Q&A with Kerri Schlottman
By involving them in the process of our programs, we make our supporters more than funders — we make them important contributors to the creative development of America’s teens.
FS: How do you reach out to supporters and potential supporters in ways other than purely fundraising? Are you engaged with social-media sites and online social networking?
KS: We are just beginning to enter the world of social media, and we have much to learn about the many ways it can be used to benefit fundraising strategies. While there have been some exemplary models in recent times, there is a disconnection from the personal relationship building that much of our fundraising philosophy hinges upon, and we are still assessing how best to use these tools.
FS: Can you describe a recent successful fundraising effort?
KS: Our annual appeal to individuals has been particularly successful this year. In response to the challenging fundraising climate, we restructured our individual giving by creating a multilevel membership program that provides never-before-offered incentives to donors beginning at the $100 level. We also produced visually stimulating, cost-effective materials that defied the direct-marketing appearance of typical annual appeals. Our accompanying letter was simple and to the point, and set clear benchmarks for how donations would directly affect our programming so that supporters could equate their giving to tangible outcomes. The appeal launched in November, and we have already witnessed a 38 percent increase in giving over last year (and still going strong).
FS: Any major difficulties or setbacks you’ve faced along the way?
KS: Fundraising is sometimes a thankless job, as any development person will tell you. With an increase in efforts comes an increase in rejections as well. One of our major difficulties this year has been fostering a positive atmosphere in the organization despite the poor economic climate and remaining inspired and energized while implementing a rigorous development plan.
FS: Things you would do differently with your fundraising?
KS: There’s nothing we would do differently with our fundraising, though as most other organizations would agree, it would be most exceptional to be able to hire additional staff to increase our efforts.
FS: What advice would you give to organizations similar to yours, in size and annual operating budget?
KS: Continue to think creatively and evolve. It’s the only way to ensure survival. The world is changing rapidly, and successful development offices will be those that are able to adapt.