Fundraising, Part 5: Major gifts a focus of environmental group

By Todd Cohen

[Note: This article is from a report written for Blackbaud, which asked me to look at fundraising strategies that nonprofits have found to be effective.]

The National Wildlife Federation, which raises about $43 million a year in giving from individuals, has seen stability across its mix of fundraising programs, including $23 million from corporations and foundations, with foundation giving showing the most growth in recent years in the wake of a greater focus on foundation fundraising, says Anne Senft, vice president of philanthropy.

The Federation also has placed greater focus in recent years on its major gift program, increasing the threshold for those gifts to $25,000 from much more modest levels.

“It takes a while to get the pipeline going,” Senft says.

Fundraising for the organization is data-driven, she says, based on modeling that analyzes key indicators for donors such as the frequency of their giving and average gift size, as well as an assessment of their assets based on publicly available information, to determine a donor’s capacity for making major gift.

To help boost its annual fund, the organization’s membership and development teams have worked more closely with one another in recent years, and have tried to be more strategic and send more mail appeals to people who give over $1,000.

While many fundraising professionals in the past believed people who gave at that level did not want to receive direct-mail appeals, Senft says, the Federation has fine-tuned that approach, adding more mail appeals in addition to the phone calls to those high-level donors.

“Development is more relational,” she says.

After five years of using mail for those donors, including multiple appeals a year, revenue from donors giving $1,000 or more has doubled.

The Federation has seen online giving grow about 10 percent year, and it uses social media mainly for engagement, not fundraising.

It actively uses Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, with over 100,000 followers each on Facebook and Twitter, and nearly 230,0000 on Google+.

It also uses a lot of photography “to inform people and inspire emotion,” Senft says. “People love wildlife and want to see pictures of wildlife.”

Next: Direct marketing a key for public society benefit group

The series:

Fundraising, Part 1: Basics key as economy starts to recover

Fundraising, Part 2: Health care groups invest in development capacity

Fundraising, Part 3: Human services groups focus on direct response marketing

Fundraising, Part 4: Museums aim to diversify donor base

Fundraising, Part 5: Major gifts a focus of environmental group

Fundraising, Part 6: Direct marketing a key for public society benefit group

Fundraising, Part 7: International affairs group aims to show

Fundraising, Part 8: Faith-based groups count on direct mail

Fundraising, Part 9: Independent school partners with parent volunteers

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