Early one morning in the spring of 2000, I sat behind my desk in the pregnancy center where I worked, stared up at the ceiling, and silently asked God, "How will I ever raise that much money?"
The previous evening I had listened as the chairman of our board announced to the audience at our annual fundraising banquet that, as God provided the funds, we would purchase sonogram machines for all three of our pregnancy center locations. The estimated amount needed was $100,000. As director of development, I immediately assumed it was my responsibility to raise the funds; and at that moment, it seemed impossible.
What I didn't know was that God already had a plan, and He was about to give me the opportunity to join Him in that plan.
As I prayed, God directed my eyes to the baby bottle that, months ago, I had placed on a table near my desk. At that moment, God began filling my head with thoughts, and I began writing them down. On that day the Baby Bottle Boomerang© (BBB) was born, and in exactly 100 days, God allowed us to raise the money needed to buy those three machines. One was purchased with the $35,000 raised from our first baby bottle promotion, and the second and third were purchased with generous gifts from two individual donors.
Since that time, the Baby Bottle Boomerang© has raised an estimated $65 million for pro-life ministries throughout the United States and Canada. Many of those centers have shared their experiences with us, and the best of those tips are shown below:
Treat your baby bottle promotion as you would any other major event, not as filler between major events. Plan, prepare, and promote it as you would any other major fundraiser. The results will reflect the effort that you put into it. One center has reported over $1,000,000 raised since doing their first BBB. The results are entirely within your control.
Choose carefully the name you use for your baby bottle promotion. Remember—you get what you ask for. If the name includes the words "pennies" or "change," people may be more likely to fill the bottle with loose change. Two centers have reported checks in the amount of $14,000 in bottles; so don't hesitate to ask for checks and bills when presenting the program.
Talk to the right staff person when presenting the baby bottle promotion to a church. Often we assume the pastor is the person we need to see, but in most churches it's the person who is assigned to work with community organizations. Ask the secretary for the name of the person you need to see.
Select church liaisons who are dependable, confident, friendly, and comfortable speaking before an audience. To achieve maximum results, the promotion must be presented before the church on a Sunday morning. If the church will only allow you to leave the bottles on a table in the sanctuary but not allow you to explain the event to the audience, you will raise very little money.
If you are given five minutes to speak, use the first three minutes to tell the best client story you have. Then lift up the bottle and say, "Now, here is how you can make a difference in the life of our next client." Make the client the emphasis of your presentation, not the bottle. People respond with their emotions, and strong emotions are invoked when you tell the story of a mother who chose life because of your ministry.
Always use an insert in order to capture information about the donor. Enter the donor's contact information into your donor database and follow up with a thank you note. While it's a chore to respond to every gift, the donor who gave $10 in a bottle may become a major donor when invited to your fundraising banquet.
The bottle insert form should have a place for the donor to list the name and address of the person in whose honor he/she is making the gift. Send a printed card to the person being honored and give the name of the person who honored them. When doing the bottles before Mother's Day, suggest to the audience they make a donation to your center as a way of honoring their mother. One person told me that her mother carried the card around in her purse for a year. Also, allow them to make the gift in memory of a loved one, and include a list with the names of those who were remembered in your next newsletter. To add the personal touch, always have the volunteers hand address the cards and use postage stamps to mail them.
Leave bottles out no more than three weeks. Many centers distribute the bottles on Mother's Day and ask that they be returned on Father's Day. Experience has shown the promotion loses its sense of urgency when bottles are left out more than three weeks and causes the return rate to drop. A suggested method is to distribute the bottles on Mother's Day, receive them back in three weeks, refurbish them, and distribute them to a different church on Father's Day. This approach allows you to reach twice as many churches with the same amount of bottles.
Don't forget to thank your volunteers. A pizza party or thank you gift is appropriate and helps ensure the liaisons will be available when you call them for the next event.
Finally, remember to personally thank every church that participated, and tell them the total amount given by their members. The following year when asking the church to repeat the event, remind them of the amount raised the previous year and challenge them to exceed that amount in the current year. To create a laugh, you might even want to invite them to view the You Tube video, "Baby Bottle Boomerang" that was created by one of our BBB centers.
I loved the story one center shared from her baby bottle event: "A girl at my friend Sherry's church had just confided to her that she was pregnant, and her parents were pressuring her to abort. As Sherry was pondering how to counsel this young girl, she glanced over at the "God's Gift" baby bottle her own daughter had recently brought home from church. She immediately knew that she needed to encourage this girl to visit a Pregnancy Care Center! She did visit a local center, and as a result, she chose life for her unborn baby. Praise the Lord!"
Elaine Ham was center director and then director of development for three centers in Greenville, South Carolina, before becoming National Consultant for the Pregnancy Resource Ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention through her office at the North American Mission Board. She is best known for development of the Baby Bottle Boomerang© (BBB) program through Plans for You, Inc., the fundraising company she and her husband Tom began in 2000. To date the BBB has helped over 1,200 pro-life organizations raise an estimated $65,000,000 for LIFE.