The April CFC “Secret” — Tactics for Fundraising Success
The April “Secret” to CFC Success
Successful CFC Fundraising, How to Grow Donors that Give for Decades,
The Insider’s Guide to the Combined Federal Campaign
The fundamental lesson of all fundraising theory and practice is that “relationships are key.” Okay, that’s easy enough to say, but as the great philosopher Yogi Berra said, “In theory, there’s no difference between practice and theory. In practice there is.” So what does this have to do with workplace giving non-profit fundraising in general, and the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) specifically? Let me share a few of the keys to CFC success, as well as some of the unique features of the CFC, and how in practice to develop better relationships and increase awareness of your non-profit within the CFC community.
Anonymous Donors are some of Your Best Supporters
A unique feature of the CFC is that the Federal public servant donors have the option of choosing to be an anonymous donor, and most of the non-profit world does not realize how popular this option is for Federal public servants. On a CFC pledge card, the donor has the choice of allowing their contact information (address & e-mail) to be released to the charities they have given to, or they can choose to remain anonymous. There are no exact statistics, but from personal observation of thousands of CFC pledge cards over the years, I would estimate that close to sixty percent of the donors choose this option.
Another aspect fact that many non-profits don’t realize is that these anonymous donors are some of their strongest supporters. Frequently, the reaction of many non-profits is to be irritated at the fact that these women and men, who have chosen to give money anonymously— a signal perhaps that they don’t want to engage, don’t want your mailings, and on and on. But if you think about it, the reason they are giving is because they already know what your non-profit is doing, even if they choose to not release their contact information. If they had no idea at all, they wouldn’t give. They may have a historical connection with your organization, a spouse or friend may be active, or they may even be one of your volunteers! For Federal public servants, the CFC is the most donor friendly way for them to give to charity, and they have thousands of charities to choose from, be thankful that they chose yours!
Another Unique Aspect of Workplace Giving: Anonymous Fundraising Volunteers
In addition to having anonymous donors, workplace giving is the only type of non-profit fundraising where there is an additional category of dedicated men and women who are helping support your organization—the CFC campaign volunteers. These are the people who plan, manage and conduct the CFC campaign each fall in their Federal agency including the CFC “keyworkers” who conduct the actual solicitations—and you will never know their names! They are helping you raise funds for your non-profit (they are obviously helping all the other non-profits in the CFC catalog as well), but the point is that your development operation has hundreds (for local charities) or thousands (for national charities) of CFC volunteers helping raise funds for all of the CFC charities in their region.
Two of the Seven Keys to CFC Success
So what are some of the critical ingredients to developing stronger and better relationships with your CFC supporters? I’m going to focus on some practical keys for generating awareness about your non-profit in the CFC community, including your anonymous donors. There are Seven Keys to CFC Success, but I’m highlighting two as a lead-in to the April CFC Secret:
• CFC Success Key #3: Use all 12 months of the year! It’s true that the solicitation period is only in the fall, but there are many actions and activities that you need to be doing during the rest of the year as well, including in April. One important element is to keep communicating about the CFC, in part to combat misinformation about it. Following the “Law of the Harvest,” planting some seeds of success now, in the spring, will help you reap more in the fall.
• CFC Success Key #7: “Say Thank You Early and Often!” This is probably the most important key, yet it is frequently the most violated by many non-profits.
The April CFC “Secret”
Every year, National Volunteer Week is celebrated during the third week of April. This is a huge event, with a Presidential proclamation and a lot of media attention. It is one of the signature events of the Points of Light Institute, and has been a nationally recognized week since 1974. Since as non-profits you don’t have millions of dollars to spend on advertising and marketing, it’s critical to leverage onto events that have significant and widespread coverage, and provide an easy “hook” for traditional media to base a story on.
As part of National Volunteer Week, many non-profits have recognition events, days of service, open houses, and, at minimum, news releases thanking all their supporters and volunteers for helping the non-profit work on achieving its mission during the past year.
This is where you get to combine CFC Success Keys #3 and #7, and add a few “Thank yous” to both your known and unknown CFC supporters. Whatever your non-profit is doing to celebrate National Volunteer Week, make sure that you include a paragraph or two in written materials, or a sentence or two at live events that thanks both your known CFC donors and supporters, and your anonymous CFC supporters, including the CFC workplace giving volunteers. As I already said, if they are CFC donors to your non-profit, they will see the story that gets picked up in a local paper, or may be in attendance at “Volunteer Recognition” event. Saying “Thank You” in the non-profit world is analogous to advertising in the business world, it doesn’t have to wait for a transaction to be meaningful and appreciated. The CFC workplace giving volunteers on the other hand, may not know anything about your specific non-profit, but since they helped raise money for the CFC charities, they deserve a “Thank You” from your non-profit. I call this “planting seeds of awareness,” some will bear fruit, some won’t, but regardless, the CFC volunteers deserve a thank you.
In addition to press releases and speaking opportunities, don’t forget that you have much more control over internal information, including your website, annual reports, newsletters, podcasts, etc. Do you thank your workplace giving donors and volunteers on your website and in your publications? If no, why not?
Think Donors Not Dollars
As you think about developing your messaging strategy for reaching your CFC supporters, many CFC charities also say that one of their big frustrations is that they have no idea of how many donors they actually have, because of the popularity of the anonymous option. Here’s the short quick answer to calculating how many CFC donors your non-profit has – Divide Your Non-profit’s CFC Revenue by 50: If your non-profit receives $4500 per year of unrestricted, reliable and predictable CFC funds, you have 90 CFC donors, if a non-profit receives $25,000 per year from the CFC, you have 500 supporters. While this is of course an estimate, it’s actually a quite valuable technique.
I find that it helps the non-profit to be able to think of actual people not just a dollar figure and by doing this you can track number of donors from year to year. It’s also a much more personal way to set a goal –“We want to increase the number of our CFC friends and supporters from 85 to 100!” is more compelling than “We want to raise 15% more money!” When you’re crafting a message, one of the best techniques is to think of just one person you are talking to, and what would they want to know? (Notice and this is important, that I said: What would the potential donor want to know, not what do you want to say – there’s a big difference. However, do be sure to include your CFC number in the media release.)
Bonus Tip: CFC Success Key # 6: Use the Tools of the 21st Century
Implementing the “April CFC Secret” will require moving beyond the outdated concept of a “press list” where you send your media release to a pre-determined list of press contacts. In today’s new media world that’s no longer enough. By all means, if you have a press list, submit your non-profit’s media release about to it, but in addition, make sure that you benefit from the automated press release distribution services as well (many are free). The Internet has a voracious appetite for content, (big surprise) and because of this it is impossible for you to predict which websites, periodicals, blogs, etc. might be interested in your non-profit’s story and celebration of National Volunteer Week. For example, one national health related non-profit I know put out a press release and while it was picked up by its usual media outlets, a website that also picked it up was called something like “Grandma’s Blog” (I don’t remember the exact name), and this blog was getting more traffic on this topic than any of the other sites. With old-style “press list” mentality, you would have never found this website. Thanks to the internet and keyword rich press releases, you don’t have to, they’ll find you!
I hope you have found these practical tips on ways to raise awareness of your non-profit in the CFC community valuable. They are based on real experience, and they do work. If you’re interested in learning more on how to use the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) to both develop a reliable stream of unrestricted revenue, as well as other benefits including leadership development and market research opportunities, please send me an e-mail at BillHuddleston1@gmail.com or call me at 703-560-1825.
About the author:
Bill Huddleston, earned his MPA in Non-Profit Management from George Mason University, served in the Federal sector for over 25 years, and has worked extensively with non-profits and foundations in fundraising, board leadership, and volunteer management roles. During his Federal career he served in many CFC roles including deputy campaign manager, communications chairperson, special events chair, and Loaned Executive. As a COO for a small national non-profit his methods resulted in a 21% increase in CFC revenues for them.
His web resources are on the web at http://www.cfcfundraising.com and his blog is at http://www.cfctreasures.wordpress.com. His book, Successful CFC Fundraising, Growing Donors that Give for Decades, The Insiders Guide to the CFC will be released in 2010.
Bonus: The Seven Keys to CFC Success
1. Work from your strengths.
2. Learn the CFC game—what the rules are, and how to play.
3. Use all twelve months of the year.
4. Understand why the CFC is the most donor friendly means of contributing in the world, and how to use that fact to help your non-profit to both “grow givers” and “grow the pie.”
5. Learn how to get maximum benefit from the “Resource Pyramid Tetrahedron (three-sided pyramid).” Use the CFC to generate other resources in addition to money:
-leadership development opportunities
6. Use the Tools of the twenty-first century.
7. Say “Thank You” early and often.
Author’s note: Bill Huddleston, Non-profit Messaging Strategies
The tactics revealed in the “April CFC Secret” are part of a broader strategy about ideal messaging strategies for non-profits, much beyond the scope of this article. I recommend Nancy Schwartz’ work at the Getting Attention blog, http://www.gettingattention.org, for more information in this area. One of the main points she makes is that you do need to develop multiple messaging strategies for reaching the different groups that comprise your non-profit’s support.