Dear Kim:

Your past advice has been very helpful to me, and I appreciate the Grassroots Fundraising journal and website immensely.

My question has to do with fundraising campaigns and what to do when they are struggling. I am overseeing a “friends-asking-friends”-type of campaign right now: committed members and volunteers are asking folks they know to make small donations to our group in their honor. This is the second year we have done this campaign. We find it’s great for bringing on new members, and it makes all of the asks that much more personal that they come from someone the donor knows rather than directly from an organization they may have never heard about. We spent many weeks/months preparing for the campaign—setting up a special website, recruiting people to participate, creating special materials, coming up with a theme, etc.

The problem is that, now that the campaign has launched, it doesn’t seem to be catching on or having much success. With less than two weeks left until the official six-week campaign period is over, we have raised about half of our goal (which was pretty modest). What can I do in the short amount of time left to energize the campaign? Should I be trying to get as many additional campaigners as possible? Should we change our strategy entirely and supplement the campaign with a mail appeal or phonebank? Should we consider extending the dates of the campaign? Or should we just accept that we are not going to meet our goal and start thinking about what additional fundraising measures we can take to make up the difference later in the year?

–Is the End in Sight?

Dear In Sight:

You have laid out the questions you need to be asking very well. It is hard to say why this campaign doesn’t have much momentum, but that does sometimes happen despite our best planning and effort. There are two things you should do. The first is to make sure that all your volunteer solicitors are following up their requests with phone calls. People get so much mail and so much e-mail that they cannot keep up, and many things fall through the proverbial crack! For example, a very close friend of mine was being honored by an organization that I am also very fond of. When I got an invitation to send in money in honor of my friend I put it in my pile of things to do. Then the evil Pile- Disrupting Troll moved it into another pile. I just found it—the event was four months ago! I am not a slob or a pack rat, but I do have more than one pile. I will send money now—they can always use the money—but it would have helped me so much if someone had called to ask me if I had gotten the invitation and if I was going to be able to respond.

If in fact, everyone is being called (which I strongly doubt), then you should end the campaign at the end of the six weeks. Evaluate the time of year, the solicitors, the strength of the pitch, and so on, and see if you find any room for improvement. Then move on to your next fundraising effort.

I think the phone call follow up will do the trick. I wish you well.

–Kim Klein