News and analysis
December 09, 2014

Unicef Gets Matching Help in Year-End Appeal for Unrestricted Gifts


The memory of Unicef Goodwill Ambassador Audrey Hepburn, shown in Bangladesh in 1989, remains an important part of the group’s fundraising.

In a seven-week campaign that ends December 31, the United States Fund for Unicef is seeking $1.3-million in unrestricted funds that the charity can spend however it wants.

To support the year-end drive, three individuals and one couple have collectively offered $650,000 in undesignated funds. Unicef is using their money to offer a dollar-for-dollar match to others who make similarly unrestricted gifts of at least $10,000.

Donors who make such gifts will become members of Unicef’s Audrey Hepburn Society, if they aren’t already. The late actress was a prominent supporter of the charity. Members receive special reports, access to staff members, and invitations to events where they can mingle with other supporters.

The campaign has generated more than $300,000 so far, says Barron Segar, Unicef’s senior vice president of development.

One reason for the success is that Unicef convinced three of the four original donors to allow their names to be used in solicitations for the year-end match.

The donors include Bill and Cindee Dietz. Mr. Dietz, a Unicef board member, is president of Heartland Produce Company in Kensoha, Wis.

Mr. Segar says he learned the importance of publicizing the donors’ names from another Unicef fundraising drive involving a $3.6-million challenge-grant offer from the family foundation of the technology mogul Paul Allen. That campaign, which reached its goal three months before the matching offer was set to expire, raised an additional $3.6-million to fight the deadly Ebola virus. Mr. Allen "has incredible name recognition," says Mr. Segar. "The Paul Allen name was so important."

The donors in the current year-end campaign aren’t as prominent as Mr. Allen, but Mr. Segar says that making them known publicly is helpful nonetheless because people respond better when a matching-gift offer comes from individuals who are identified rather than from anonymous donors. Unicef is sending more than 1,000 letters—mostly to existing members of the Audrey Hepburn group—introducing the matching-gift donors. The letters also explain the importance of unrestricted gifts, noting that they allow the organization to respond quickly to crises that affect children.

Face-to-face visits have been a key ingredient in the organization’s recent fundraising success, says Mr. Segar.

For example, in Southern California, where Unicef has one of its nine regional offices, one of the charity’s major-gift officers last week received a large donation to the drive from a woman who has given the charity annual donations ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 since 1989. "We talked to her about the match and the tremendous need for unrestricted gifts to Unicef," Mr. Segar says. "She said ‘You can count me in for $100,000.’ It was incredible."

Send an e-mail to Holly Hall.