'Keep It Simple, Do It Now'
ShelterBox's Emily Sperling addresses fundraisers in Washington, DC
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In her opening keynote, titled "Keep It Simple, Do It Now," at the DMA Nonprofit Federation's 2012 Washington Nonprofit conference on Thursday, Emily Sperling, president of ShelterBox USA, offered these important takeaways for nonprofits.
- Tenacity counts. Back in the late '90s, ShelterBox founder Tom Henderson, a Rotarian and former Royal Navy search and rescue diver, became aware that the aid response to most disasters was in the form of food and medicine to help people survive the immediate aftermath, but little or no assistance was given in terms of proper shelter to help them through the first few days, weeks and months as they tried to rebuild their lives. When he attempted to raise money and solicit donations of supplies to launch ShelterBox, Sperling said, Henderson was told that his mission was "best left to the big guys," but he didn't give up.
- Empower volunteers and supporters to fundraise for you and give them easy methods to do it.
- If you can't buy it (public relations and media attention), earn it. Find local angles to major news to get seen by local media.
- If it's not planned, go with it. Sperling related the story of a time when, out of the blue, ShelterBox staff noticed a significant uptick in the number of small donations coming in online in a short period of time. After some research, they found that a writer of popular young-adult novels had taken up the ShelterBox cause and encouraged her readers to donate. "We had nothing to do with her campaign," Sperling said, "but we'll take it."
- Honor the culture of your organization. "I love galas, I love going to galas," she said, "but ShelterBox would never have a gala. It would be against the culture of our organization."
- Collaborate on the ground with "fundraising competitors" to get the work done.
- Clarity of mission and commitment to core values are essential to fundraising success.
- Tell your stories through multiple channels.
- Don't underestimate the power of the collective will and a shared vision.