DC SCORES’ mission is to “create neighborhood teams that give kids the confidence and skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom, and in life.”
For three decades, DC SCORES has been building a generation of committed, engaged, and powerful young people through soccer, poetry, and service-learning programs. These poet-athletes unite their voices to enact change in their communities and make a huge impact on Washington, D.C. and in the region.
Thread: What are a few of your favorite elements of leading the fundraising team at DC SCORES?
First off, I think DC SCORES is the coolest organization around. I’m incredibly biased, but I’ve also thought that for a lot longer than I’ve been paid to say it!
Our model appeals to so many different people—folks who care about arts, soccer, literacy, education, youth development, the city of D.C.! As a fundraiser it’s really helpful knowing that I can probably help just about anybody identify some aspect of DC SCORES that they care about. I love seeing a prospective donor have their “a-ha” or “oh wow” moment when they see DC SCORES in action…especially when it happens at our Poetry Slams.
As for the team, we have some of the most talented and passionate humans in the city working on our communications and development (C&D) team and on our staff in general. Our program prioritizes teamwork, creativity, and fun, and we definitely practice what we preach as a staff!
Thread: DC SCORES executes multiple unique fundraising campaigns and events annually. What balance do you try to strike between refreshing your campaigns and events while also not totally reinventing the wheel each year?
All of our campaigns and events need to feel like DC SCORES campaigns and events. What does that mean? For us, that means that our campaigns prioritize ethical storytelling written in close collaboration with the subject, whether that’s our poet-athletes, families, coaches, donors, or volunteers. For our events, it means finding creative ways to bring poetry and soccer together to create those special “poet-athlete” moments. For example, at One Night One Goal, our gala hosted by D.C. United at Audi Field, we bring in Busboys and Poets to turn part of the stadium into a poetry lounge, where professional spoken word artists perform alongside professional soccer players stepping outside their comfort zone to take the stage. This past year, Washington Spirit and USWNT forward Ashley Hatch performed an original poem on stage. At Our Words Our City, our annual poetry showcase, we gave the annual “Poet-Athlete Award” to New York Times bestselling poet and former D1 soccer player Clint Smith. His prize? A custom soccer ball hand-painted by local DC artist Trap Bob. DC SCORES events look and feel like DC SCORES events.
We’ve got such a good line-up of events that we can’t really add any new ones, even with our 30th anniversary approaching later this year. What we can definitely do is refine and enhance them, and that’s where Thread Strategies comes in. Our Thread team is helping us build out our development operations and processes, and are helping us optimize Salesforce to ensure that we are getting the right people to our events, are capturing the right information, and doing appropriate follow-up afterward. It’s an area we’ve under-emphasized in the past, but with Thread’s help the back-end work of our events and campaigns is finally catching up with the front-end.
Thread: The Thread team and DC SCORES are partnering right now to accomplish some high-level development strategic work as well as some hands-on fundraising work. Share with us some of the ways in which the team decided to refresh DC SCORES’ end-of-year (EOY) campaign plan.
For starters, Thread helped us ask more people for money this year! In the past we’ve gone hard on Giving Tuesday, but we’ve opted not to do any larger end-of-year mail campaign. We didn’t trust our data, so we didn’t think it would be worthwhile, and the more years that went by without a proper EOY campaign the more daunting doing one became.
Thread worked with us in Salesforce to get us comfortable enough with our data to include a mail component this year, which we tied thematically to our Giving Tuesday campaign. It was a big success—we surpassed our goal, we’ve reengaged a bunch of lapsed donors, and even the steady trickle of bounced mailing addresses are providing helpful data points for our ongoing clean-up!
Thread: Now that it’s January, what data are you excited to analyze about your most recent end-of-year campaign? How will you use that information to refresh future campaigns?
New donors, lapsed donors, mailing addresses—all data is good data now that we have the structure and systems in place to put it to good use. What’s most exciting is seeing how many lapsed donors we’ve been able to reengage. As we approach our 30th anniversary, we want to bring as many past DC SCORES supporters as possible back into the fold.
Thread: What advice would you give to your fellow fundraisers about campaign planning year-over-year?
If you’ve had a nagging strategic challenge holding you back for a long time, it’s probably worth it to invest in expertise to finally push through that challenge. We’ve always taken pride in doing more with less—I think it’s safe to say that’s a common nonprofit mentality—and engaging Thread in this development planning was an important departure from that mentality. I’m very confident it’s going to pay off.