Rady Children’s Hospital Foundation recently celebrated an unprecedented wave of year-end generosity from the San Diego community. It was not an unexpected windfall or a fortunate response to episodic appeals. It was the product of clear leadership, an exciting message, and months of focused planning.
In July of 2020, Jean Ford Keane—Deputy Executive Director at the Foundation—reached out to Benefactor Group with a vision to inspire year-end giving. COVID-19 prohibited the hospital’s traditional holiday events; but in their place, Jean envisioned multi-channel fundraising pushes, all united by a central message. Building from a long-standing relationship with Rady Children’s, Benefactor Group helped Jean to convene the core project team that would turn the vision into reality.
Like a car relies on different parts—gears, gas, GPS—to reach its destination, the year-end campaign was propelled by several factors.
- Most importantly, this car had a driver. Jean, as the project leader, represented buy-in for the project at the leadership level. She steered the project from inception to conclusion, and convened a cross-functional team, where each member was responsible for a component of the campaign.
- Like fuel, excellent creative messaging provided the campaign’s momentum. Ologie, a branding agency and strategic partner to Benefactor Group, was chosen to create an umbrella brand for the campaign. Tell Them Yes was the unanimous pick. The message—to tell “yes” to kids who so often heard “no,” resonated with donors, patients’ families, and staff alike. The theme, with its consistent design elements and tagline, was carefully embedded into all donor-facing messages (e.g., direct mail appeals, the website, corporate sponsorship solicitations, hospital events, media recognition) from October through December.
- A defined project plan—and consistent project management—was the roadmap, guiding the team toward its destination. Benefactor Group developed a project definition and timeline, with tasks, deadlines, and importantly, accountable individuals, and convened the bi-weekly check-ins to gauge project status and address challenges.
As a result, the Rady Children’s community rallied to “Tell Them Yes.” Year-end giving in 2020 was 74% greater than the same period in 2019. The number of donors increased 28% from 2019, and the average gift size outperformed past years. And as valuable—though more difficult to measure—were the feelings of warmth and pride the campaign spurred for the community and hospital and foundation staff (and Benefactor Group!).
Tell Them Yes illustrates the power of structured, unified campaigns with dedicated leadership. Though these kinds of initiatives require sustained commitment, lengthy planning, and accountability, they can generate significant financial (and cultural!) returns.