I have designed and run countless fundraising campaigns over the past twenty-five years I have spent in fundraising. I have written the plans, the messaging, and created the fundraising teams and the communications tools, and all that good stuff. And what I have learned through all this experience is that there is one tool, and one tool only, that is absolutely crucial to the success of a fundraising campaign. And that tool is none of the items I just listed above.
I’ve been writing up case-studies of the fundraising I did for two separate documentary films — WITH YOU and JACK LONDON: 20TH CENTURY MAN. Well, things just amped up for WITH YOU. Instead of blogging about our past fundraising success, I’m going to post over the coming weeks about our NEW fundraising campaign to raise $20K by April 20.
If you really want to make serious fundraising hay while the sun shines, you have to build upon all those micro-donations you gather like fallen blossoms. You have to build the top of your funding pyramid. At the top, above all the little, heartfelt gifts from Aunt Mathilda and your former yoga instructor, you need some major gifts.
When we got ready to launch our fundraising campaign for “With You,” we first set our goal, our deadline, and our purpose. Once that job was done, our next task was to amass our arsenal — I mean toolkit, of tools and devices we needed in order to run a successful campaign. I have to watch myself sometimes. The language of war seems to creep into the fundraising lingo sometimes. And this is nothing like war. It’s more like building a community — a community of like-minded people who want to work with you and each other to achieve a goal you all believe in.
My husband, Chris Million, has been an unofficial scholar of the great American author Jack London for the past twenty years. He was at a literary conference more than two decades ago and met Becky London, Jack’s daughter, who autographed a book for him. Meeting the author’s daughter made Jack even more real and tangible for Chris, and from that moment on, he was determined to make the world’s first-ever feature-length documentary about London, his immense literary legacy, and his fascinating times.
Once we secured our lead gift of $22,000 for “With You,” our next job became scoping the fundraising campaign. To succeed with any fundraising campaign, you need to answer three questions: 1) How much money do I need to raise?, 2) Why do I need this money?, and 3) By when do I need this money? Having specific answers to these questions allows you to create a compelling, urgent, actionable case for potential donors. Sounds simple, right?
The first film in the queue that I was producing during the past three years is “With You.” This is a feature-length documentary that tells the story of Mark Bingham, one of the heroes of United Flight 93 who on September 11, 2001 helped prevent the terrorists who had hijacked the plane from completing their mission.