Guide to Running Corporate Fundraising Campaigns

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Table of Contents

 

Overview

Fundraising Campaign Process


 

 

Overview

Running a fundraising campaign at your workplace can be a highly effective way to multiply your impact. In fact, in our experience supporting members of the EA community in organizing corporate fundraising campaigns, we’ve found that it can be as impactful per hour as direct work

 

Of course, the main benefit of fundraising campaigns is the money donated to effective charities. However, organizing a corporate fundraising campaign focused on effective charities also has the added benefit of establishing effective giving as a norm in your workplace, getting others engaged with the ideas of effective altruism (EA), and helping you build relevant EA career capital.

 

With that in mind, the natural question is: What’s the best way to organize a corporate fundraising campaign? We’ve put this guide together to answer that question.

 

In this guide, you’ll find a step-by-step roadmap through the process. We’ve also published a detailed list of key factors that we’ve found to be essential to running a successful campaign, including:

  • Timing – Giving season

  • Timing – Liquidity events

  • Setting a personal example

  • Being open about your donations

  • And more…

 

We hope this guide will be a valuable resource in helping you to organize your own corporate fundraising campaign. We’re here to help too with one-on-one support, so please contact us to explore what running a campaign could look like at your organization.

 

 

Fundraising Campaign Process

Below you will find a step by step process on how to organize a fundraising campaign in your company. This is based on our past experience in other companies and has 4 main phases.

  1. Get your company on board

  2. Prepare the campaign

  3. Execute the campaign

  4. Wrap up

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Get Your Company on Board

The first phase is to get approval from your organization to host a fundraising campaign. This is broken down into smaller steps below.

Gather supporters

Supporters within the companies can help you define a good strategy, get the company on board, organize the campaign, etc. We at High Impact Professionals (HIP) are  on your side and are willing to support you however we can. But, we think it’s also important for you to have insiders within your organization who know the company context better and can more actively support you. For example:

  • Are there other EAs within your company? 

  • Others with a charitable/analytical mindset (be they familiar with EA or not)? 

  • One or more colleagues who could co-organize the campaign with you? 

  • Leaders/influencers within the company from whom you could get buy-in and support?

The point here being, It helps to have both “peers”, who can help do some of the campaign work, and “higher- ups”, who can give advice and support in promoting the initiative.

Define your strategy

Once you have some supporters, it’s time to define the best approach to present the idea to the company. Try to identify what the company could be receptive to and build your pitch around it. Does the company already have a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team or the like? Does the company’s vision or values include something about doing good? Maybe doing good will give the company a competitive edge (e.g., if your company is in an industry where consumers care about positive impact)? Maybe doing good will allow the company to attract better employees? Depending on your context, certain framing will resonate more than others; pick the approach(es) that you think will most resonate at your organization.

Get company approval

Once the strategy is set, it’s time to ask the company to approve the campaign. The right strategy here is highly dependent on your company environment, so you are probably the best judge of how specifically to proceed. In general, it seems to pay off to have a top-down approach, i.e., try to reach out to the highest ranking person in the organization you feel comfortable contacting and ask for an endorsement or green light. Once you have support from the higher-ups, it’s then easier to convince others. If you don’t have a strong relationship with the executive team, the head of the CSR or HR departments would probably be a good starting point. 

Optional: Ask for donation matching

A good way to multiply the impact of the campaign is to ask your company to match the donations. Donation matching has a couple benefits. It doubles the amount of money going to effective charities—donors’ funds + company’s match = 2x donations. In addition, it has the effect of motivating people to donate more when they see the opportunity to 2x their donations. Although donation matching is not an absolutely necessary part of a campaign, we really encourage you to explore this option at your organization. 

Optional: Set up payroll giving

Ask your organization if it is willing to set up payroll giving so that donations can come straight out of employee’s paychecks. This isn’t strictly necessary and requires a bit more time and cooperation by the company. But, we think it really helps remove barriers to giving, encourages people to donate more, and can support making giving a norm within your organization, allowing future benefits to accrue. Like above, though this step is optional, we encourage you to explore it.

Prepare Campaign

The next phase is to prepare the campaign. This is a critical part of the process, as it establishes the core elements of the campaign: identifying the charities, defining the flow of funds, and capturing donors’ attention.

Define charities

What charities do you want to support? In EA, there are quite a few charity evaluators that can suggest a number of effective charities for your colleagues to choose from. While it’s good to have a lot of choice, too many options can be quite daunting and confusing, so it’s important to strike the right middle ground.

 

The goal is to make it as easy as possible for people within your company to donate. With that in mind, a good approach usually does 2 things: (1) picks cause areas people are already familiar with, and (2) limits the number of charity options.

 

For example, Global Health & Development, Climate Change, and (maybe) Animal Welfare seem to be on everyone's radar. EA Meta/Community Building, AI Safety, and Biorisk cause areas are likely to be less familiar to people outside of EA.

 

We suggest picking 1 to 3 cause areas and 2 to 4 charity options. If you have a single cause area, you might want to give 2 or 3 charity options within that cause area. If you have 2 or 3 cause areas, you may want to select only 1 top charity per cause area.

 

Below is a summary of what are considered to be the most effective charities for the 3 most common cause areas, as well as the corresponding evaluators. To come up with this list, we averaged the recommendations of multiple charity evaluators. (A more detailed analysis can be found here.)

Cause Area: Global Health & Development

  • Recommended Charities

  1. Malaria Consortium’s Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention Program

  2. Against Malaria Foundation

  • Evaluators

  1. GiveWell

  2. The Life You Can Save

Cause Area: Climate Change

  • Recommended Charities

  1. Clean Air Task Force

  2. Carbon180

  • Evaluators

  1. Founders Pledge

Cause Area: Animal Welfare

  • Recommended Charities

  1. The Humane League

  • Evaluators

  1. Founders Pledge

  2. Animal Charity Evaluators

Define how funds will be transferred

This is an important logistical factor. Again, the goal should be to make it as easy as possible for people to donate. The easiest way for people would be to donate directly through the company (i.e., payroll giving), but this also requires a higher level of support from the company. 

 

If payroll giving is not possible, look for a re-granting organization in your country that would allow campaign donations to be tax free.  Below you can find a list curated by Giving What We Can (GWWC). But, don’t be dissuaded if no re-granting organizations are available in your country—as GWWC rightfully points out, the best charities can be 100x more effective than average ones, so donating to the most effective charities can remain the best thing to do even if you can’t make the donations tax free.

 

Country → Tax-deductible organization

 

Also, consider other ways to make it easier for people to donate, like having a terminal for people to make donations with their credit cards.

 

If the donations are not going directly through the company via payroll giving, you may also want to think about providing receipts to donors to assist their tax deduction purposes.

 

Keep in mind that, after the campaign, you’ll want to be able to evaluate the counterfactual amount of money raised. This is addressed in detail in the Prepare Impact Evaluation and Run Impact Evaluation sections.

Prepare outreach strategy

At this point, you want to think about your outreach strategy to spread the word about effective giving to your colleagues. This includes deciding how long the campaign would last and the content, channel, and frequency of your outreach efforts. In the past, we’ve found that a good duration of a campaign is about 2 to 3 weeks and that there is a good correlation between outreach efforts (reminders, etc.) and increased donations, so the importance of this step should not be underestimated. (See the image below and the “Fundraising campaign vs. one-off event” section of our Key Factors publication for more on the value of a longer campaign with regular outreach.)

 
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A good starting point for the content of your outreach strategy is the analogy of the drowning child presented in Peter Singer’s book The Life You Can Save. There are a number of summaries and videos online describing it (e.g., this short clip). Also consider if there is anything specific to your work environment that can be used in your messaging.

 

As for the means of communication and frequency, it can be helpful to start with a pitch, follow up with some reminder messages or emails, and conclude with a last-call message, followed by a thank you message after the campaign is done. Some key questions here include:

  • Venue: Are there already all-hands meetings at which you could pitch the campaign, or do you need to organize something separate? Can you do it during working hours or not?

  • Method: How can you promote the campaign? Can you use company email? Do you have an internal chat?

 

In terms of frequency, a message every few days across the 2- to 3-week campaign should be an effective way to keep donating top of mind for your colleagues. Possible message topics include:

  • reminders that the campaign is ongoing;

  • an in-depth presentation of the different charities being supported;

  • update announcements upon reaching certain donation milestones (e.g., 5k USD, 10k, 15k, etc.);

  • a last-call announcement that the campaign is about to end;

  • etc.

Prepare impact evaluation

After your campaign is finished, evaluating its impact will allow you to understand if the activity is worthwhile to pursue in the future or whether you should invest your time on something else. Not only is this useful for you, but, if shared, it can also generate useful knowledge for the broader community. Therefore, now is the time to prepare the pieces you’ll need to help you run the impact evaluation after the campaign concludes. 

 

TL;DR

In order to run the impact evaluation after the campaign, you will need:

  • an anonymized list of donations, or the total amount donated and the number of donors;

  • the amount of time you and your co-organizer(s) spent organizing the campaign (i.e., log your time); and

  • any other monetary costs you might incur related to the campaign (usually there are no monetary costs).

If you want more information about impact evaluation, read on. Otherwise, jump to the next section.

 

A useful metric that can be used to evaluate the impact of your campaign is its cost effectiveness. Cost effectiveness is defined as the ratio between the benefits generated and the costs incurred.

 

Benefits

The main benefit generated by the fundraising event is the amount of money donated to effective charities. Depending on how the money is donated, this data can be easier or harder to get. 

 

If the money will be donated directly through payroll giving, you can ask your company if they will provide you with an anonymized list of donation amounts after the campaign ends. Having that data post-campaign will allow you to get a sense of both the distribution of donors and how heavy-tailed the distribution is. If such granular data will not be available, the total donation amount and the number of donors is already a good start.

 

If donations will be made directly by your colleagues or if your company/payroll giving provider is not willing to share the data, you can always create a quick survey (e.g., using a Google form) where you can ask your colleagues to anonymously report their donations. 

 

In fact, regardless of whether or not you’re doing payroll giving, we suggest sharing the Google form with your colleagues from the start and asking them to submit their anonymous donation information via the form when they make their donation. (You may need to remind them of this as part of your ongoing outreach.) That way, you can get a sense of the campaign’s progress along the way rather than only seeing the donation data afterwards.

 

Another important point during the post-campaign evaluation is to try to estimate the counterfactual of those donations by asking the question, “Would the money have been donated anyway even without the fundraising campaign?” If you get anonymized data, you will have to estimate the counterfactual. In general, if donors were not previously aware of EA or effective giving, you could quite confidently claim 100% of their donations as counterfactual. If you are sending out a short survey to your colleagues asking them to report their donations, you can include questions to help you determine the counterfactual. For example:

  • Would you have donated anyway without the fundraising event?

  • If so, would you have donated to the same charity / another similarly effective charity?

  • Before this fundraising event, were you aware of effective giving or Effective Altruism?

 

Costs

The main costs are usually the time needed to organize the event, any monetary costs you may incur, and the corresponding opportunity costs of your time. 

 

If you track your time as you go, it’s pretty straightforward as you’ll be recording that time data along the way. But, if you don’t log your time, it’s usually quite difficult to accurately estimate it after the fact. That’s why we encourage you to log the time you invest across each step of the process, including the Wrap Up phase. (A sample timelog is available here.) From there, you simply need to multiply the amount of time you spent on the campaign by your current equivalent hourly wage in order to arrive at your total time cost.

 

If you incurred any monetary costs related to organizing the campaign, you should add them to the total costs as well. Accounting for such costs should be straightforward if  you keep track of those expenses along the way. 

 

 

Execute Campaign

Once the strategy is set, it’s time to start your campaign. There are only a few required steps. 

Start campaign with kick-off pitch

Though you could start your campaign any number of ways, we’ve found that a good way to kick it off and build momentum from the start is to give an intro pitch to your colleagues about effective giving. Depending on the company size this can be addressed to your team, your department, or the whole company. If there’s already a team-, department-, or company-wide meeting scheduled, you could ask to have a few minutes to give your presentation. This is usually the ideal way to reach as many people as possible with the least amount of effort required from your colleagues—again, the overarching idea is to minimize friction and barriers between your colleagues and donations. If getting onto the agenda of a pre-set meeting isn’t possible, you’ll need to find a way to get your colleagues involved, potentially by scheduling a pitch meeting.

 

The pitch should be short and to the point and include the nuts and bolts of effective giving, e.g.,

  • We are very fortunate to live in a developed country

  • A household income of ~45,000 USD and above puts us in the richest 1% of the global population

  • The best charities are up to 100x more effective than other charities

  • By donating to an effective charity an amount that, to us, is a modest sum, we can do a great deal of good in the world (like saving a life for only ~5000 USD). 

 

This is also a great way to include some of the key factors mentioned below, like leading by example and clearly explaining how people can contribute.

 

To help you come up with your presentation, you can find some slides and a pitch here.

Enact your outreach strategy

During the campaign, it pays off to keep colleagues’ attention on the fundraising, providing additional details and encouraging people to donate. This is done by regular communication of the kind described in the outreach strategy section above. It’s also effective to reach out to individual people who you think might be interested. It helps to have a mailing list and to allow people to unsubscribe (afterall, there’s nothing more annoying than receiving regular emails about something you’re not interested in).

Thank everyone at the end of the campaign

When the campaign has finished, it’s important to thank everyone for their participation and contributions, and celebrate the milestones reached. You might also highlight for people what their donations achieved (e.g., the # of lives saved, tons of CO2 averted, etc.).

 

Wrap Up

Congratulations! The campaign is over, and the biggest part is behind you. You’re nearly at the finish line where you can sit down, pat yourself on the back, and relax. There are just three more important final things to do.

Ensure payment to charities

It may seem like payment to the charities would be straightforward. But, it has happened in the past that the donated funds were returned and didn’t actually reach the target charities. The steps needed will depend on the payment method used; but, regardless, you should make sure the money reaches the intended destination.

 

If you are involved in making the final payment, you will need to get the charities’ payment details (e.g., account #, BIC, etc.) and understand the best payment method with the lowest fee. (If your colleagues have to make their payments themselves, you should communicate to them in advance any information about payment details, preferred payment method(s), and fees.)  For lower amounts, usually credit card payment is the way to go; for bigger amounts, usually a bank transfer, check, or the like is better. If you are using a re-granting organization, check the list provided above. Otherwise, you can check the website of the charities—links to the most common effective charities are provided below. 

Cause Area: Global Health & Development

  • Recommended Charities

  1. Malaria Consortium’s Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention Program

  2. Against Malaria Foundation

Cause Area: Climate Change

  • Recommended Charities

  1. Clean Air Task Force

  2. Carbon180

Cause Area: Animal Welfare

  • Recommended Charities

  1. The Humane League

Second, you want to ensure that the payment reaches the organization. Give the payment information to the accounting department (if done through your company) and ensure that the funds go through by requesting payment confirmation and a confirmation receipt from the charities to which payment was sent.

Run impact evaluation

If you followed the advice given in the earlier preparation phase, most of the work for this step is already done. Now, you simply need to gather the pertinent data. As you review this section, look back at the Prepare impact evaluation section as needed for more details.

 

As stated above, a useful metric that can be used to evaluate the impact of your campaign is its cost effectiveness, which is defined as the ratio between the benefits generated and the costs incurred. You’ll want to gather the following information to help you evaluate the benefits and costs of your campaign:

 

Benefits

  • Donation data

    • If your campaign used payroll giving and your company/payroll giving provider agreed to provide you with an anonymized list of donation amounts, get that list. As stated above, if your company wasn’t able to make available such granular data, get the total donation amount and the number of donors.

    • If donations were made directly by your colleagues or if your company/payroll giving provider is not willing to share the data, gather the data you’ve collected via the Google form your colleagues used to anonymously report their donations to you.

  • Counterfactual estimate

    • Keep in mind the need to try to estimate the counterfactual of those donations. The questions you included in your Google form should provide you the information you will need to make that estimate.

 

Costs

  • Your time – Your timelog will tell you how much time you spent on the campaign.

  • Monetary costs – Refer to any expense tracking you did  for this information (e.g., receipts, spreadsheet, etc.).

 

Having gathered the benefits and costs data, you can calculate your campaign’s impact by simply dividing its benefits by its costs. Hopefully, the benefits far exceed the costs and indicate a highly impactful campaign. Regardless, keep in mind that any donations made to effective charities are a good thing and resulted from your efforts, with the knowledge and experience gained from this campaign informing your approach going forward.

Retrospective

In the end, success is reached through successive iterations and continuous improvement, so it is essential to maximize what is learned from each of them. When everything with your campaign is said and done, take a step back and reflect on how it went.

  • What went well? What didn't go so well? What would you keep moving forward? What can be improved? What are the main lessons learned?

  • How much money was raised? Which causes were the most popular? How much time did you spend on the campaign? What was the cost-to-benefit ratio of your time? What could be optimized for the future (i.e., made more cost effective or done more efficiently)?