A Minute With Rosemary Oliver, Fundraising Director, Amnesty International Canada
Rosemary Oliver, fundraising director of Amnesty International Canada, took a minute to speak with FundRaising Success about her organization's fundraising.
“At Amnesty International, we believe in a world where everyone has the same human rights, no matter who they are, where they are born or where they live. We defend these human rights by campaigning against things like torture, political killings and disappearances. Our job is to create a culture where everyone has equal access to fundamental rights such as education and health care, as well as fight for basic freedoms most of us take for granted.”
“Our annual operating budget is $12 million Canadian. We have about 3 million supporters around the world and more than 60,000 from English-speaking Canada. These numbers have remained flat for a number of years, but we are once again beginning to see growth.”
“In order to remain independent we don’t accept any government funding, and it is really difficult to accept corporate dollars. So our mission is funded primarily by individuals. Our fundraising portfolio consists of traditional direct mail, telemarketing, online fundraising, canvassing, major gifts, planned giving and small community events. A full two-thirds of our revenue comes from monthly giving. Currently the majority of our new monthly donors are acquired through face-to-face fundraising, although we have used a variety of conversion techniques in the past.”
“As an activist organization, there are so many ways to involve donors in our work — in their local community and as part of an online community. They can do school talks. They can lobby government officials. Amnesty, in general, relies heavily on volunteers to help us achieve our mission.”
“We have worked very hard to develop a committed and loyal donor base. A lot of our current supporters have been giving to us for more than 20 years. We have strong name recognition. There is a lot of trust for the Amnesty brand. However, one of the real challenges for Amnesty is that our work isn’t really tangible. We do a lot of research and campaigning. Some of our successes take years and years. It’s really hard to get donors connected to the work that we do in this day and age [when people] want to see an immediate return on their investment. But we know what we do works, so we need to be up-front and honest with people.”
“One of the new investments we made was hiring a person on staff to do recovery calling of lapsed monthly donors (declines/cancels). They phone four or five days a week from our office. This initiative cut down our first-year attrition of new monthly donors by 10 percent. This has a significant impact on our return on investment. It might not be big and flashy, but this old-school technique is certainly paying off.”
“Our biggest fundraising challenge right now is the banking and credit card system. A decade ago you were guaranteed almost 100 percent fulfillment of sustaining gifts. Today that just isn’t so. New regulations and PCI compliance make it increasingly difficult and more expensive. It is a huge challenge for nonprofits and charities. Adapting to rapidly changing rules is costing additional money every year, and it is money that should be going to our life-changing human-rights work.”
“If I could do one thing differently it would be to spend less time on the mechanics of fundraising and more time with the donors. I would love to have a deeper understanding of our donors’ motivations. I would like a better understanding of how they view our fundraising programs, and not just how we do.”
“Because we are Amnesty International, we start with an ethical and honset approach to our fundraising philosophy. Whenever we made a mistake, we let the donor know right away. Mistakes happen, but being up-front and honest builds trust. We are trying to have a long-term relationship with our donors. We make decisions based on what we want the relationship to look like three to five years from now, not necessarily what makes the most sense today. We need donors with us for the long term if we’re going to achieve our human-rights goals. They should feel like partners in our work — no matter how much, nor how little, they give.” FS
Dane Grams is director of nonprofit services at Care2 and co-chair of the FundRaising Success Editorial Advisory Board. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dane Grams is the director of membership for Human Rights Campaign. He has held senior positions at Amnesty International, Greenpeace USA and Care2. Reach him at email@example.com.