some were a little bit different, but none of us were singing from the same sheet of music. So one of the first things I said in my analysis for my boss
at the time was, “Look, we have to speak with one voice about why someone should support the U.S. Olympic Committee.” That was a real priority for me. We really needed to under- stand what our messaging is, and yet it took us a while to fine- tune it. It was not until last year that we really wrote our first Case for Support, which is the document that we all live by in terms of why someone should support the USOC.
How did you arrive at that single message? I think it was a certain amount of brainstorming— of sitting around as a team and saying, “Okay, howdo we want to pres- ent ourselves?” And it was not just within the development division of the fundraising group, it was with my colleagues who work in communications and in marketing. It was talk- ing about—from a brand and image standpoint—how we wanted to position ourselves, and why are people support- ing us, what is resonating with them. When we say XYZ, is that really getting people to commit, or is it more [about] the patriotism? It is a little bit difficult because we are very—it is a great problem to have—we are very broadly supported. So we have probably 800,000 nationwide donors. The bulk of those people are giving a $20 or a $25 gift, through direct- mail channels. The focus of my efforts is really buildinga major gift program — people who are giving a six- and seven-fig- ure gift. And youwant to be consistent in yourmessaging, but those are two really different audiences. When we worked on the Case for Support, [we focused]
CHAMPIONING A CAUSE: Janine Alfano Musholt said that it’s important to figure out where you are in people’s giving priorities and appeal to them on that level: “IfI [representing the United States Olympic Committee] can expect to be the fourth or fifth place that someone gives, that is all I can aspire to.”
on, how do we speak broadly to all of the different people that want to support us and that we want to have support us? But also pull out certain elements that will resonate differently with different communities?
rate on acquiringnew donors. And they knew it down to a sci- ence. I mean, she did the percentage increase when they used that versus some other messaging. We do not have that same kind of story. We have a won-
derful story about Olympic success and trials and tribulations, but not that same kind of compelling, measurable influence. [We are] sort of like some other charities, who are telling really cool stories all the time—[for us, it’s] about athletes that are stayingin our Olympic TrainingCenters in Colorado Springs, Southern California, and in Lake Placid, N.Y. There are a lot of neat ways that we can talk about the Olympians and how the movement is unifying.
How did the marketing message ofuniting America come about? When I first started [at USOC], I had a team of nine. (The team is bigger now.) And I asked — it was literally my first week —I asked every single one of them to send me a note, just a quick email to let me know how they talked to a donor about why someone should give to the USOC. And I got nine dif- ferent answers. I mean, some of them were wildly different,
The Olympics is an event that happens every two years — Summer Games are every four years, and Winter Games are in between. How do the actual events affect your fundraising efforts? Tremendously. We definitely see spikes in our fundraising— it tends to spike before and during the games and then drop off. Right now tends to be our toughest time—between the WinterGames,whichwe just had in February 2010, and going into the Summer Games is a real lull for us. So we try to be a little creative about how we are reaching out to people. We tend to build a lot of four-year commitments so that we do not see huge cash-flow [issues], but it is also kind of an understood in our business. You might not see my goals dramatically increase in an off year, but we are more measured by how we do over the course of a quadrennium—“quadrennium” is the bigOlympic term for the four years leadingup to the next Sum- mer Games. Right now, we are in a quadrennium that will end at the
London Games, and my goals tend to be mostly built around that quad and not so much annually, because there is so much fluctuation.
Is there anything that meeting planners could learn from that in terms of their own events? One thingthatwe do, and it fits in perfectly I think for ameet- ingplanner, is we have really, really bigprogrammingat and