National Federation of the Blind

Success, When All Else Fails

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is the world’s largest organization of blind citizens with more than 50,000 members. For seventy years the NFB has been a leader in education, training, research and technology for the blind. With hundreds of chapters in all fifty states, the NFB remains the leading voice and advocate for the blind in the United States.

The Challenge
To meet the growing needs of membership, the NFB planned to build a research and training facility adjacent to their Baltimore, MD headquarters. The facility would serve as a hub of innovation and empowerment for the nation’s blind. The cost: $18 million. The NFB was advised by an outside consultant that the total cost of the facility could be underwritten by a handful of wealthy donors. Unfortunately, those gifts failed to materialize – that’s when the NFB called MDG.

The Plan
No successful capital campaign can exist in a vacuum. Relying solely on cornerstone gifts is not realistic and does not honor such commitments by leveraging the opportunities they create. Similarly, expecting broad-based support to provide all of the campaign’s funding ignores the realities of modern fundraising.

Instead, the most successful capital campaigns seek to involve everyone and effectively engender an espirit de corps among all donors – from the largest stakeholder to the individual offering the widow’s mite.

Getting everyone involved was the center of MDG’s campaign plan for The NFB. It turned out it was also the key to success.

The Result
MDG helped awaken the sleeping giant that is the membership of the NFB. Using existing networks, MDG created an atmosphere of friendly competition among chapters and raised the campaign’s profile among members. The results raised unprecedented funds from the NFB’s members, who historically face very high rates of unemployment. Thousands of members exceeded their highest previous gift and made pledged commitments to the campaign. Many members made five- and even six-figure gifts – far more than anyone thought possible.

To help drive participation, MDG pioneered the use of umbrellas as premiums during the NFB campaign – calling on donors to help bring vital services to the blind “under one umbrella” at the new research and training facility. The response was phenomenal.

With such robust support from members and friends alike, six- and seven-figure gifts rolled in from high dollar prospects including individuals, local governments, and corporations.

The NFB, its members and friends raised $20,000,000 from more than 15,000 gifts during the campaign. The result: The Jernigan Institute – a 170,000 square foot research and training facility in Baltimore, Maryland that is helping the NFB and its members improve the lives of the blind worldwide. It is a result that everyone can be proud of.