Despite deadlines tighter than a stretched rubber band, technology challenges that would have had Bill Gates frowning, and the tyranny of distance and international time zones, the Australian office of UNHCR managed to pull off a corporate partnership that raised over $5 million. Maureen Collins, major donor manager at UNHCR reports.

It’s the call you dream of receiving. When Rick Millen, head of the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Foundation called me to discuss the Power of 10 project, I knew I had been presented with a gift. However, it was the kind of gift which also had a few caveats.

The call came in late April 2008 as PwC was looking to find a charity partner to help celebrate the 10th anniversary amalgamation of Coopers Lybrand and Price Waterhouse. PwC is now one of the world’s leading professional services firms with over 146,000 staff working across 140 countries.

The Power of 10 was the brainchild of Rich Baird, a PwC partner based in the US, and involved PwC staff and offices donating funds over a 10 day period, from June 16 to June 27, to raise US$1 million to help a specific charity.

Along with two other charities, Australia for UNHCR (the UN refugee agency) was invited to submit a project for consideration for the Power of 10. Some of the criteria were that it had to be education based, make real change, be sustainable and have potential for PwC staff to visit the project.

I approached our headquarters in Geneva to discuss ideas but was initially told that it would take two months to put together a project. We had days, not months!

With no time to lose we eventually settled on a plan to build and operate schools for more than 20,000 children who had fled Darfur and were living in refugee camps in Eastern Chad. Some meals, teacher training and school supplies would also be provided.

After numerous meetings, many global conference calls and several proposals later, UNHCR was confirmed as the charity partner for the Power of 10. Whilst excited, we were also daunted by the many things that had to be accomplished by the launch date only a month away!

Rick Millen said UNHCR was selected because it responded very quickly and with a good project that would be well understood by many of PwC’s staff. “We also wanted to maintain a ‘line of sight’ to the results, and we were confident that UNHCR could deliver and keep us informed,” he said.

Fundraising Strategy

With the go ahead given, it was action stations for everybody concerned, and a lot of time and resource was immediately thrown at how to effectively approach and raise funds from 146,000 people spread across the globe.

The basic solicitation strategy was to send six emails to PwC staff over the 10-day period of the campaign and invite them to engage in the project and show their support by donating funds.

Some of the most pressing hurdles that had to be addressed were:

Formulating a communications program that would engage PwC staff Build a Power of 10 website Indentify countries that could offer tax-deductibility and find the best solution to collect funds in respective locations offering online donation solutions in all countries Build a ‘rest of the world’ donations site for all countries not able to offer tax-deductibility

A key factor in the success of the campaign was the top-level buy-in. Global chief executive officer of PwC, Sam DiPiazza Jr, recorded a video asking staff to engage in the Power of 10. UNHCR high commissioner Antonio Guterres, and author and US special envoy, Khaled Hosseini (author of the Kite Runner), also recorded ‘ask’ videos.

These videos were contained in the emails sent to PwC staff around the world. A special website was created which included information about Darfur, the conflict in the region, the education project in Eastern Chad and potential outcomes.

The hardest logistical part was getting the correct technology in place in different countries, and within the tight time frames. The most challenging aspect of this was the time differences. With key UNHCR and PwC staff based in Geneva, Australia and the USA, late night conference calls were common and we worked almost round the clock at times.

Donations Exceed Expectations

The majority of PwC employees made their commitment to the Power of 10 through online donations. In Australia, staff pledged money through payroll giving. In the UK funds went through a foundation in order to offer tax deductibility. Some funds were sent by cheque or transferred directly to various UNHCR bank accounts.

Many PwC offices also gave, and funds were received from many surprising locations such as Estonia, Gabon, Libya, Oman, Qatar, and Zaire.

Over the ten day period more than 6,000 staff in 102 countries donated. The average gift was US$234, and in total just over US$4 million (AUS$5.16 million) was given against an estimate of US$1 million.

The single largest personal gift was US$25,000, and the largest corporate gift was US$750,000. Many senior partners agreed to donate a minimum of US$10,000, and many offices matched the donations made by their employees. Some family members and friends of employees also donated to the project.

While the Power of 10 was a very challenging program and stretched our capacities, the staff at all levels at PwC were very supportive and did a fantastic job in making the partnership work.

Rick Millen was particularly integral to the success of the campaign, and there’s a high level of mutual admiration from both organizations in the part each played.

“The staff at UNHCR were very co-operative and responsive,” said Rick. “Their attitude and willingness to address problems was great, and they were able to provide some excellent resources to the project.”

Samuel DiPiazza Jr was thrilled with the result and said PwC’s contribution will help the children of Darfur maintain hope for a better life through education. “Over the past 10 years we have demonstrated the great things that PwC firms can accomplish by working together. There could be no better way to celebrate PwC’s anniversary than to make a meaningful difference where it is most needed.”

Target

Actual

Staff approached

146,000

146,000

Response rate

10%

4.3%

No. of responses

14,600

6,263

Costs

US$23,600

US$23,600
(AUS$30,297)

Gross income

US$1,000,000

US$4,024,841
(AUS$5,162,763)

Net income

US$976,400

$US4,001,241
(AUS$5,132,466)

Average gift

US$10

US$234
(AUS$300)

ROI (per dollar spent)

US$42.37

US$170.54
(AUS$218.86)

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