Happy Birthday to the Fundraiser-in-Chief

A few months ago I wrote a blog post wondering if President Obama is our nation’s “Fundraiser-in-Chief“. I concluded that post by saying the 2012 campaign fundraising results will tell the tale. Well, second quarter fundraising numbers came in a few weeks ago, and Team Obama reported raising $85 million, which exceeded the campaign’s $60 million public goal for his campaign and the Democratic National Committee combined. Click here to read and see more about this story from the Huffington Post.

Regardless of whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, I think there are countless things we can all learn about fundraising from Team Obama.

For example, Team Obama is in Chicago tonight at the famed Aragon Ballroom to celebrate his 50th birthday. While this could’ve been just a plain-Jane birthday party, it has been turned into a HUGE fundraising opportunity. ABC News estimates that approximately 1,000 donors will pay between $50 and $35,800 to attend.

Team Obama reminds me that almost anything can and should be used by non-profit organizations as a solicitation opportunity or even cultivation or recognition/stewardship opportunities. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Hiring a new Executive Director or senior staff person
  • Electing a new board president
  • An organizational anniversary or a facility’s birthday
  • Celebrating your clients’ successes (e.g. an Eagle Scout banquet or announcing the winner of a Boys & Girls Club’s Youth of Year competition)
  • Hosting a reception to introduce a new community leader whose business /organization aligns with your mission (e.g. a literacy non-profit hosting a welcome reception for the town’s new head librarian)
  • Celebrating an accomplishment (e.g. releasing your organization’s program outcomes data in conjunction with a town hall meeting related to the subject matter).

Another interesting observation — even though it is a common practice by many non-profits — is how Team Obama turned their event into a series of events and opportunities kind of like a “Russian Nesting Doll”. It isn’t just a birthday party celebration. It is also a pre-party reception and a post-party VIP gathering. I am sure all of these things either came with additional price tags or were premium value-added upgrades for larger, significant donors.

The sky is the limit, and all that is required is a little bit of imagination on your part. If you are lacking creativity, then I suggest watching Team Obama and other successful non-profits in your community. We can all learn from each other! And there is more than just event planning and management that you can learn from Team Obama. Watch them carefully and you’ll find lessons in: goal setting, challenge gift strategies, ePhilanthropy & social media, multi-channel fundraising, direct mail, donor stewardship … and the list goes on and on. Again, it doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat, Republican or apolitical.

What fun and interesting opportunities have you used to cultivate, solicit and/or steward prospects and donors? Please use the comment box below to share.

Here is to your health! And, oh yeah, Happy Birthyday Mr. President … here is a YouTube video to help you celebrate.

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC