Gone are the days where donors give to a few cherished causes. The rise of technology and social fundraising has transformed the way people give, from how much to how often. This shift has also changed how and where donors want to be reached, the information they need to encourage a donation or to continue giving and how nimble nonprofits must be with their communications to raise funds critical for their missions.
I asked four businesswomen in the nonprofit world how they're reshaping not just fundraising, but the charitable sector itself. Each woman touched on three things: making fundraising personal, local, social.
Let's have a look at these businesswomen, their organizations and the key ways they are transforming how their organizations raise funds, connect with donors and build enduring stories that strengthen donor bases for years to come.
She's Leveraging Local Allies
Mariá Carla Chicuen, founding executive director, CasaCuba
Florida International University hosts CasaCuba, an organization that seeks to foster a global understanding of Cuban affairs and culture through education, discussion, research, and the arts.
While only in her first year with CasaCuba, Chicuen is one of many businesswomen in the nonprofit community who's far from operating in startup mode. She's headed efforts that have raised over $4 million in major gifts from a wide variety of donors, including foundations, government agencies and individuals.
A significant part of Chicuen's fundraising focus has been to create initiatives and strategies that both leverage and involve the nearly one million Cubans who call the Miami area home.
People have a short attention span online and if you're creating any kind of a barrier, you will lose that donation.
—Myriah Moon, CEO, New Life Center
“As a group, Cuban-Americans have shown remarkable generosity. Remittances from Cuban-Americans to relatives in Cuba, for example, are one of the main drivers of the Cuban economy," says Chicuen.
“The contributions of Cuban-Americans have fueled the growth of Miami, yet Cuban-Americans have yet to establish themselves as a major philanthropic base," she continues. "CasaCuba provides a unique opportunity to harness the natural generosity of our community into a tangible legacy for the benefit of generations to come."
One of Chicuen's primary goals is to develop ambassadors for CasaCuba who influence the communities where the organizations target audiences live and work. So far, this effort has proven one of the most successful strategies to transform the organization's growth and fundraising to-date — a model other businesswomen in the nonprofit sector can look to emulate as they develop their own community outreach and advocacy programs.
She's Focusing on Strengths
Maria Booker, executive director, Chance for Life
Booker's approach to Chance for Life's transformational fundraising is a wheel with many spokes. What started as a charity poker tournament back in 2005 has grown into a standalone nonprofit, raising over $2.1 million for pediatric cancer research.
While the organization (powered by its corporate partner, RedPeg) is in its first year as its own entity (and it's Booker's first year leading the charge), she's among businesswomen in the nonprofit world who aren't shy about a fundraising strategy that focuses on what the organization's done well: prestige events that take the work out of business networking.
"Since we first launched Chance for Life 14 years ago, we've been very successful at mixing the concept of a nonprofit with the business requirement to network," says Booker. "As we continue to broaden our fundraising efforts, we'll aim to translate the areas that people have come to love and expect from us such as increased access to celebrities, a greater connection to the cause through storytelling and specialty touches into other fundraising concepts like campaigns."
From 2017 to 2018, Chance for Life increased its fundraising by over a half million dollars and celebrated an 833 percent increase in growth — a remarkable level of growth from their inaugural event back in 2005.
She's Making It Easier to Give
Myriah Moon, CEO, New Life Center
While Moon is just over a year into her position as CEO of New Life Center, which provides safe emergency housing for victims of domestic violence and their children, she's infused the organization with a sense of responsibility to its donors and a commitment to ease the process of giving.
Moon's one of the businesswomen in nonprofits focusing on building relationships with donors of all levels, not just those who make substantial one-time or ongoing contributions.
"I want to know [each donor's] story because hearing from donors themselves allows us to find where our mission fits their passions, not vice versa," she explains. (It's a great way to stand out from the number of other organizations an individual donates to.)
She's also transformed the organizations digital giving initiatives, making it easier than ever for web, social and mobile visitors to donate with just a few clicks.
"People have a short attention span online and if you're creating any kind of a barrier, you will lose that donation," says Moon.
Every week, Moon's team took calls from donors trying to troubleshoot how to make an online donation. Now, no matter where visitors encounter New Life Center online, they'll be met with a prominent call to action to donate.
"Since changing to a user-friendly portal, we have had a 70 percent increase in donations organically coming into our online platform," she says.
Kelly Lane, vice president of foundation operations, Phoenix Children's Hospital Foundation
With over 19 years at Phoenix Children's Hospital Foundation, Lane's seen the population shift in the community her organization serves. With rapid growth in the Phoenix area and the hospital's expansion to meet the community's growing need for pediatric care, Lane had to make a shift in fundraising so the Foundation could keep up with demands for years to come.
This meant major fundraising drives to propel major gift, estate giving and endowment initiatives. That's not something that happens overnight. It takes strategy and time. It also takes data.
“Whether an individual, corporation or Foundation donor, the digital marketplace has become increasingly competitive for all sectors attempting to engage donor and consumer behavior," says Lane. “With data centers capable of marketing to individual behaviors, lifestyle preferences and transactional options, [our organization] can use similar tools to make connections that evoke personalized interest and engagement."
Through multi-channel media marketing efforts, A/B testing and real-time adjustments to strategy and results, Lane was able to lead an effort that garnered a 43 percent increase in end-of-year donations from 2016-17. She also hit a year-end push to raise nearly $1 million during that same time period.
These businesswomen revolutionizing nonprofits and the way they fundraise are just the beginning. Nonprofits have to remain even more nimble than for-profit companies—when the donations dry-up, so do their missions. Chicuen, Booker, Moon, and Lane's efforts can inspire nonprofits of any size to shift their approach to cultivating lasting donor bases.
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