For fundraisers, the first quarter of the year is as much a time to look back as ahead. It’s a time to find out how year-end appeals tallied up, to assess how winter events performed and perhaps to report back to the board on what it all means.
In the spirit of planning ahead based on looking back, we scanned some of 2008’s best fundraising campaigns to see how that tumultuous year of change (and hope!) affected the fundraising sector and what the big “takeaways” turned out to be.
Although past years have been dominated by innovations in technology, high-visibility issues and new approaches (venture philanthropy, for instance), one major theme came up over and over again for 2008: relationships.
The Big Kahuna of relationships was, of course, Barack Obama. For years, fundraisers have listened to board members utter gems such as, “If only Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Clinton or (insert other blockbuster celebrity name here) would promote our cause, we’d have no problem raising money.”
But by the fourth quarter of 2008, that mantra had changed to, “If only we could do what the Obama campaign did online, we’d have no problem fundraising.”
Yes, if only … (sigh).
Online. E-mail. Mobile. Our new president was all over the place, and his campaign was at the top of the heap when it came to harnessing the power of relationships and, most notably, social networking.
Brian Reich, co-author of “Media Rules! Mastering Today’s Technology to Connect With and Keep Your Audience,” notes that peer-to-peer fundraising can trump all other types.
“Obama’s matching-donor project, in which someone who donates is connected to another donor who also happens to share interests or geography, was revolutionary in a lot of ways and should change the way we fundraise online,” he told me during a recent conversation.