The Center for Anti-Violence Education in Brooklyn, New York works to end violence against women and children through community education programs, self-defense courses and martial arts training. In 1993, we raised nearly $25,000 from individual donors and events. However, for our 20th anniversary in 1994 we set an ambitious goal of raising $100,000 from individual contributions
We took what felt like a great financial risk by hiring a part-time 20th Anniversary Year coordinator for the year and an event coordinator part-time for 6 months. To maximize the fundraising potential of the anniversary, we planned activities throughout the entire year.
20th Anniversary Committee
Recognizing that our board of directors was small and not very well connected in the larger community, we recruited a 20th anniversary committee from a brainstormed list of women who could help us reach new constituencies.
We first approached committee prospects with a letter, then follow-up calls. We asked that they attend three or four meetings, join either the major donor campaign or gala event committee, share skills and knowledge in areas such as graphic design, public relations, or connections with other community organizations and take the lead by making a contribution.
Some committee members were extraordinarily generous; some hardly participated at all; most at least made a financial contribution, attended meetings, and helped publicize our Gala. Moreover, foundation and corporate funders we solicited for support that year definitely noticed the impressive roster of committee members on our letterhead.
The formal relationships of the Anniversary Committee brought new women from the community into the work of the Center. Since several have continued to help us, while others led us to new board members, we plan to start an on-going Advisory Council.
20th Anniversary Report
Like many small nonprofits, the center does not produce an annual report. We needed a single piece of promotional material, well-designed and produced, that encompassed our mission, programs, and history. We hired an outside writer, hoping we could write, design and print the booklet in a couple of months. However, it took more than four months to complete because of the input needed from key people.
The kick-off was designed to build excitement and interest among people who would be involved throughout the year. It translated into year-long goodwill and contributions, monetary and otherwise.
We launched the 20th anniversary with a reception/party to reach out to current donors, potential supporters, and friends, and begin to solidify the participation of the 20th Anniversary Committee. The program included a short safety/self-defense demonstration by kids and a reading from a new novel about young women and violence by local author Jacqueline Woodson. No admission was charged, and a fundraising pitch was made by fundraising consultant Kim Klein. More than 100 people attended, and we raised approximately $3,500.
Major Donor Campaign
Building a donor base takes time, patience, and persistence. The Center had run major donor campaigns for three years with limited success due to a lack of willing solicitors and a small donor base. So we formed a major donor committee of 20th Anniversary Committee members, students from the Center, staff and board members. More solicitors meant more prospects. We ran an extended campaign through spring, fall, and winter, soliciting current donors and new prospects. Although we did not reach our goal of $50,000, the campaign was more successful than in past years, raising $31,735.
We invited children, who make up almost half the membership of the Center, to participate in an art project: Children’s Visions of Peace and Safety. Working with an artist who donated her time, the children created evocative and powerful art work. We exhibited all the collages at a local university and at the Gala. Three were made into a striking 4-color poster designed by another volunteer. A local politician underwrote the cost of printing. The poster became a beautiful and tangible souvenir of the 20th anniversary, useful as thank yous to committee members and major donors; we also sold a few.
Neighborhood Collection Cans
To increase our visibility and raise money in the Center’s immediate neighborhood, we launched a canister solicitation campaign. Many local stores agreed to let us place a can on their counter. “Palm cards” were left next to each canister, with safety tips, information about the Center, and resource numbers. We had hoped to bring in $2-3,000 from this campaign, but got a disappointing $305.
20th Anniversary Gala
The Gala itself was the most ambitious event the Center had ever produced, honoring five individuals and organizations who had made important contributions to anti-violence work. More than 300 people attended. In addition to ticket sales, we solicited individual and corporate sponsorships ranging from $75 to $5,000. Corporate contributions totaled $7,000, and contributions overall totaled $25,829. A commemorative journal grossed nearly $5,000.
At the end of a very full year of activities and celebrations, the Center had raised close to $80,000. This was short of our original goal, but more than three times what we had raised the previous year. We also increased our donor base more than any previous year, from 266 to 483. We now have a stronger base from which to expand and raise more money in the years to come, but it required an enormous amount of time, organizational energy, and risk-taking that would not have been possible without part-time consultants and a core of volunteers.