Participant's Perspective: Achieve Fundraising Sessions and Cohort

The Velocity: Fundraising and Marketing for Pittsburgh Causes is an annual series of educational sessions for regional nonprofits, designed to help them hone their marketing skills and improve their fundraising capacity. In 2016 there are five public sessions, which will cover topics including: donor behavior, messaging, digital fundraising and marketing, design, and multi-channel campaigns. Presented by Achieve and sponsored by The Benter Foundation and The Forbes Funds, these sessions give nonprofits the tools they need for effective fundraising. The first session - focused on donor behavior - is April 28, and registration for all sessions is currently open.

In addition to the public sessions, a small cohort of agencies works with Achieve in-depth through a cohort. Cohorts are a key piece of The Forbes Funds' spectrum of capacity building services, emphasizing training as well as peer-to-peer learning. One of the participants in 2015 group was North Hills Community Outreach (NHCO). Through the lessons taught during the Velocity sessions, NHCO substantially increased its total amount of funds raised and the average gift size received. The Forbes Funds chatted with Sharon Wolf,  Executive Director of NHCO, about her experience attending the public sessions and participating in the cohort. An edited transcript follows. 

What interested you in participating?

We realize there are new ways, new methods, and new techniques evolving all the time with regard to how to attract donors. Donors are giving in different ways and responding to different messages than they have in the past. We wanted to learn more about how to reach potential donors, how to keep our existing donors, and how to strengthen our individual giving program... so the ability to participate in this cohort was just an opportunity we couldn't pass up. 

What was your experience?

The information was just so well presented and interesting. You can learn a lot about what you're doing right and what you can improve. In our case, we found our messaging was actually pretty good. What we put into the annual appeals how we profiled success stories...we were doing some very good things there. So in our case, we learned a lot about design, how to design a piece. For us it meant a different look to our annual appeal that was very well received. And for us it meant adding an email piece to our campaign, which we had never done before. 

What were the results?

Our campaign did very well. We were particularly successful - and this was a big question mark for us - but we were particularly successful with the email appeal. We had never done the email solicitation before.

It stretched us a little bit here and there. We're doing some things we hadn't done before. We want to take what we've learned and be able to refine it and make it work for us even more, sustaining the effort that we started to retain donors and attract new donors. 

Any final thoughts? 

I highly recommend any nonprofit to participate if they have a chance in the public sessions because it's something that's just so valuable. I can't overstate how valuable I think it was to all of us. 

The application period for the 2016 cohort has closed, but organizations can still participate in the 2016 public sessions. Register today!