Factoring awards into the fundraising equation

Good Programs + Good Fundraising = $$
Good Programs + Good Fundraising + Awards = More $$

Earlier this month, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) presented its Carole Noon Award for Sanctuary Excellence to Jill Robinson, founder and CEO of Animals Asia Foundation and Animals Asia’s Moon Bear Rescue Centres in China and Vietnam. As described in GFAS’s press release, this international award is made each year in recognition of an individual or organization whose animal care exemplifies the highest level of humane standards. One of Animals Asia Foundation’s major longstanding activities is its campaign against bear bile farming, a practice in which digestive bile is extracted from bears—who spend tortured lives suffering continuously in cramped “crush” cages designed to restrict their movement and provide easy access to their stomachs—for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Over the past 12 years, the organization has rescued close to 350 bears, has helped to shut down more than 40 bear farms, and is continuing to build global public awareness and cooperation around this issue.

There was a $5,000 monetary component to the award underwritten this year by the Pettus Crowe Foundation, the Humane Society of the United States, Born Free USA, and the American Anti-Vivisection Society. Over the longer term, though, the award’s value to Animals Asia Foundation is almost certain to exceed that amount due to the increased visibility and prestige that the award lends to the organization’s efforts.

As a busy fundraising professional or program director, it’s easy to pass up opportunities to pursue awards that involve relatively little or no cash return, but there are good reasons for carving out some extra time for this when possible:

  • If the award is made by a reputable agency and your organization receives it, it presents an ideal opportunity to strengthen relationships with your current and past donors. Reach out to thank them for their part in supporting the program(s) that merited the award—you couldn’t have won it without their help—and emphasize the importance of their continuing role in ensuring that your organization’s performance remains high. The excitement and interest that can be sparked by an award may inspire your existing donors to give more and/or your lapsed donors to return to the fold. Everybody wants to be part of a winning team.

  • Many grantmaking foundations do not accept unsolicited requests for funding; submission of applications is by invitation only. If executive staff members at such a foundation are unaware of your organization but then hear that it just received a prestigious award, their curiosity may be piqued—you may land squarely on their radar and have the chance to begin a dialogue that builds a new relationship, which may eventually lead to an invitiation to apply for funding. Additionally, your chances of a successful outcome in submitting first-time applications to funders who do accept them are increased.

  • An award can be a positive catalyst for building morale and team spirit among an organization’s employees. At a time in our economic history when good news is scarce, any encouraging sign is welcome. If employees feel re-energized and rewarded, they will be more productive…and ultimately bring in even more donations!

A good place to start in seeking out award opportunities is at the Web sites, blogs, and Twitter feeds of professional associations, coalitions, or collaboratives with which your organization is either currently associated or eligible for membership.

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