Cover Story: The Art and Science of Fundraising
The strategic marketing department, Bennett explains, is the “enabler” and helps the other departments work more efficiently through market research and analysis, branding, and product/event “tweaking.”
Bennett demurs in the face of glowing comments from her staff but will admit her part in dragging the ADA into the new breed of approaches to fundraising: aggressive, scientific and at the same time highly personalized.
“Not too long before I came, the organization didn’t raise money, it accepted it,” she explains. “I tried to look at the bigger picture. Fundraising became a high priority.
“You can send direct mail pieces, go after major gifts, ask someone to put you in their will or take part in a walk,” she says. “We came to see that the same person can do all these things and be happy to do them. But it takes some organization. It’s no good to send gift-annuity or planned-giving pieces to a 45-year-old; there are more efficient uses of fundraising time and energy.”
Pulling the pieces together
Without a comprehensive plan back then, what there was of the development office was very fragmented. The result: Prime opportunities for cultivation and upgrading were falling between the cracks. For example, no one was following up with direct mail once someone took part in an event such as the annual Walk for Diabetes or the Tour de Cure bike ride.
Another big change in approach came in the area of corporate philanthropy. Bennett is quick to point out the companies and foundations are, more than anything, groups of individuals who 1) are making decisions regarding philanthropy for the organization and 2) might also be looking for ways to participate on an individual level — as part of a team on one of ADA’s annual walks, for example.
“We used to go into a company and say, ‘Here’s what you do … buy a table at one of our galas.’ Now we go in and have a discovery meeting to find out what the corporation is trying to do. There’s no laundry list; we let them help us build what their program will look like,” she says, adding, “It’s a win/win situation. Hopefully, it’ll be a win/win/win situation, where the constituency will benefit.”