Fundraising Toolkit Case Study: Film Arts Foundation (San Francisco, CA)
As told by Lisa Foster, Development Director.
Member2Member – A Direct Mail Campaign
Amount actually raised: $40,700
Original Goal: $30,000 to $50,000
Cash investment: $1,380
Staff time and value: 115 hrs./ $2,337
Total unpaid volunteer hours: 250 hrs.
The rest of the story
In June 2004 Film Arts completed its groundbreaking Member2Member appeal, raising $40,700 from over 400 members. This member-driven appeal re-connected Film Arts with our community and its core values and raised six times more money than Film Arts’ regular direct mail appeals. It is also our first fundraiser using email, with 16% of all gifts arriving via the Web. With the exception of a $10,000 matching gift from Board Chair Henry Rosenthal, no gift was larger than $500 – truly a grassroots effort.
This appeal is the first project of Film Arts’ new Advisory Committee, a group of members working to facilitate further community participation in Film Arts. The Advisory Committee was formed at Film Arts’ annual membership meeting in January 2004, where it became clear that Film Arts needs to involve its members more. Members of the Advisory Committee wrote an appeal letter aimed at fellow Film Arts members, and solicited an initial group of members to commit to the appeal and sign the letter. In all, fifty-four people signed the letter, including prominent artists and media arts professionals such as Lourdes Portillo, Sam Green, Craig Baldwin, Sally Jo Fifer, and NAMAC co-director Jack Walsh.
Many of these people came to the office for a concentrated evening spent personalizing over 500 letters. In all, about 2,200 letters went out by mail, and 1,200 went via e-mail. These letters were followed by six evenings of phone banking by Advisory Committee members, letter signers, and Film Arts board members, all of which helped make connections among participants, bringing together old friends and make new acquaintances.
Film Arts created a Member2Member web page that included snapshots of those who had signed the letter, along with their personal statements of support for Film Arts. The site also included an easy on-line donation button, background information about Film Arts’ financial situation, and a continually updated donor list and appeal total. We were tickled to replace the classic thermometer image with a film strip. This web page received hundreds of impressions, and we are considering ways to make it an interactive fixture on our home site.
Film Arts’ commitment to creating a supportive filmmaking community has been strengthened by this experience. Again and again, those contributing to the appeal said they depend on Film Arts to connect them with fellow filmmakers. Many members echoed David L. Brown’s sentiment that, “Film Arts Foundation is the heart and soul of our Bay Area independent filmmaking community—the most cohesive, resourceful, talented, courageous and committed filmmaking community on the planet.” We must keep in touch with our dynamic community, ensure its growth, and recognize our roots as a collective of artists supporting one another. To find out more about the Member2Member appeal, check out the web page.
What helped make this effort a success
This appeal was a success because it came from within our community at a time of special need. There is no way an appeal coming from staff or board could have made the same impact as this letter from fifty-four active filmmakers and community members. The multiple elements—personalized letters, generic letters, e-mails, phone calls, and a web page—also helped ensure a high level of participation
What we wish we had done differently
I wish I hadn't done the entire mailing in-house. I am happy we kept the 520 personalized letters here, but I wish I had sent the 1,800 generic letters to the mail house. This happened because I did not fully comprehend that spam rules would so drastically impact the number of e-mails we could send. It’s crucial to be aware of spam rules.
Advice to colleagues
Your community must be empowered and engaged with your organization to conduct a fundraiser like this. Because this appeal shows incredible community participation and support, it will have long-term benefits for Film Arts. Mentioning the success of the appeal will be handy in grant proposals and donor asks—we are already planning to feature it in two grant proposals this month. It also helped us collect a number of new support statements that could be used in a variety of locations. Finally, I just figured out the following fact: 52% of M2M donors had never donated beyond a $65 membership and new donors accounted for 30% of the total raised!
Some resources I find helpful:
The Advisory Committee was able to get good information about e-mail and web fundraising from Bart Myers, Director of Client Services for an Internet software company in San Francisco, and who worked on Howard Dean's Internet fundraising activities ([email protected]).
I also found the following check-list (from a now unknown Internet source) very useful for creating an appeal web site. Download a copy of the Appeal Web Site Analysis Checklist.
For more information on this story contact [email protected], 415.552.8760 x318.
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