Sedona Public Library has launched its annual Arizona Gives campaign, and this exciting and modern statewide fundraising effort has led to questions about this strategy. Are popular crowdfunding and social media methods the right way to reach constituents and donors in Sedona? As the Library is celebrating its 60th anniversary, we want to be sure that our older library stays current in a quickly advancing world of communications. I took this opportunity to look at my own fifty-year evolution of fundraising activities.
My first nonprofit fundraising effort was walking for the March of Dimes in Detroit, and I literally collected dimes from friends, family and neighbors for each mile that I walked. I was eight years old, and I didn’t completely comprehend how the whole thing worked, but I knew that my dimes would help sick babies. I also knew that hot chocolate and donuts awaited me at the end of the seven-mile walk, and that was strong incentive for a little girl on a chilly Michigan morning.
Every autumn at my Catholic high school, we students were bussed all over the Detroit area to sell raffle tickets for the church’s annual fall festival. The church raffled off cars and cash, and students happily participated in ticket sales because we were let out of school early and we could win cool prizes. We knew that the church needed the funds we raised, and we all loved the three-day event with rides, food, shows and more.
As an adult, my first nonprofit volunteer experience was for the Orange Durham Coalition for Battered Women in North Carolina. For this small grass roots nonprofit, city-wide walks and three-day festivals were not an option—we held an annual phone-a-thon. We sent a ‘heads up’ post card to constituents letting them know about the upcoming call. There was no caller id back then, so folks knew when the phone rang, it might be us. On the established call night, volunteers called from phones at a borrowed office space, and we spoke with those who answered telling them about our work and asking for a gift. We offered no incentives, but we shared stories and statistics about the women and children who we served, and the lives we saved.
My phone work continued at Northern Arizona University where for many years I worked closely with the NAU call center. You might receive calls from students at your own alma mater. It remains a popular way for universities to reach out to alumni. But according to NAU’s current call center director, answer rates continue to decrease. They still prefer charge card gifts over the phone, but the call center is currently talking to vendors from crowdfunding and online giving day software companies.
I’ve also volunteered answering phones at public radio pledge drives, and these, too, have changed in recent years. While radio hosts still ask listeners to make a pledge by calling in, less volunteer operators are recruited, and they answer phones for fewer hours. The majority of on-air requests now direct listeners to ‘give online’ where they can pledge and sign up for the popular premiums that radio stations often provide.
Today, I am at Sedona Public Library where we are asking library cardholders and other constituents to honor our 60th anniversary by making a commemorative gift at www.azgives.org/sedonalibrary. We do not offer incentives, but we assure you that your support allows us to offer our broad slate of programs and services, manage our considerable collection, and maintain our partnership in the Yavapai Library Network
There is much research on modern fundraising strategies, and we want to know: what is the best way to reach YOU? Are emails the way to connect with you? Is social media? Do you need premiums to give, give more, or give for the first time? How about columns like this, does this inspire you? Or shall we embark on the good old fashioned annual phone-a-thon?
We want to get it right, and we’d love to hear from you. So I’m asking for your support and your input. Please give a commemorative gift by going to azgives.org; and please stop by or call and let me know your preferred way to be contacted. I’d love to visit with you. Anne Marie Mackler, 928-282-7714, x125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Sedona Public Library
Column for March 23, 2018
Written by Anne Marie Mackler, Development Director
Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News.