For most women, a little black dress is a classic wardrobe staple – great for a day in the office or a night out. For Junior League chapters across the globe, a little black dress is the forefront of a week-long fundraising campaign – the Little Black Dress Initiative (LBDI).
Junior Leagues have been around since the 1900s, evolving into one of the biggest volunteer organizations, with more than 140,000 women in chapters worldwide.
The inaugural Little Black Dress Initiative was launched in 2014 by the Junior League of London. Since then, this iconic event has been replicated by countless Junior League members around the world using social media and word of mouth.
Each year, participants wear one little black dress for five consecutive days to show the limiting effects poverty has on a woman’s choices, resources, and access to professional opportunities.
To complete their ensemble, participants wear a pin that says “Ask Me About My Dress” in an effort to spark discussion and raise funds for issues surrounding poverty (and in some cases, human trafficking) in their community.
Rachael Younger, the 2017 LDBI Chair for the Junior League of St. Petersburg summed it up best. According to her, “the LBDI campaign is a great way to not only raise funds to support our community efforts, but also a great tool to connect with our community and raise awareness about issues in our community and what our league is doing to eradicate these issues.”
The Little Black Dress Initiative is often run as a peer-to-peer campaign and we’re here to help you launch your very own successful LBDI.
1) Assemble Your Team
The first step to a Little Black Dress Initiative is to assemble your team.
Usually, a few dedicated members at each chapter step up to organize the initiative each year. These members then pass the torch on to other members the following year.
If someone has run this campaign previously, we recommend peer learning by asking them for best practices.
2) Plan Logistics & Goals
Now that you’ve assembled your team, it’s time to set your goals. Here’s a few guiding questions to help you get started:
What are you raising funds for?
Junior Leagues typically raise funds for anti-poverty programs in their community but many get granular about the purpose of their campaign.
For instance, in 2018, the Junior League of Seattle’s Little Black Dress Initiative brought in over $20K for basic needs and education. They specifically targeted food security, children’s literacy, and career readiness for women.
How many members are you expecting to participate?
Another crucial element to consider is how many people you expect to participate in your campaign. This number will help inform your overall fundraising goal, providing an estimate for how much you will raise. For example, during the Junior League of Atlanta’s 2016 LBDI, 82 members (out of a 3,500 member base) were recruited to be personal fundraisers.
When do you want to run your campaign?
Little Black Dress Initiatives are week-long events. Some Junior League chapters prefer to set their campaign for the beginning of the year while others opt for the latter months of the year.
How much do you want each participant to raise?
It’s important to set clear goals and the women of the LBDI planning committee for the Junior League of Atlanta (JLA) made that a priority. “No was required to participate, but we did ask everyone to raise $500.” These clear expectations kept everyone on the same page and, by the end of the week, several fundraisers had even increased their goals.
Some participants even treated the campaign as a personal challenge, which fostered friendly personal and team competition.
Can you engage sponsors?
Have you considered corporate matches? The Junior League of Atlanta (JLA) certainly did and it paid off in a big way. They were fortunate to work with donation matches from a corporate donor up to $5,000. This type of incentive works well in motivating donors to give in the moment as opposed to waiting around for another time.
By leveraging matching donations, LBDI fundraisers rallied donors quicker and more efficiently. Plus, the LBDI committee found that “having matching challenges throughout the week created a sense of competition and pushed people to go the extra mile. That’s really why we raised as much money as we did.”
3) Get Your Campaign Set Up
After you have your logistics and campaign goal ironed out, it’s time to get your Little Black Dress Initiative set up. To give yourself enough lead time, we recommend getting your campaign set up at least three weeks prior to going live.
Since LBDIs are generally run as online peer-to-peer fundraisers, make sure that the platform you choose is user-friendly.
The Junior League of St. Petersburg can certainly attest to the importance of making sure your donors have a great digital giving experience, which is why they chose to go with CauseVox.
On top of being easy to navigate, CauseVox’s customer service also played an important role in the campaign’s success. During her year chairing the campaign, Racheal shared that “CauseVox’s customer service was impeccable. Their team members were readily available via email or phone to answer any questions we had or address any issues. The campaign ran as smooth as I could have hoped”.
With more than 50 Little Black Dress Initiatives hosted on CauseVox, this definitely isn’t our first rodeo. In fact, CauseVox makes it easy for you to carry over your campaign from the previous year if you don’t want to start from scratch. If you’ve run a Little Black Dress Initiative on CauseVox before, you can save time by simply cloning your campaign.
For another LBDI success story, check out this testimonial from the Junior League of Atlanta who blew their fundraising goal out of the water by using CauseVox. You can also tune into this 30-minute webinar for the ins and outs of setting up a successful Little Black Dress campaign.
3) Prepare Your Marketing Materials & Create Toolkit For Fundraisers
For any peer-to-peer campaign, having a solid strategy, marketing materials, and a fundraising toolkit prepared is key. Remember, your toolkit wouldn’t be complete without:
- Outlined donation tiers that tie the dollar amount raised to back to real impact
- Templated resources such as social media posts for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- Infographics & relevant stats (i.e. 1 in 5 residents relied on a food pantry last year, etc.)
- Sample pitch emails that can be easily shareable/customized
- Fundraising FAQs including basic do’s and don’ts
A toolkit helps set your fundraisers up for success because you’re not leaving them to fly by the seat of their pants but the support shouldn’t just end there. Some fundraisers may need one-on-one coaching to truly flourish or to keep the campaign momentum going.
If you want to see that support in action, take a page from the Junior League of Atlanta’s book. During their 2016 campaign, the JLA went above and beyond by offering a webinar, a hour-long educational seminar that touched on the ins and outs of the fundraising process, and an “Advocate Support Packet” (a fun rebranding of a fundraising toolkit).
In addition to the support provided before the campaign even began, the JLA also had multiple touch points to make their fundraisers feel supported along the way. The JLA checked in with their fundraisers everyday and also prepared mid-week socials to celebrate early wins.
(Ex: Infographic from the Junior League of Greenville, NC)
4) Activate Your Junior League Advocates
Peer-to-peer campaigns are all about relationships and a Little Black Dress Initiative isn’t any different. Tap into your network of Junior League advocates by sharing your campaign on social media and through word of mouth.
If you haven’t done so already, you might consider testing out these tried and true recruitment strategies:
- Encourage your supporters to set up their peer-to-peer pages at least two weeks ahead of the event so they’re ready to go.
- Send at least three email blasts recruiting members to sign up in the meantime.
- Be sure to include impact-driven stories in your correspondences (email, social media, etc.) to drum up excitement and inspire participation. If you’re struggling with what to say, we’ve got some sample messaging for you to work off of.
- Also, don’t hesitate to draw from personal relationships to activate as many participants as possible. (i.e. Molly is besties with Jennifer, ask Molly to text Jennifer).
When you lean on your existing supporters to help spread awareness, their networks are bound to listen.
5) Exceed Your Goals With Peer-to-Peer
Here’s where the Digital Fundraising Cycle comes into play. Reaching and exceeding your LBDI fundraising goal involves three simple steps: Attract, Nurture, and Convert.
In this first stage, you want to build your audience by getting your Little Black Dress Initiative in front of as many people as possible. Using peer-to-peer, you can grow your audience organically, either through word of mouth or by encouraging your supporters to share your campaign through social media.
When you nurture your supporters, you’ll want to deepen your supporters’ understanding for the Little Black Dress Initiative. This will play out in the form of regular campaign updates, social media posts, and more that revolve around impact-oriented story-telling. Remember, you’re trying to educate and inspire your supporters to take action.
Getting your supporters to convert is getting them to make a donation. This looks like making a strong call-to-action via social media or your fundraising platform to get people on your donation page and to donate. Remember, the better experience your donors have when donating to your Little Black Dress Initiative, the more likely they are to make a donation the following year.
Run Your Little Black Dress Initiative On CauseVox.
Little black dresses are never going out of style, and neither is giving to a good cause. With ample experience in LBDIs, we’ve got you covered. Whether you’re launching your first ever Little Black Dress Initiative or wanting to grow your next campaign, check out how CauseVox can help with our digital fundraising platform.