Direct Marketer of the Year: Margaret Carter, officer, direct response fundraising unit, American Red Cross
We recently marked the anniversary of two major disasters in the United States: Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina. This December, many also will remember the terrible tsunami that ripped through the Indian Ocean in 2004, killing nearly 300,000 people. The American Red Cross disaster relief efforts were a vital part of helping these communities rebuild, and media coverage of this work offered the 125-year-old nonprofit organization plenty of high-profile publicity. So, as the officer in charge of the direct response fundraising unit, Margaret Carter's job should be pretty easy, right?
Yes, funds pour in immediately following catastrophic events that get mega media coverage, and many of these gifts are from new donors. The challenge has been encouraging these first-time supporters to become repeat donors, and reaching them has been difficult. At the national headquarters for the American Red Cross, Carter works with more than 100 people in her development department to oversee national marketing campaigns, corporate and individual major giving, planned giving, and corporate partnerships. But, there are another 800 local chapters of the American Red Cross, each with its own database of donor names and marketing personnel. This meant the national headquarters did not have access to literally millions of names of potential donors.
"Before Sept. 11, the majority of the donations and funding we received were through major gifts," says Carter. "Now, 20 to 30 percent of the total funds raised are from individuals. Katrina alone raised over $700 million from individual donations."
To retain those donors, Carter and her team knew they had to not only re-tool how the American Red Cross thought about first-time, individual donors, but also how it worked with its 800 local chapters. Carter relied on her solid direct marketing background to devise a plan that would keep donations strong long after support for a major disaster receded.