Partnership & Structure: How to Supercharge Your Annual Campaign

By Audrey Levitin

Audrey

As Tom announced earlier this month, I am thrilled to join CauseWired as Senior Counsel and I am so grateful for this opportunity, which comes at a time of great possibility for social justice organizations.

With the pandemic beginning to ease and renewed hope for change, I am especially enthusiastic about sharing my experience to help strengthen the development programs of vitally important organizations. I am particularly looking forward to sharing my experience in creating effective annual campaigns, the foundation for building long-term relationships, and the sustainability needed to fuel programmatic growth and capital campaigns.

Each year as one fiscal year ends and another draws near, development teams experience a collective sense of relief mixed with the dread about having to start over again. Accountability for meeting annual goals is certainly a great deal of pressure. That internal tension, however, can be transformed into focus and motivation and ultimately results. 

Let me introduce two core elements regarding components of a successful annual campaign:

  1. Partnership –  Essential to success is the shared commitment and alignment among the development team, Executive Director and Board. Like a conductor, the development team anchors and moves the program forward in one unified voice. The Chief Development Officer is at the center, moving forward the vision, programmatic goals and relationships of the organization. 

A successful campaign, however, is never executed alone. A winning partnership between the Board of Directors, Executive Director and Development Team is based on a shared commitment to the financial goals. Key to success is transparency regarding both victories and disappointments. I recommend weekly meetings with the Executive Director to track results and quarterly reports to the executive or finance committees. Realism, shared responsibility and teamwork are necessary for success. 

  1. Structure – Developing clear goals, broken out by constituency and quarters are necessary benchmarks to track outcomes as the year unfolds.  

The development team is responsible for keeping the annual campaign on track and on time. Planning should start in earnest in the third quarter preceding the beginning of a new fiscal year. This is essential.  You want to be sure input from the development team is integral to planning the organizational budget. 

Create goals by constituency: typically comprised of individuals, foundations, online support, events, and corporations. Consider the flow of funding for the past two to three years and create goals based on anticipated renewals. From there you will have a gap. The strategy for your annual campaign should focus heavily on filling that gap with prospect outreach, lapsed donors, and a strong moves management program. 

Most importantly, a development leader’s job is to keep the donors connected to your organization. With a strong case statement and effective engagement, and a lot of very hard work, the money will follow.

I’d love to talk more about your annual campaign. Please feel free to email me at audrey@causewired.com – we’ll continue this conversation in future newsletters.

NEWS: CauseWired Welcomes Audrey Levitin, Former Innocence Project Development Chief

You can sense the change in the national direction almost like the harbinger of spring. We’re still fighting this horrific pandemic, and there are so many challenges all around us, but it just feels like things are changing for the better.

This is the time to build – in some cases, to rebuild – to look forward to expanding our impact, to making this a fairer country. That’s what we’re doing here at CauseWired. It’s time to grow, to build, to work hard together – and it’s time to share some exciting news.

Today, we’re thrilled to announce the addition of former Innocence Project development chief Audrey Levitin as Senior Counsel to our CauseWired team. 

After leading the national development effort at the Innocence Project, where she increased philanthropic revenue almost ten-fold during a 15-year tenure, Audrey brings her unparalleled knowledge and experience to providing our clients with unique insight into increasing funding for social justice organizations. 

Audrey joined the Innocence Project when its annual budget was just over $2M and oversaw the creation of a $20M reserve fund and an increase in its budget to more than $20M, bringing together some of the nation’s leading philanthropists, companies and foundations to support the organization’s commitment to freeing the innocent and reforming our broken justice system.

A recognized expert on funding for human rights and social justice causes, Audrey is also the producer of Sanctuary: An Expression of Conscience, a documentary depicting the plight of Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees in the 1980s she served as co-chair of US/Israel Women to Women, an organization advancing women’s empowerment and peaceful co-existence.

Previously, Audrey was executive vice president at the Vantage Consulting Group, leading the firm’s work in legal services and civil rights. She established the Educational and Technical Assistance Program, which provided assistance to the Open Society Institute, the United Way of New York City, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and the New York Foundation.

We are ready to go. We understand this rapidly changing landscape. 

Together, our team has organized and advised efforts that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for vital social justice causes and strengthened the network of funders – individuals, foundations and companies – that work toward a fairer and more just society.

Toward Social Justice

Dear Friends,

The election is over. President Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris have defeated the forces of American fascism, and preserved a democratic republic for at least four more years. Make no mistake: those were the stakes. Our descent into xenophobic authoritarian government was no chimera; it was all too real and drifting into the offing. We have avoided the worst fate, thanks to millions of organizers around this country who refused to accept the end of a pluralistic, democratic America.

But there is so much more work to do. While our nerves are a little calmer, let’s make certain that our resolve remains steady. For those of us who work in the social sector, the mandate is clear: we can never forget that we almost lost American civil society – and that it remains weakened, torn and frayed. Trump is defeated and will eventually leave, disgraced and synonymous with the debasement of our values. We remain. So do those who either agreed with his vile hatred and anti-democratic demagoguery, or who were somehow misled by false promises of better days. The dead speak of his pathetic, immoral failure.

We must do more. I intend to. It is impossible not to. For these last dozen years, CauseWired has been an independent consulting firm working with a wide variety of nonprofit causes. Yet as the years have gone on, and I’ve reached what can charitably be called “veteran” status as a consultant, I’ve been drawn more often to work with organizations and people who toil for social justice in this country. From direct service to the poor to justice reform to racial and gender equity to standing with immigrants and those marginalized by hate movements to fair economic development, these are the causes that animate my fingers across this keyboard, and my feet across the cold floor of the winter’s morning.

So I’ve decided to formally recenter CauseWired’s consulting work around social justice. That’s what I want to do. That’s where we need to go. Let’s go together. There’s so much work to be done.

There will be more announcements here in the coming weeks, so watch your email. New partnerships. New practice areas. New commitments.

Thank you for your support, for your recommendations, for your ideas. We stood at the precipice, and we pulled back. Now we need to rebuild society, make it fairer, help those who need it.

Thanks for listening!

– TW

Back to the Egg

In 1731, a 25-year-old Philadelphia printer set out to solve a problem – one that affected the future of his industry and the social good. Despite innovations in technology, popular books still cost too much for the average citizen. Yet getting more books into circulation would clearly increase interest in his own craft, and lead to a better informed public, including his own friends and colleagues. This young pursuer of a double bottom line created a unique social venture – and he used crowdsourcing to fund it.

The model was simple, really. A total of 50 subscribers invested 40 shillings each to start a circulating library. They all agreed to further invest 10 shillings more every year to buy additional books and to help maintain the library. They adopted a Latin motto – Communiter Bona Profundere Deum Est – which translates as “To support the common good is divine.”

The social entrepreneur was Benjamin Franklin. His social venture was The Library Company of Philadelphia. And the crowd that funded his social venture was the famed Junto, a loose coalition of smart young Philadelphians interested in the public good in the first half of the 18th century. Their self interest was greater access to a wider variety of books; Franklin’s was in printing them. And the society itself benefited from a better educated, better informed core of leading citizens, many of whom would one day fund and lead the founding of a much larger social venture – a republic.

Of course, crowdsourcing is everywhere these days. It’s a term meant to signal the evolution of passive social media to more active financial participation. And it takes advantage of technological advances and the growth of networks that can be used -in the form of “crowdfunding” – to drive causes, raise money, fund projects, and create new organizations. Yet it’s really an adaptation on an old and trusted technique – asking friends to support a project, and they will ask their friends, and so on. Franklin’s “crowd” was a small group of young Colonial elite – today, hundreds may fund a film or a cause through Kickstarter or IndieGogo, a journalism project through Spot.us, or a band’s appearance through GigFunder. And the “crowd” can support small entrepreneurs in the developing world via platforms like Kiva‘s, fund school-based projects through DonorsChoose, or back international projects of impact through GlobalGiving.

Next week, I’ll begin another semester of teaching graduate students at Columbia University. The Nonprofit Management program has been growing quickly on Morningside Heights, as more young people seek a career that will help change the world – while other changes careers from something less satisfying.,

I’ll tell my students that philanthropic networks matter, that collective impact is where it’s at, and they need to understand the connection to what has always mattered in gathering support for important social causes: that personal connection, good communications and story-telling, the importance of impact on those the cause serves, and the plan for getting it right.

In the pursuit of those verities, my students could do worse than to study the early crowdfunding techniques of Benjamin Franklin. He invented crowdsourced philanthropy – heck, Franklin largely invented American philanthropy. He was the leading technologist of his day, and a man who was intimately familiar with the top media technology of his time and in building social networks. Franklin used that social network – in the form on subscriptions, his own circle of leaders called the Jun-toe, and the printing press to raise funds for the first fire department, the first public library, a public meeting house, a university, a public hospital.

Franklin understood how fundraising – wired or otherwise – really works. He knew it challenges and its limits. This passage from his autobiography could be required reading for aspirational nonprofit executives and fundraisers:

The Rev. Gilbert Tennant came to me with a request that I would assist him in procuring a subscription for erecting a new meeting-house. … Unwilling to make myself disagreeable to my fellow-citizens by too frequently soliciting their contributions, I absolutely refused. He then desired that I would furnish him with a list of the names of persons I knew by experience to be generous and public-spirited. I thought it would be unbecoming in me, after their kind compliance with my solicitations, to mark them out to be worried by other beggars, and therefore refused also to give such a list. He then desired that I would at least give him my advice. “That I will readily do,” I said I; “and, in the first place, I advise you to apply to all those whom you know will give something; next, to those whom you are uncertain whether they will give any thing or not, and show them the list of who have given; and lastly, do not neglect those who you are sure will give nothing, for in some of those you may be mistaken.”

This is exactly how we work in philanthropy and nonprofits and social entrepreneurship – and it’s how we work both online and offline. There is usually no shortcut in fundraising, creating a cause, building an organization. Success often centers on the will to ask. Be “full of courtesy, full of craft,” Franklin once advised via his alter ego, Poor Richard.

But he also had another saying that will undoubtedly ring true 250 years later to fundraisers and social entrepreneurs everywhere: “An empty bag cannot stand upright.”