FundRaising Success October 2013 : Page 16

Winners C O v ER S TOR y And the Are... Margaret BATTISTELLI GARDNER As always, choosing the winners in our Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence is no easy job. But choose we did. Here’s which efforts our judges deemed the best of the best! BY Margaret Battistelli gardner Judging for our eighth annual Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence went bicoastal this year (well, if you count Texas as the third coast, as many Texans do). Last tally was a total of 129 entries from 37 agencies and organizations — our largest number of entries yet, if only by a few. Veteran judges Joe Boland, FundRaising Success ’ managing editor, and Paul Bobnak, director of research for DMIQ and archivist at Who’s Mailing What!, made the first cut in our offices in Philadelphia. Then the finalists made their way down here to me in Texas. I spent a lovely day in a conference room at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where Robyn Hutchinson Mendez, senior director of philanthropic resources at MD Anderson, and Cindy Gonzales, the hospital’s communications specialist, joined me in making the final decisions. As always, we were floored by the work we saw. Choosing winners is always a challenge … and an honor. This year was no exception. Winners were chosen based on a combination of brains and beauty — results and looks — and some-thing a little more subjective that moved our judges in a certain way; something timeless done flawlessly or something innovative done fearlessly; something that the rest of the sector can look at, learn from and applaud. If you’ve read our awards results even once in the past eight years, you already know that we feel almost every one of our entries is a winner and rep-resents the very best of what goes into fundraising campaigns, no matter what the mission or channel. But choose we did, and here are this year’s results. We’d like to thank every organization and agency that entered this year. Surrounding ourselves with your work for the time it took to judge the competition was an exercise in inspiration. (And if you’re wondering about that little footprint above, check out the Fundraising Campaign of the Year winner on the next page.) (Due to limited space, please see our online version of the story for descrip-tions of our special-mention winners and our Grand Control of the Year at fundraisingsuccessmag.com/winners-2013-gold-awards-fundraising-excellence) Joe BOLAND Paul BOBNAK Cindy GONZALES Robyn HUTCHINSON MENDEZ (not pictured) 16 OCTOBER 2013

And the Winners Are...

Margaret Battistelli Gardner


Judging for our eighth annual Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence went bicoastal this year (well, if you count Texas as the third coast, as many Texans do).

Last tally was a total of 129 entries from 37 agencies and organizations — our largest number of entries yet, if only by a few.

Veteran judges Joe Boland, FundRaising Success’ managing editor, and Paul Bobnak, director of research for DMIQ and archivist at Who’s Mailing What!, made the first cut in our offices in Philadelphia. Then the finalists made their way down here to me in Texas. I spent a lovely day in a conference room at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where Robyn Hutchinson Mendez, senior director of philanthropic resources at MD Anderson, and Cindy Gonzales, the hospital’s communications specialist, joined me in making the final decisions.

As always, we were floored by the work we saw. Choosing winners is always a challenge … and an honor. This year was no exception. Winners were chosen based on a combination of brains and beauty — results and looks — and something a little more subjective that moved our judges in a certain way; something timeless done flawlessly or something innovative done fearlessly; something that the rest of the sector can look at, learn from and applaud.

If you’ve read our awards results even once in the past eight years, you already know that we feel almost every one of our entries is a winner and represents the very best of what goes into fundraising campaigns, no matter what the mission or channel. But choose we did, and here are this year’s results. We’d like to thank every organization and agency that entered this year. Surrounding ourselves with your work for the time it took to judge the competition was an exercise in inspiration. (And if you’re wondering about that little footprint above, check out the Fundraising Campaign of the Year winner on the next page.)

(Due to limited space, please see our online version of the story for descriptions of our special-mention winners and our Grand Control of the Year at fundraisingsuccessmag.com/winners-2013-gold-awards-fundraising-excellence)

Tiny Footprint … Huge Impressio

Ronald McDonald House Charities amped up the “wow” factor and took home the 2013 Fundraising Package of the Year Award.

PREEMIE BABY HAT APPEAL
Ronald McDonald House Charities
Submitted by: TrueSense Marketing
The numbers
recipients: 5,314
response rate: 5 percent
Total cost: $10,067
Income generated: $41,503
Average gift: $156.61
Cost to raise a dollar: $0.24

The front of this white, plain-as-can-be No. 10 envelope doesn’t look like anything special — until you notice the word “Fragile” scrawled across the front, just to the side of the address window, “hand-printed” and underlined in blue.

Holding it in your hand, you realize there’s something in the envelope aside from paper; it’s tactile. But whatever that something is, it’s soft and squishy. And it certainly doesn’t feel fragile.

You definitely want to open it. And knowing it’s from Ronald McDonald House, you know it’s an ask and you know it’s an opportunity to help sick kids. But what’s inside, and what’s so fragile about it?

Once inside, you realize the bumpy bits are actually a hat. Like the ones hospital nurseries put on newborns. A tiny hat. Like they put on really tiny newborns. Preemies — the most fragile little lives you can imagine.

Oh. Wow.

All of a sudden, the meaning of “fragile” on the outer hits you. And the series of “wow” moments that live in this package begins to reveal itself (at least that was the word, literally, I heard over and over from our judges as they read through it).

The letter is simple and beautiful, telling the story of preemies Zack and Emmie and how their mother couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her precious, precarious newborns at the hospital while she drove home every day to get some rest at night, and how Ronald McDonald House Charities intervened and gave the haggard mom a safe and clean place to stay while the babies struggled for their little lives. It also includes photos of the Zack and Emmie in their incubators.

The letter takes all of about three minutes to read, but there’s no doubt the reader goes back to that tiny hat often while reading it.

The last thing you see is a little footprint at the end of the letter, in the P.S. It just seems sweet until you actually read the P.S. and the line of italicized type at the very bottom of the page: “Emmie’s footprint at birth (actual size).” Wow.

The package also contains a page of coupons that very simply delineate how specific donation amounts can make a difference: $100 sponsors a family for 10 nights; $420 sponsors a family for six weeks, etc. It’s a fresh take on the traditional ask string, made even more compelling by the black-and-white photos of preemies on the reverse side.

The 2013 Fundraising Campaign of the Year is a beautiful study in simplicity that nonetheless moves the reader without being brash or over-the-top. Congratulations to the folks at Ronald McDonald House Charities and TrueSense Marketing. We just have one more thing to say: Wow.

TRIBUTE CANDLE APPEAL
United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum
Submitted by ABD Direct
The numbers
number of recipients: 89,246
response rate: 6.89 percent
Total cost: $62,378
Income generated: $252,256
Average gift: $41.02
Cost to raise a dollar: $0.25

Just by virtue of its predominantly black, No. 10 outer, this package stands out in the mail. Adding to the allure is a photo cutout of a lit candle and the message: “Candle Enclosed — Your immediate attention requested.”

But the envelope, while feeling bulky, certainly doesn’t feel like there’s a candle inside. Your first reaction most likely is, “They say it’s a candle, but it’s probably a picture of a candle … let’s see.”

And all of a sudden, you’re inside, where you actually find a thin, white candle — like you would put on a birthday cake. It’s attached to the top right corner of the letter with tape and sits within the ridges of a piece of corrugated cardboard the length of the envelope — protecting the candle while also adding that mystery feel to the package.

The letter is simple and moving. But it’s the promise it makes that is most captivating: Return the candle with a note of appreciation (form provided), and it will be melted down with the tens of thousands of others just like it that also were sent to supporters of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to create a single candle, a unique tribute to be presented to the Holocaust survivors who volunteer at the museum. (Oh, and by the way, would you also consider sending a donation, as well?)

The package also includes a color brochure that introduces the recipient to some of the survivors who work at the museum (who would be honored with the candle), including their stories, and old and current photos.

The candle was a risky proposition because it made the promise of a “gift” to the person opening it yet didn’t quite come through in the traditional way. But the museum and ABD Direct really found a perfect and perfectly unique, mission-appropriate involvement device, and the clever proposition made for terrific results.

CHINESE RADIO SHOW
The Salvation Army Canada
Submitted by Grizzard Communications Group

It’s no secret that raising money among the Asian community is challenging, especially for non-Asian organizations raising money for non-Asian-specific causes. In 2012, the Salvation Army Canada set out to increase awareness of its organization in — and to begin generating support from — Toronto’s Chinese community, which accounts for roughly 20 percent of the population.

The first step was to reach out and emphasize shared valon tHe eDge ues such as deep respect for the elderly, a commitment to family and caring for those in need. It did that through its Celebrate Canada’s Tradition of Caring campaign that involved Chinese-language radio ads; magazine, newspaper and other space ads; and free-standing inserts — all of which included the wellknown Salvation Army colors and logos, images representing the Chinese community, and copy in both English and Chinese.

An integrated, multichannel campaign of this magnitude is a challenge in and of itself, but adding the multilingual element made this a truly edgy campaign that laid a foundation of cooperation and support within the Chinese-Canadian community.

City Harvest
Submitted by Craver, Mathews, Smith & Co.
The numbers
number of recipients: 85,060
response rate: 4.92 percent
Total cost: $20,949
Income generated: $587,755.63
Average gift: $140.31
Cost to raise a dollar: $0.04

FINANCIAL NEED APPEAL
Good counsel
Submitted by Douglas Shaw & Associates
The numbers
number of recipients: 16,589
response rate: 9.41 percent
Total cost: $16,115
Income generated: $179,065
Average gift: $114.71
Cost to raise a dollar: $0.09

This was the category that the judges struggled with the most. Both packages had terrific results, both were moving and both were powerful. And, really, both were quite simple. But both were all of these things — in different ways.

Just as we would settle on one “clear winner,” someone would hold up the other and say, “But, what about this one?”

Ultimately, we opted for a tie because the level of “same but also completely different” between these packages was just too close to call.

First, we have City Harvest’s delightful Thank You/ Happy Holidays card campaign. The letter is good, solid and to-the-point. But what sends this package over the top is the artwork. You’re immediately drawn in to the package by a hand-drawn truck and some apples on the outer envelope, which is nicely odd-sized. Once inside, there’s a delightful card created by 9-yearold Jordan, depicting a City Harvest truck, a few fruits and vegetables, and a handwritten “thank you.” It’s an end-of-year appeal but forgoes any faith-specific holiday design, focusing instead on bright colors and the mission of City Harvest, which is delivering food to needy New Yorkers. This card is what kept drawing the judges back to this package over and over.

But then there is the Good Counsel Financial Need Appeal, with next to no art other than the organization’s simple logo featuring a black-and-white image of a woman and child over the tagline: “Homes Helping Single Mothers and Babies Since 1985.”

Neither the art nor the outer immediately grabs you, and the judges were concerned about its “open me” factor — or seemingly lack thereof. But the response rate was great, so we knew there was something special waiting inside. And there was. The contents were as unassuming as the outer, but the letter was outstanding:

“I knew I had to break the news to our mothers that we might have to close their home — but the words just weren’t coming to me.

“It was a warm fall night outside, but I suddenly felt a chill.

“We had done all we could to keep the doors open …”

The letter from Executive Director Christopher Bell continues, explaining the dire straights in which the organization had found itself — it was so bad that Bell had to explain to a number of women in need that one of the organization’s homes had to be closed.

The letter also relies on a deadline and a specific amount needed — $150,000 by Oct. 15 to avoid closing another home — to up the urgency factor.

These two packages are terrific examples of playing to your strengths to get your supporters’ attention, and the results bear that out.

2012 INITIAL PUPPY OFFERING
Canine Companions for independence
Submitted by Merkle Inc.
The numbers
recipients: 284,455
response rate: 0.23 percent
Total cost: $50,000
Income: 134,050 (incl. $26,100 in major gifts made offline)
Average gift: $204.97 ($165.31 without major gifts)
Cost to raise a dollar: $0.37

Great results are great results, and this campaign certainly has them. However, in one important way, the submitters admit, this super-cute campaign underperformed. But first, let’s look at the campaign itself. It’s a series of e-mails centered around a tongue-in-cheek theme: an Initial Puppy Offering or IPO, mirroring the Initial Public Offering process in the finance world. Recipients were asked to buy IPO shares by making a donation. Its goals were multifaceted: to raise money, of course, increase awareness of the organization and its mission, and build awareness of Canine Companions’ corporate partner (a dog-food company), etc.

One of the goals, however, was to sign up donors as monthly givers. In the end, only two converted during the campaign’s run. But success in that area came later when the organization followed up with an online monthly giving campaign that exceeded its overall fundraising goals and converted 25 of the donors who gave during the e-mail campaign to monthly givers.

This 2012 campaign stands on its own for meeting and exceeding its fundraising and other goals, but it gets extra points for seeding the monthly giving concept with supporters, making them more receptive to converting when they received the separate, dedicated 2013 message series describing the need and benefit of monthly giving in more detail. Monthly giving is the holy grail of fundraising, so we have to applaud campaigns that help pave the way for success in that area.

A DONATION IN RUSH LIMBAUGH’S NAME
NARAL Pro-choice america
Submitted by Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey
The numbers
number of recipients: 964,770
response rate: 0.14 percent
Total cost: $1,750
Income generated: $45,082.34
Average gift: $32.46
Cost to raise a dollar: $0.04

We kind of knew we had a winner here when the judges were giggling as they read the e-mails that went out as part of this campaign. Laughter is a great engagement device.

Of course, Rush Limbaugh fans and NARAL detractors might not have found the message as amusing, but this campaign wasn’t going to them, right?

Aside from being remarkably cohesive, this series of e-mails took the unlikely position of highlighting perhaps one of NARAL’s most vocal and recognized foes. In the throes of the 2012 election cycle, the radio host referred to NARAL and Planned Parenthood as “death squads.”

NARAL and CCAH were all over it and harnessed the anti- Limbaugh sentiment among its supporters by launching an e-mail campaign inviting them to make a donation to NARAL in Limbaugh’s name and challenging them to “make Rush Limbaugh the biggest fundraiser for pro-choice victories in November.”

In the e-mails, NARAL President Nancy Keenan also promised to send Limbaugh a thank you card with the donor’s name on it.

Response from first-time and repeat donors to NARAL was staggering, and the campaign became a social-media powerhouse.

HOLIDAY MATCH
african Wildlife Foundation
Submitted by Sanky Communications
The numbers:
recipients: 96,872
response rate: 3.12 percent
Total cost: $30,895
Income generated: $199,027
Average gift: $65.79
Cost to raise a dollar: $0.16

First off, any campaign that harnesses the seemingly endless power of Betty White is just smart, smart, smart. But the way the African Wildlife Foundation used the iconic actress’s involvement is what set this campaign apart.

Anyone who knows anything about Betty White or who is in tune with the animal-welfare wing of the fundraising sector knows the woman truly loves animals and that when she supports a cause, she supports it as more than just a “celebrity spokesperson.”

One of AWF’s most successful fundraising efforts to date, the campaign focused on e-mails crafted to sound like they came from White’s own pen, easily reflecting the warm but no-nonsense persona that is her trademark.

That this was a matching-gift campaign supported by White’s own donations — “When folks at the African Wildlife Foundation told me about the threats to rhinos and other beloved creatures … you can be sure I wasn’t going to just lie down and mourn the loss. I decided to do something … and to do it with you. I decided to double the impact of the gift you make today by matching it one-to-one with my own gift.” — makes it even smarter.

POPS — THE STORY OF LIFE TRANSFORMATION
Union Rescue Mission
Submitted by Union Rescue Mission
The numbers
number of recipients: 95,900
response rate: 2.09 percent
Total cost: $29,000
Income generated: $108,166
Average gift: $53.95
Cost to raise a dollar: $0.27

The imagery used in this campaign is extremely evocative, and it proves the power of telling real stories to display how donors help change lives. Union Rescue Mission really knows how to use riveting photos and personal stories of the people it has helped in a way that makes it almost impossible for a recipient not to give. The really powerful creative is reflected in the results.

In this case, the focus is on Nick Sidebottom, tenderly known as “Pops,” who in another life had another nickname, “El Diablo.” His story: Pops went from being one of the deadliest drug dealers on the streets to handing out supplies and wisdom to men looking for a new life off the streets. And it was all made possible, of course, through the support of URM donors.

But it’s not just the story that made this a winner in the multichannel category. URM really nailed the whole multichannel approach with this campaign, weaving Pops’ story — part of the Stories from Skid Row series — throughout e-mail, direct-mail letters, a newsletter, the website and social media such as YouTube. The cohesiveness of the campaign and the consistency of the imagery and messaging across all channels — even down to a video featuring Pops and his story embedded right onto the donation page — really impressed the judges. And there’s no arguing with the results.

PAUL GAFFNEY ROAST
Monmouth University
Submitted by Monmouth University

The submitters at Monmouth University subtitled this entry, “How Laughter Helped a University President Raise $10 Million.”

And indeed, the results of this off-the-wall gala are no laughing matter. With a budget of $280,000 and 600 guests, it exceeded its ambitious $1 million fundraising goal by a whopping $9 million!

This entire event was a lesson in how to think outside the box when it comes to galas. Retiring President Paul Gaffney wanted no parts of a retirement party but agreed to be the subject of a “roast” a year before he retired, the proceeds of which would benefit student scholarships, academic programs and capital projects. Event

planners raised $575,000 before the invites were even sent out by securing 23 honorary co-chairs — $25,000 donors who would receive special recognition on the invitations and at the event. Other high-level donors got to film funny videos and participate in a group song to be edited together and presented at the event. Planners made this event a real school- and community- oriented party and kept costs down by having it in the school’s multipurpose center, the building which was a major achievement of Gaffney’s presidency. The cocktail hour was held on the track, and the dinner and roast took place on the arena floor. The school’s veterans group presented the colors, and its pep band and glee club performed. All three groups got their start during Gaffney’s tenure.

Our judges were jazzed by the cleverness of the idea and the ingenuity of the planners — not to mention the $10 million results.

TELEMARKETING RESPONSIVE ELECTION YEAR RENEWAL
Democratic National Committee
Submitted by Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey
The numbers
recipients: 99,224
response rate: 23.07 percent
Total cost: $420,088
Income generated: $1,524,502
Average gift: $66.57
Cost to raise a dollar: $0.28

In 2012, the DNC knew it had its work cut out for it. It had to engage its core donors as quickly as possible by reminding its low-dollar donors — the bread and butter of its resources — that their renewed support was essential. This campaign also set out to renew these donors early to allow time to upgrade them throughout the presidential campaign.

The message behind this telemarketing script was simple but effective: “There’s hard work in the months ahead, but an early renewal gift will help us hit the ground running to elect Democrats up and down the ticket.”

CCAH also segmented the donors by previous giving — the best callers got the best leads — and monitored calls at least weekly, adapting the messaging to fit the changing needs of the fast-moving political landscape.

In the end, the campaign renewed 23,000 telemarketing- responsive donors — a 23 percent conversion rate, with a return of nearly 80 percent of the dollars pledged.

SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN
Findlay Hancock County Community Foundation
Submitted by Findlay Hancock County
Community Foundation

Lots of organizations are using social media; some are even raising funds in that space. We certainly expected to see some flashy social-media efforts doing just that in this category.

But the one thing any organization or consultant will tell you about social media is that you have to have a plan. And the realization and implementation of that truth is what made the Findlay Hancock County Community Foundation’s entry stand out.

The foundation began using social media in 2010. But in 2012, it realized that it really needed a plan. So it came up with one. Rather than wring its hands and wonder how to raise money — NOW — on social media, it set a very clear strategy of using the platform — mainly Facebook — to build relationships that could ultimately lead to gifts. So halfway through 2012, the foundation developed the objectives to:

BUILD BRAND AWARENESS
Acquire, engage and convert individuals to lasting supporters
Cultivate the next generation of donors
Drive traffic to the website
Target its desired audience, women aged 45 to 54

The foundation used industry research to create its objectives and diligently tracked its progress. Once it starting posting regularly, “we started to see exciting results, and we’ve continued to increase out engagement and reach since then,” the submission form states.

According to the foundation, using social media enabled it to recruit more than 500 community members to attend an event, raising $4,187 in contributions; one donor was inspired to pledge his support for three years after watching a YouTube video on one of the foundation’s cross-cultural projects; and the foundation’s Facebook page more than quintupled engagement from the first quarter to the third quarter in 2012.

Here’s to social-media plans and the organizations savvy enough to have them!

COVENANT HOUSE WEBSITE REDESIGN
Covenant House
Submitted by Sanky Communications

In our first year of honoring website design and its part in fundraising, the standout entry was a redesign effort on the Covenant House site.

The new homepage is beautifully streamlined, doing away with what was a messy array of buttons and links and replacing them with strong imagery depicting actual homeless kids who were rescued and helped by Covenant House — and three immediate choices: “Get Help,” “Give Now” and “Our Kids.” The new site also includes a powerful twist on the traditional “locations” map that builds a map of the U.S. out of photographs that keep the message of urgency going even in what could be considered dead space. Everything was updated with more close-up shots quite literally representing the faces of need, which carries over to the donation page. The overall look is gritty and moving.

Behind the scenes, the site was developed for custom donation processing, tracking and site analytics. It also added special features including a shopping cart platform for the online gift catalog, allowing donors to purchase tangible items and services for the youths. It also has proved to be the organization’s most effective site for fundraising to date.

Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.napco.com/article/And+the+Winners+Are.../1525130/177954/article.html.

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