Women for Women’s first matched giving campaign

the fundraiser image

Women for Women’s first matched giving campaign

Women for Women detail their experience running a matched giving campaign, showcasing the opportunity to raise funds with key audiences including major donors and foundations. Nora Russell explains


Even with five years working in fundraising, I hadn’t yet across the Big Give matched giving project, so I was very keen to take part in its 2010 campaign. I’m part of a small but dedicated team that raises funds for our programmes in eight war-torn countries, including Afghanistan and Sudan. Women for Women International established its UK office in 2006 and has embarked on a strategy to engage with major donor supporters. The Big Give opportunity coincided with the early preparations for the launch later in December.

Big Give’s matched giving challenge is an annual week-long opportunity to promote giving to your programmes, through a dedicated website. All donations made online through your Big Give page are matched by two pots of funding. One is put forward by some of your key donors and another is donated by the Reed Foundation, through the Big Give.

 We asked a couple of our trustees to put forward a pledge pot of £15,000, which tied in well with their regular annual commitments. The Big Give offers an incredible opportunity for charities to reach out to a growing community of philanthropists on a range of issues from health to women’s rights. It is also a wonderful way for smaller organisations, like Women for Women, to raise their profile amongst philanthropists and engage with new supporters.

We were thrilled to raise £11,320 from the Reed Foundation, which we would never have received without taking part in the matched giving challenge.


Gaining support

As a small charity, we try to limit the cost of mailings and so instead we chose to specifically target our major donor supporters with this matched giving opportunity. Those who had given in the last year were selected to receive a personal mailing and we also followed up on a smaller group of lapsed donors, who had been sent an update earlier in October.

In November, a week before the start of the campaign, donors received a mailing specifically focused on our work in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Big Give opportunity. The letter featured the story of one of our participants, a reminder card to for 6th December and an end-of-year update. It was also really important to get our directors involved with the campaign, so we had 450 letters signed by our executive team with personal notes or greeting lines for specific donors.

Grassroots supporters then received an email featuring the same participant story as was mailed to major donors, including links to our Big Give page and more information on the campaign. All supporters then received a reminder email on the morning of 6 December, with a link straight to our page.

As the challenge is driven solely by online donations, we also decided to use video and social media to promote the campaign for the first time.

I am a big fan of the ease with which social media enables you to spread your message, but we still needed to be wary of over communicating our ask. We designed an online strategy to drip-feed our grassroots supporters information about the campaign. This started one month before the campaign was to launch and included a save the date email. Our strategy included a number of updates via Twitter, Facebook, and through our e-updates. The reminder emails featured a short film promoting the Big Give as well as a link to a recent article in the Guardian featuring our work in the DRC, which helped to lift the response rates and added context to our ask.

An email signature was also designed for all staff, featuring a link to our Big Give page with more information on the project. This enabled all e-correspondence to advertise the matched giving campaign for the whole of November and the first week of December.


Making it our own

The assumption that all donors are now up to speed with e-communication means that some supporters can be left behind in a campaign that overvalues social media. One of the challenges of the Big Give is that it can only match online donations, which can mean that you miss out on support from those who prefer to give offline. However, by taking part in the Big Give we were able to inspire one of our supporters to match any offline donations received through the matched giving challenge week, independently of the Big Give. The very fact that we were engaging with this new fundraising tool gave this particular supporter confidence in our team and the organisation’s ability to deliver on our targets and have an impact on our programmes in war-torn countries.

The result of all this activity was that 2010 challenge was our most successful to date, with £26,320 raise online, from 84 donors. Including Gift Aid, the campaign raised £52,640 online, with some extra income coming in through offline donations. This more than doubled our income from the Big Give challenge in 2009 and enabled us to reach out successfully to new supporters.

During the post-campaign analysis, we were thrilled to find that around half of our donors were new supporters, Like our experience with major donor events, it was paramount that we followed up effectively and thanked all our supporters. We also included an end of year update for all our new supporters. In this way, they could gain a full understanding of our work and will hopefully become life-long supporters.

The matched giving campaign appeals to our active donors, showing that we are taking advantage of new opportunities and that we are actively looking to expand our supporter base. As the date of the campaign coincides with our annual end of year ask, we now include the Big Give matched giving campaign in our Major Donor fundraising strategy. We have ambitious targets planned for 2011. I would thoroughly encourage any organisation to explore matched giving and how it can encourage many different supporters, from corporates to individual donors, to give. Why not give it a go?


Nora Russell is major gifts officer at Women for Women International UK


Get the latest fundraising advice and insight

the fundraiser cover Sign me up