see, the Salvation Army may not have to work hard to get the word out for the Red Kettle Campaign, but it still does.
The funny thing about the Red Kettle campaign is that the Salvation Army never sets a national goal.
"The reason behind that is that the Red Kettle campaign is actually conducted in local communities, and the money that they raise in the local communities stays in their towns," Hood explains. "Every community will establish their own goal, but we never set a national goal."
The only real goal is to raise as much money as possible for the needy during the campaign. Of course, the Salvation Army hopes that the total keeps going up. That's why it has such a comprehensive media strategy that incorporates every fundraising channel. Beyond the channels already mentioned, the Salvation Army sends a lot of direct mail, as well. The direct mail it sends while the Red Kettle campaign is going on doesn't actually drive people to the Red Kettle campaign, but it does do donor acquisition for long-time operational support, which in turn leads to more donations for the Red Kettle.
However, the main media strategy specifically aimed at the Red Kettle in 2010 involved public relations via television, newspapers and online communications. The street canvassing of the red kettles and bell-ringers themselves targeted pretty much anyone that was out doing their Christmas shopping or running errands — everyone from traditional 65-plus donors to baby boomers, millennials to children.
"Many families will bring their children to the red kettle to teach them how to make a contribution," Hood says. "For many kids, it's the first time they ever have recognized that they're giving money to help other people."
That teaches children at a young age the importance of giving and provides great brand recognition for the Salvation Army.
The online communications, specifically social media and blogs, targeted more of the younger generations — millennials and younger — to educate emerging generations about the Salvation Army as a long-term cultivation strategy.
The creative for the Red Kettle campaign is not as easy to describe as most other fundraising campaigns. There was no specific direct-mail component, and each local chapter created its own marketing for its specific community. Thus the Salvation Army's national creative consisted more of templates than specific messages.
For instance, the Online Red Kettle microsite provided the basic information used for creative. The website used many online fundraising best practices, including several donate calls to action, such as a "Donate Now" button. It kept track of progress; added a national goal of $3 million; had links to top kettles, the teams that raised the most online and the most raised online from individuals.
Personal fundraising pages were set up from the main site as well, with templates similar to the Online Red Kettle homepage.
One of the biggest things on the Online Red Kettle was the ability for donors to e-mail friends and spread the word via blog/Facebook widgets. E-mail templates were provided for individuals to send to their peers. The from line was the person's actual name, sent to his or her friends, with the subject line "Help Fill My Kettle."
The message itself was branded with the Salvation Army logo, followed by a short e-mail. It began with a personal greeting, then went on: "Do you hear that? That's the sound of my 'virtual bell' ringing. I'm hosting a Salvation Army Online Red Kettle and collecting donations to help those in need this Christmas. My Kettle is just like those Red Kettles you see when you're out shopping, but it's online. If you'd like to donate, just click the link to my personal page below, and help The Salvation Army help thousands of people in need."
Besides the e-mails, the Salvation Army used the media sponsorships and events to promote and market the Red Kettle Drive. Also, the iPhone app developed with Charity Dynamics allowed users to access the Online Red Kettle to enhance their experience.
Campaign strategy and deployment
Typically, the official launch of the Red Kettle campaign happens on Thanksgiving Day during the Cowboys game, but the Salvation Army begins the marketing a little earlier. When the celebrity entertainer is decided, the Salvation Army puts the word out, usually at the end of October or early November. However, bell-ringers don't usually go out until the day after Thanksgiving. In 2010, that changed, as several communities had bell-ringers out beginning Nov. 1 as a pre-emptive strike against the poor economy.
The Cowboys game really got things going, and from there the Salvation Army broadcast Red Kettle messages via e-mail, social media and public relations throughout the drive. The text-to-give campaign — the Salvation Army's first national mobile program — ran Nov. 21 to Dec. 24. Donors were asked to text "GIVE" to 85944 to make a $10 donation to the Red Kettle campaign. The virtual bell-ringers and Online Red Kettle ran in November and December, and the iPhone app was live during that time as well.
There were also the special events that encouraged more donations and raised awareness. The Rock the Red Kettle concert took place Dec. 15 in Glendale, Calif. The Salvation Army partnered with Sky Blue Group and Caruso Affiliated to feature performers including Emily Osment, Ashlyne Huff, New Hollow and Honor Society. The concert was streamed live online as well. The Off the Field event was held Dec. 16. Corporate partners J.C. Penney and Hanes ran Red Kettle campaigns with the Salvation Army as well. J.C. Penney hosted the Salvation Army Angel Giving Tree online, where customers could adopt, shop and ship their gifts to Salvation Army beneficiaries at jcp.com/angel. Hanes incorporated an online in-kind gift drive for the Red Kettle via Facebook. For every person who "liked" Hanes on Facebook and clicked "Help Hanes Donate," Hanes donated a pair of actual socks to the Salvation Army.
Throughout the campaign each year, the Salvation Army always looks for "novel ideas like a diamond ring that's dropped into a red kettle, which has happened, and that will create some excitement and energy," Hood says. "One location emptied their kettle out to count the money at the end of the day and there was a white piece of paper folded up tightly. Inside were eight $100 bills. There's always novel things that happen, people that put things into the kettle that create lots of media interest. So we try to keep track of those and then release those kinds of stories."
This all was in addition to the biggest moneymaker, the actual physical red kettles and bell-ringers on the streets.
For a while, it looked as though revenues were going to remain flat — somewhat disheartening but certainly understandable given the economy. However, when all the tallies finally came in from the smaller communities to the national headquarters, the Salvation Army had set a Red Kettle record for the sixth straight year.
In all, $142 million was raised during the 2010 Red Kettle campaign, more than a 2 percent increase over 2009's previous record of $139 million. Most of that came through the physical red kettles outside of corporate partners' storefronts. Red kettles located at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club locations raised $42 million combined ($37 million and $5 million, respectively), 30 percent of 2010's total. The Wal-Mart Foundation also made a $1 million direct donation to the Salvation Army.
The Off the Field event raised a donation of $100,000. Kroger food chains hosted red kettles at nearly 2,000 stores, raising $11.8 million, and donations at more than 800 Big Lots stores raised $1.3 million. J.C. Penney helped raise more than $3 million in red kettle donations across its stores, and nearly 70,000 children and seniors were adopted in time for Christmas via the Salvation Army Angel Giving Tree, a 40 percent increase from the inaugural 2009 implementation.
Finally, online fundraising for the Red Kettle campaign increased 19 percent over 2009, bringing in $13.7 million. The numbers speak for themselves. The Red Kettle campaign set yet another fundraising record in its 120th year.
Still, even with the record- setting numbers and long history, there were challenges along the way. For starters, the weather was a real impact in 2010, especially in the cold-weather areas of the country.
"The weather hit us pretty hard, preventing us from having bell-ringers out there," Hood says. "When you can't be visible, can't be out there in the street, especially on a weekend — one of the snow storms was a Friday and Saturday, which are typically very productive days — that had us nervous.
"We were thinking we were going to have to report a decline for a while. But in the tend, it's always fascinating that on those last few days you get closer to Christmas, the volume of giving that comes in to the red kettles [increases dramatically]," he adds.
Then there is the ongoing challenge of keeping volunteers. It's not easy to find people who are willing to stand out there and ring the bell in cold climates. And going forward, there's a fair labor lawsuit filed by retailers demanding that they have equal rights to set up outside of stores, like nonprofits do, to sell their goods. That could surely affect the Salvation Army's capacity to have bell-ringers stationed throughout the nation.
However, the 120-year Red Kettle campaign shows no signs of vanishing, evidenced by the record-setting fundraising totals for a sixth straight year even in the face of a recession. That's a testament to both the Salvation Army and the generosity of the American donor.
"There's two issues that I believe have impacted our success," Hood says. "We've been very aggressive about creating a top-of-mind awareness. So I think we can take credit for some of it. We have been very aggressive with the multichannel communications in this digital age. We've worked very hard to build relationships with emerging generations.
"But the real heart of the matter is that when there are difficult times in this country, the American public wants to help, and they will dig deep and throw in that loose change or write a check as they walk past that red kettle," he adds. "When there are tough economic times or in times of disaster, the American public will always dig deep into their pockets and find a way to give. We just happen to be the conduit that enables them to be able to do that."
For 120 years and counting. FS
Coming Next Month
Announcing the winners of the 2011 Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence