HomeFront’s virtual gala: ‘Don’t Save the Date. Just Save the World.’

Exhibited by
Ruthellen S. Rubin, CFRE.
Added
August 31, 2009
Medium of Communication
Direct mail
Target Audience
Individuals, single gift
Type of Charity
Children, youth and family, poverty/social justice, public/society benefit
Country of Origin
USA
Date of first appearance
October, 2004

SOFII’s view

This is a very strong and effective variation on an excellent idea that was popular among nonprofits in the USA some 20 years ago – the non-event. The offer is simple: for your next charity fundraiser, save money and hassle and stay at home. You won’t have to rent tuxedos and ball gowns, hire a limo, come out on a rainy night or make small talk with the local worthies. You save on catering and save the planet, just by staying at home. Isn’t that great? You can set yourself down in front of the TV with a glass of wine and a box of chocolates and feel good about it!

Creator / originator

Ruthellen S. Rubin, CFRE Director of Development at HomeFront from 2002 - 2005.

Summary / objectives

When I was working as development director for HomeFront, a nonprofit organisation providing programmes and services for homeless families in New Jersey, I was searching for a way to increase awareness of the need for increased individual funding. Donors in our community were ‘gala-ed out.’ Far too many precious dollars were going to flowers, caterers, etc. I was searching for a sensitive way to channel those desperately needed funds to homeless families.

The result was the enclosed directly mailed invitation to our virtual gala: Build a Better World for a Homeless Child – Don't Save the Date. Just Save the World.

Background

Ruthellen S. Rubin, CFRE works with nonprofit executive directors, development directors, fundraising staff and board members to address short-term fundraising challenges and/or to design long-term strategies to build strong and sustainable development programmes: www.developnp.com

Ruthellen is also a member of the Faculty of the Heyman Center for Philanthropy at New York University.

Special characteristics

We had to be careful not to criticise galas because we did not want to insult our colleagues or make it difficult to return to a gala the following year. Therefore the tone was that ‘this year the need is so great that we would like to put 100 per cent of your donation towards programmes for homeless kids.’

Not wanting to lose that important face-to-face contact with our donors, we went out of our way to schedule other opportunities to get those donors into the agency for other types of events during the year.

Influence / impact

This campaign really got people's attention. The media picked it up and there were two newspaper articles about it as well as an opinion column.

  1. Corporate donors loved it since they have to go to scores of these galas every year.
  2. Foundation donors thought we were being very responsible.
  3. Individual donors were very responsive. We kept all of our prior year donors and added several new ones. My favourite comment from one major donor was, ‘My husband is so happy he doesn't have to go to another dinner that this year he is doubling his pledge.’

The new format prompted lots of conversations with major donors which was a bonanza for me as development director. Our creative thinking and efficient use of donations were much appreciated.

Details

We showed a mock up to several of the prior years' major donors. Most understood what we were doing and loved it. A few were skeptical and didn't quite get it.

We went ahead based on the sentiments of the majority.

Costs

Design and printing was donated by AnyColor, Inc and noted on the invitation.

Results

Doubled the prior years’ gross for this campaign with no expenses.

Merits

Lots of people talk about the time and money that go into planning events versus the financial proceeds. In some cases it is worthwhile and in other cases it is an outmoded and inefficient way to raise money from individuals. In order to weather the current economic crisis, nonprofits will have to be creative. They will also have to demonstrate efficiency and responsible stewardship of dollars to prospects and donors. This campaign fits the bill.

Save money, hassle and save the world – stay at home!
The invitation leaflet.
View original image
The invitation.