SILENT VOICE CANADA

 

Building effective support with BigDataBase

 

-         David L Cuthbert, CFRE, FSAI

 

 

 

With a great deal of satisfaction, I share with you the processes I have used to increase the annual major donors to a small Canadian deaf charity by 321%, and the income from these sources by 436%, between 2002 and 2004, thanks largely to the services I have received from Metasoft’s BigDataBase.

 

Silent Voice is a not-for-profit charitable organization founded by a Catholic priest, and a group of community-minded individuals, in 1975.  The group recognized that disadvantaged deaf adults and deaf children had a number of significant needs that were not being met within the social service community.  We are the only organization in the Greater Toronto Area offering community and family-based support to deaf children and adults in American Sign Language (ASL).  We provide social-recreational programs in ASL for deaf children and their hearing brothers and sisters and we teach hearing family members to communicate in ASL.  Also, in partnership with other organizations, we offer special assistance and outreach services to disadvantaged deaf adults living in the community.

 

Up to the year 2001 Silent Voice had no formal fundraising program.  More than half of their funding was provided by Catholic Charities, an arm of the Toronto Catholic Diocese.  The rest of the annual income was provided by a mixture of events, local government grants and a Bingo operation.  In that year they were awarded a four-year Ontario Trillium Foundation grant aimed at building the long-term funding capacity of the organization.

 

With support from the Trillium grant a part-time position (21 hours a week) for a Director of Development was established and I was invited to join the staff in February 2002.  I had arrived in Canada as a landed immigrant in September 2001.  In December I joined the YMCA of Greater Toronto as part-time Manager of their Annual Fund.  There I was introduced to the services of Metasoft’s BigDataBase.  My first activities at Silent Voice, once I had gathered sufficient information, were to prepare a Case Statement and a three-year Fundraising Strategy Plan.  My 25 years of fundraising, in Southern Africa (see short resumé) had provided the experience I needed to develop this approach.

 

My mandate at Silent Voice was to introduce a formal fundraising program, reduce their dependence on a narrow base of funding and increase gross income by at least 5% per annum.  The fact that my position occupied me for less than half a working week prompted me to suggest to them that I should concentrate my activities on stimulating funding sources that would produce the maximum results for the minimum of effort.  So I persuaded them to subscribe to BigDataBase, allowing me to have access to largest list of prospective Corporation and Foundation funders in Canada.  In all my fundraising experience I have never had the service of such a comprehensive information base.

 

 

Throughout both my advertising and fundraising careers I have measured the results of every action I have taken.  In the non-profit environment my argument for this is that I am spending money on raising money, and this money does not belong to me or the agency I work for.  It is donor money and my responsibility is to ensure that as much of it reaches the people or programs it is intended to help.  Therefore, I need to know the costs of raising every dollar, both in monetary value and in time spent.  By doing so I am able to build up actions that bring the best return for invested effort, improve the cost efficiency of fundraising methods where possible, and remove activities that are wasting money or that have run their course.  In this way I am able therefore to share the income progress Silent Voice has made.

 

With 2001 as the base year, the following table shows the dramatic increase in income from the Corporation and Foundation sectors: 

 

Source

 2001

%

   2002

%

2003

%

2004

%

Cath. Grants

  205,574

  48

193,055

39

191,123

39

194,988

 41

City Grants

    23,973

    6

  33,973

  7

  33,973

  7

  34,473

   7

Other Grants

    39,594

    9

  40,770

  8

  24,551

  5

  42,018

   8

Found/Corps

    13,920

    3

  28,950

  6

  34,600

  7

  60,283

 13

Trillium

        -

    -

  47,500

10

  42,500

  9

  30,000

   6

Bingo

    70,390

  16

  66,900

14

  66,110

13

  60,771

 13

Events

    50,521

  12

  41,519

  8

  47,326

  9

  17,261

   4

Donations

      5,218

    1

  18,254

  4

  34,309

  7

  18,262

   4

Fees

    19,003

    5

  19,467

  4

  18,111

  4

  16,904

   4

Members

         330

   -

       -

 

         30

 

      -

   -

TOTAL:

$428,523

100

$490,387

100

$492,633

100

$474,960

100

 

Selecting prospective funders using “key word” searches I have been able to save time by focusing Silent Voice’s communications on those prospects most likely to be interested.  Using the information available on each prospect donor’s interests, funding histories and application guidelines, I have been able to tailor-make documents or applications for each funder.  Inquiry letters, executive summaries and full proposals have been built for each of Silent Voice’s service programs, from the materials gathered by the Case Statement process.  The results have been:

Growth of income from Foundation and Corporation Donors:

 

YEAR

#

$

$ AV.

2001

14

13,920

994

2002

25

28,950

1,158

2003

30

34,660

1,155

2004

45

60,283

1,316

 

Since the Silent Voice Fundraising Strategy Plan was implemented in 2002 we have:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Successful fundraising is all about creating satisfactions.  Three key satisfactions are:

 

1.      Meeting the needs of the individuals and communities into which the charity is directing its interventions;

2.      Helping each donor to see that their support can indeed make a difference by translating their interests and resources into effective action;

3.      Fulfilling the charity’s annual income and program strategies.

 

Important to developing long-term funding growth is the need to see every prospective donor as an opportunity to have a productive relationship.  Consequently I do not take a prospect donor’s “NO” answer as their final word.  Instead I see this as a possible doorway to another “ask”.  But before asking again I always thank donors for saying “NO” – at the very least I have to assume by their response that they read my appeal!  If a prospect has not replied to a proposal after three months have gone by I send a reminder, always with the suggestion that we are hoping to enter into a productive relationship with them.

 

For the past twelve months I have been building a team of volunteers whose task it is to have a least two voice contacts with each of our donors in a year.  I believe that volunteers make an important impression in the minds of donors.  A volunteer has no hidden agenda to defend, no subjective influences such as the need to secure their salary out of the income.  I arm them with information about Silent Voice so that they can have a productive short conversation with the donor’s representative.  They are mandated to keep the donor informed and interested, and help them to feel that they are a valued partner.  They do not ask for money!  It is too early to measure whether this is having an impact on the levels of both repeat and increased giving to Silent Voice programs.

 

As a “new boy” on the Canadian fundraising scene I could not have made much headway without the BigDataBase at my right hand.  I am more than happy to share further details with any agency or fundraiser who is considering an investment in this valuable program.

DAVID L CUTHBERT, CFRE, FSAIF

 

A Fundraising Consultant, and Non-profit Organization (NPO) Fundraising, Management and Governance trainer in Southern Africa since 1990.  20 Years’ experience in commercial advertising, marketing and public relations, followed by 27 years as a philanthropy professional.

 

After a twenty-year career in advertising and marketing, David Cuthbert started the fundraising program for World Vision of Southern Africa, towards the end of 1977.  At the time their annual income was R100,000 (CAN$20,000), and this rose to just under R4 million (CAN$800,000) a year by 1990.

 

In April 1990 he founded a Fundraising Consultancy in partnership with his wife Elizabeth.  They also supplied training and information services to Non-profits through The Cuthbert Institute, launched in 1994, and a creative, communications and publishing service to Non-profits through the Cuthbert Communications in 1999.

 

David is one of five founders of the Southern African Institute of Fundraising (SAIF), a body representing the Southern Africa fundraising profession, established in 1986.  He was President of SAIF for the first five years, and is a Fellow of the Institute.  He is also a co-founder of the World Fundraising Council, launched in 1989 to provide resources out of advanced Fundraising nations into developing countries.  He has been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) since 1991, and the first fundraiser in Africa to be awarded a CFRE.

 

Since 1984 he has been deeply involved in Fundraising education and training, presenting papers and lectures at workshops and seminars around Southern Africa.  In 1991 he was co-opted as faculty to the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy, and presented at their three five-day workshops in South Africa.  In January 1994 he graduated at the Center’s Executive Leadership Institute – the first non-American to have achieved this advanced course on philanthropy.  Around 4,500 fundraisers and NPO leaders have attended his Workshops, Seminars, Conference sessions and University Lectures since 1984.

 

Author of three books and a series of twenty four booklets on Fundraising, he and his wife immigrated to Canada in 2001, and David had held the position of Manager of Financial Development at the YMCA of Greater Toronto and is currently Director of Development at Silent Voice Canada, and a consultant/trainer to local Non-profits.  He is co-founder and a current board member of SAIF Education & Training Inc.