The 5 fastest growers and their recipe for success

By looking at long-term growth, the idea is that we’re looking at organizations who are doing something special in fundraising. So what is it that these organizations are doing so well? We decided to organize a ‘diner pensant’ and invited the five fastest growing organizations over the period 2006-2010.

Jolanda Omvlee (director Compassion), Frits Hirschstein (director KiKa), Ruud Tombrock (director WSPA Benelux), Ellen Kooij (head of marketing, communications and fundraising War Child) and Wimco Ester (head of communications and marketing Open Doors) accepted our invitation and shared the recipes of their success in fundraising.

Menu: “La croissance du revenu des raisons”
The main question that everyone is waiting for: Why have you grown so fast? Of course, growth is always the sum of several reasons, but we would like the main reason for each of your organizations.

Frits Hirschstein: 'I can easily answer that for KiKa. We stay very close to the people, so that’s why people know our organisation very well. A few years back we introduced the slogan ‘take action’, which was picked up very practically. By now 3,600 actions are organised every year for KiKa with an average revenue of 2,200 euros! The role of KiKa is to facilitate these actions where necessary. To facilitate all actions we have four people in the office, who respond to incoming mail. It is essential that we always stop by the event to thank the organizers. This can be done by a paid employee or a volunteer. Organizers are sincerely appreciated, so you win ambassadors for your organization. Sometimes there is an action we’re not really happy with. Some time ago they were tattooing for KiKa... if we knew that in advance... But we choose not to be aware of everything in advance, which is not possible anyway with 10 actions per day.'

From left to right: Frits, Rames, Jolanda and Ellen.

From left to right: Frits, Rames, Jolanda and Ellen.

Ellen Kooij: 'At War Child we see the same. People want to act locally for War Child and as an organization you need to act accordingly. It also gives you a lot of positive PR in all local newspapers, which are widely read! But as the leading reason for the success of War Child, I mainly see the brand itself and the goal we pursue. We help children affected by war and present ourselves through music and focus on a younger audience. The average age of our donor is around 35 years. Therefore we don’t the use the mainstream channels to reach our target audience. Our biggest success was the War Child Concerts. Everyone who attended the concert was automatically a regular donor, while access to the concert was free. That was one side of the success, but what was also very successful was that War Child got everything - and I mean literally everything - sponsored. In total, there were more than 100 sponsor parties involved in the organization of the concert. This gave a sense of unity, and there was a War Child experience. Unfortunately, the tour stopped in 2009 after 7 editions. The concert was especially profitable because it was broadcast on television, where we were able to recruit many new donors. Over the years it became increasingly difficult to get free prime time airtime on a tv channel, because no concert bring high ratings. We're now looking whether we can organize the concerts in a new way. We have also built up a very large network because of the concerts. Our actions with Radio 538 are a good example.'

Wimco Ester: 'I'm still somewhat surprised about the story of Frits. At Open Doors there is a more controlled environment, although we try to let go more and more. In recent years we have made much progress in the field of data analysis and targeted direct marketing campaigns, but also in making our work personal, so we can clearly tell our story to our donors. But what makes us truly unique is our donors, who are so extremely loyal and committed. Approximately 6,500 people came to our national Open Doors Day in 2011 to hear personal stories from and about persecuted Christians. That is the power of Open Doors. As a Christian the topic is so powerful. Of course you want to support your fellow Christian brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their faith. The stories of persecuted Christians are inspiring: you hear stories about people’s lives who life for their faith. That makes the faith alive and it shows that faith can affect everyday life. This makes Open Doors strong: the story, the subject and personal stories.'

Ruud Tombrock: 'The success of WSPA is short and simple. Spontaneous brand awareness is almost absent, it’s 8%. The active recruitment of large gifts or legacies is unknown to us. In recent years WSPA did two things and two things very well. That is the broadcast of Direct Response TV commercials and online marketing. WSPA began with the DRTV commercials and immediately there were 1,200 new donors coming in every month, and then we also started working online. WSPA knows how to reach the sensitive animal lovers. We have, in short, reached the right people with the right message through the right channels. Donors tell us that they are happy that WSPA shows real animal suffering, because that also exists on this planet. We can’t reach some animal lovers with our communication, which are families with small children, because the parents change the channel during such a commercial. That might be the shadow side of our success. Although the two recruitment methods work very well, WSPA is going to try to bind other target audiences via other channels. At the same time we started with upgrade and development activities on our current supporters. Diversification is the key.'

From right to left: Ruud, Wimco, Reinier and Rachelle

From right to left: Ruud, Wimco, Reinier and Rachelle

Jolanda Omvlee: 'The supporters of Compassion is wide Christian and we must compete with three other Christian child development organizations. In order to distinguish ourselves from the rest Compassion has decided to put the name of Jesus prominently in the logo. I think this largely contributed to our growth. We present ourselves very clearly as Christian oriented. The fact that all the work in the project countries of Compassion is organized from the local church contributes to this. Also in the Netherlands Compassion works with many churches. The concept of Compassion is that you sponsor one specific child. You write with 'your child” and you can also easily visit “your child”. A lot of individuals do that, but Compassion also travels with many top business executives to the projects. Almost every week there is an international visitor in a project. That doesn’t mean they’re just watching; it enables interaction and exchange of knowledge and habits. And of course an intense experience for the donor to see with their own eyes what happens with their money. In short, our success is that we have developed a very solid child-sponsorship program developed by and for the Christian audience.'

We thank Jolanda, Ellen, Frits, Ruud and Wimco for sharing their experiences with us. Use it to your advantage and maybe next year we invite you for a dinner!

[Ramses Man is co-author of this post. There is also an extended Dutch version of this post. This post is slightly adapted from a post that first appeared on 101fundraising.]