Leading the Charge
Another huge part of WWP’s fundraising efforts includes community events. According to Melia, the organization tracks around 200 WWP-branded events around the country, though he speculates there probably are 600 or 700 total, mainly orchestrated by small groups that remain under the radar until an unexpected check comes in.
This large-scale interest is a blessing, of course, but also can pose a challenge when it comes to policing the WWP brand. And as WWP becomes more visible, it’s a challenge that is getting increasingly difficult.
“You start as a grassroots organization, and then you see that you’ve got some national momentum and that you can really take your brand to the marketplace and do real good for veterans,” he says. “But you don’t want to lose that sense of grassroots feel that WWP has had since its first days.” (For more of Melia’s thoughts on brand, see “Tips From John Melia” )
One of WWP’s most successful fully integrated campaigns took place around Veterans Day 2007, and it also happens to have been its first. It involved direct mail, e-mail and Web components, as well as print advertising on billboards and in military publications, and a nine-part YouTube video series narrated by actor Matthew Modine.
“There were a lot of moving pieces,” Melia explains. “You should have seen the spreadsheet. But it worked remarkably well, and we’re really starting to see the payoff of integrating all of the elements.”
The results: WWP’s 2007 Veterans Day campaign raised $10 million, with roughly half coming in between October and late December.
Fresh face of fundraising
Having a constituency base of people in their 20s and 30s allows — actually requires — WWP to do things a little differently all around.
Training and ongoing education, for example, are imperative parts of Melia’s grand plan. He and his staff constantly educate themselves, reading books — like “Good to Great and the Social Sectors” (by Jim Collins) and “Forces for Good” (by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant) — that keep them on the cutting edge of fundraising know-how, general management principles and nonprofit efficiency. He has attended the Executive Education Program for Nonprofit Leaders at Stanford University and regularly sends fundraising staffers to The Fund Raising School at The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. The “professionalization” of fundraising is a topic being debated throughout the sector, with some practitioners voicing concern that too much formal training could suck the very heart out of it.
Related story: Tips From John Melia, Wounded Warrior Project