Cover Story: Opening Their Eyes
It's very personal work that the volunteers and donors can see makes an immediate impact on the lives of those they help, and BSA extends that level of personal touch to its marketing.
"We're a very small organization, we're very people-oriented, so I consider us one big family here," says Grossman. That shows in the way BSA develops personal networks with its donors and volunteers. The nonprofit mails frugally, four to five times a year, segmenting by address or activity level as the specific mailing requires.
For example, BSA won't send event invitations to people too far beyond Chicago's borders to attend. The database it mails to includes about 3,000 entries—of which only about 600 include email addresses—all collected through its own fundraising efforts and networking.
"We don't buy lists, and we also do not give away our list or sell it," insists Grossman. In fact, BSA tried buying lists 15 to 20 years ago. But BSA found using those names cluttered the database with duplicates, cost too much money to mail, and just didn't bring in donations.
"We really try to build our list as much as possible through word of mouth," Grossman explains. "We spread the word in many different kinds of ways." This includes an annual benefit dinner, a jewelry bazaar, tag days—during which the city of Chicago allows registered companies to take to the streets with boxes and aprons to solicit donations—and more. With each of these activities, BSA gets the people in its database mobilized, and tries to get them to mobilize their peer networks, as well.
One example of the way BSA encourages its donors and volunteers to get their peers involved is its tribute cards. These are cards BSA will send to anyone for a minimum donation of $25 dollars. Usually the tribute cards are sent by friends of people who are active in BSA as a way to make donations on their behalf.