Raising Money and Community Spirit

Recently I wrote an annual fund letter for the Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest, Illinois. The target audience was foundations, but the letter will also be adapted to target donors.

I suggested a few possible themes, including community spirit, the chosen theme. Weaving the theme throughout the letter and capturing the right tone were probably the two main challenges.

Read the Gorton Annual Fund Letter.


Writing and Raising Money for 5 Universities and Colleges

Beginning in 2005, I’ve written annual fund appeals and other communications that have helped major universities and colleges raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. (See samples on Portfolio page, scrolling to “University Development.”)

1. Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland). I worked with multiple people in the Annual Fund office to craft appeals for various colleges within Johns Hopkins, signers and audiences. I learned and honed a fundraising workhorse during this time. (See 5 Elements of a Magnetic Appeal.)

2. University of Delaware (Newark, Delaware). I did similar projects for University of Delaware, writing a range of appeals for multiple audiences, as well as writing for the university’s website. Here’s a letter from David Morris, senior associate director of Annual Giving, that tells how I helped increase giving by nearly 30%.

3. Roanoke College (Salem, Virginia). In my own backyard, I wrote many appeals for The Roanoke Fund during two annual fundraising cycles. “The Roanoke Fund is at its highest level since 2008,” the director said in an email, “and, once again, your letters helped make that happen.”

4. Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Virginia). Also in my backyard, I’ve done advertising and fall solicitation projects for the University Development department at Virginia Tech.

5. Heritage University (Toppenish, Washington). When a longtime client became vice president of marketing and communications at Heritage University, he called on me to help with messaging for a new center.

+1: In the 2007 timeframe, I wrote a major brochure for Marshall University (Huntington, West Virginia) while working as a freelancer for Charles Ryan Associates based in Glen Allen, Virginia.

+2: University of North Carolina Greensboro (Greensboro, North Carolina).

+3: Cornell University Law School (Ithaca, New York).


Road Trip: Blue Jays, Golf History and Blue Hens

Last week I drove my daughter from our home in southwest Virginia to Maryland’s Eastern Shore to visit a friend. My plan was to visit some clients and writer/author friends during my daughter’s visit. Then I would pick her up on Friday and drive home.

My first stop was Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, known on the athletic field as the Blue Jays. I met with clients who work in the Annual Fund department, for which I write fundraising appeals and other development communications. They recently moved into a new facility on the western edge of campus. After a brief tour, we had lunch at a nearby commons area.

The following day I was in Far Hills, New Jersey, to tour the new Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History at the United States Golf Association (USGA). I met up with an author friend who lives in New York City. If you have more than a casual interest in golf, I highly recommend a stop at the USGA if you’re in the area.

That evening I had dinner with a friend who is an investigative reporter for the New York Times. He told me about some of the big stories he was working on, and then swore me to secrecy.

The Blue Hens are the mascot of the University of Delaware, where I paid a visit to the new annual fund director who was formerly at Johns Hopkins. She told me all about her new post and gave me a quick fundraising history of the university. I plan to return to meet one of her colleagues before the year is out.

The trip reminded me of the obvious: It’s always good to meet with clients and fellow professionals face to face, even if you need to log 1300 miles, my total mileage for the six days away from home. It may not be absolutely necessary in this day and age of e-mail and e-conferencing, but it’s invaluable for building and maintaining strong relationships.