Thursday, March 27, 2008

Power Philanthropy - Our Fundraising Future?

Columbus Business First is reporting today the incredible success of the Columbus Foundation's first Power Philanthropy "Match Day" where a pool of money was put forth as match money encouraging individuals in the Columbus area to contribute to support one or more of the 350 non-profits listed on the Foundation's Power Philanthropy web site.

The event started at 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 6th and in just 44 minutes $550,000 was raised from individuals in the community to go with the $237,000 in matching funds. All in all, $805,000 was raised in a very short period of time.

When you consider that 238 local organizations received gifts during the event - averaging out to about $3,400 per organization. Some non-profits did better than others - one took in more than $14,000 in match dollars while five others received more than $5K in matches from the Foundation. While these numbers per organization are not transformational in that no organization will be probably not be able to start or sustain any new programming with what they've raised, I'm enthusiastic about the idea for a number of reasons:
  1. New Donors. I'm guessing that the way this event was marketed brought many new donors to both the Foundation and the organizations they supported. And most likely, given the medium used of on-line giving, that many of these donors are younger than the traditional contributors to these organizations.
  2. Leverage the Power of the Match. As we know in public radio, challenges and match dollars always seem to work well. This further reinforces the power of leverages dollars for more dollars. Also, by opening this up to so many organizations the donors making the challenge will have their dollars put to use in a variety of ways to help make our community be stronger. This would seem to bring a great benefit to deepen the interest and commitment of donors to the Foundation.
  3. It's About The Community. Okay, so no single organization is going to be transformed from this one-time event, it's not really the point. The point is that this type of event brings our community together in a stronger and more meaningful way than a series of fundraising campaigns or special events by individual organizations. If one were consider pooling all of the dollars (and overhead expenses) put up for a lunch or dinner fundraising event in our community into a matching program like this the results could be enormous.
Could an idea like this work for Public Radio?

I think it could and here's why:
  • If you're traveling around the country this week and next, you'll no doubt find that most Public Radio stations are fundraising giving up an enormous amount of airtime asking for your support. Could a truly national campaign bring better results in a shorter period of time bringing less pain to our staff and more public service to our listeners?
  • Many stations are already pooling a huge amount of dollars in advance to use as on-air challenges during their drives. What if NPR would to also push out this idea to its 7 million monthly visitors to its web site as well as to those downloading Podcasts. Make it easy for people to contribute to the pool where all the money contributed would go to stations.
  • And for the reasons stated about about community, a campaign like this would strengthen the public radio brand across the country much more than week-long, in some cases badly executed, pledge drives.
Where to Start?

The place to start with this is probably not either the Spring or Fall membership drives as many stations have too much at stake to want to risk trying an untested idea during such a critical time. Instead, I suggest doing something in December after the Fall pledge season is over and make it a year-end gift event.

Utilize our air with spot promos, our email list, and our web site to push the idea out that at a certain time on a certain day public radio stations, networks, and listeners and banding together in special fundraising event.

Use the same concept as the Columbus Foundation's Power Philanthropy model where are listeners can easily search find the station(s) they wish to support. Plus, if they don't have a specific station to support give them the option to contribute to the match fund.

This isn't a revolutionary idea as we've been talking about this at different levels for a long time. However, having seen how this worked in Columbus without the power of the broadcasters megaphone behind it, I am confident it could be a start in helping to replace some of our dependence on traditional pledge drives.

What do you think?

1 comment:

andrew said...

This is a very interesting idea Tim. Through my involvement in a couple of other groups I was disappointed to find out about this Columbus Foundation effort too late to get in on it (as an organization searching for funding, not as a donor) and I hope that we can be a part of it next year.

I find fundraising to be such an interesting issue and such an intriguing problem come opportunity to consider. Please write more about your fundraising ideas, beyond making donations I'd like to have a little more insight into this issue so that I might be able to brainstorm some other ideas.

I loved that Chicago Public Radio was able to do away with their on-air fund drives when I was living there. I understand there is a different dynamic there but it makes me want to puzzle out how to bring that dynamic into our picture.

Anyhow, what you've written seems like a good direction to try and take.