Cover Story: The Art and Science of Fundraising
Despite their titles, Bennett says, each of her managers — every employee, as a matter of fact — understands that his or her job description includes a few very basic matters. Cutting through the clutter of specifics, they boil down to all cultivation, all the time, and prospecting for warm leads — folks who already have an interest in the organization, as exhibited through volunteering for an ADA event or providing information via the Web site.
“There’s room for [all nonprofit organizations] but, obviously, you have to find the people who are interested in what you have to offer,” she says. “Once you find that unique individual who fits with you, you don’t want to lose him. It took a lot of time, energy and resources to find him.
“So you never quit acquiring donors,” she adds. “You have to keep the pipeline full. Cultivation and stewardship are 100 percent of all staff job descriptions. That and prospecting for warm leads, which don’t carry the same high price tag as cold lists.”
Bennett projects an easy charm but can barely contain herself when asked to sit for an hours-long interview. Hers is a palpable energy that makes it easy to see how she could have effected such a tremendous change in fundraising philosophy and results at ADA, where she took over in 1995 as vice president of development. Her post was elevated as the department grew, in large part, by her own design.
When Bennett took over, the department basically was limited to direct mail and planned giving. She segued into major gifts in 1997, bringing in around $1.5 million, with a staff of two and no prospecting file to speak of.
Today, Major Gifts is responsible for $11 million of ADA’s annual $155 million in contributions. It joins Planned Giving to make up the Individual Giving Department for a total of $30 million. Direct Marketing brings in $47 million; Special Events, $43 million; and Corporate Development $18 million. Another 45 million comes in from fees for paid products such as ADA journals.