Charles Sumner Ward, Frank L Pierce and the YMCA

Publicists, Publicity and Time Incentives. These are all commonplace within fundraising campaigns today. In 1905, this was not the case and provides the setting for the second installment of our series on the “Pioneers of Fundraising”.


In need of a securing funding to construct a new building in New York City, the YMCA set out to raise $350,000. Unfortunately, the campaign was coming up shy and holding an $80,000 deficit in spite of a generous $50,000 donation from the Rockefeller’s. So, Charles Sumner Ward and Frank L Pierce were called upon to inject some life into the sluggish effort.

Prior to this assignment, both Ward and Pierce were impressive fundraisers, sprinting up the ranks at the YMCA, but this shortfall was new territory and of grave concern.

So what did they do?

With an imposing goal, Pierce and Ward hired an established publicist and set about creating enticement. Time was identified as a viable catalyst for internal fervor surrounding the initiative. Thus, Ward and Pierce devise the inaugural Campaign Clock.

The clock highlighted the 27 days allotted for the fundraising window and enabled Pierce & Ward to craft competitions between solicitation teams to further employ emotional appeal as a catalyst to hit their mark. Implementing these ideals was one of the first instances of “sales” in fundraising.

What’s more, Pierce & Ward were able to secure underwritten advertising from WoodWard and Lothrop department store, which created an early record of cause based marketing in modern fundraising.

As you can imagine the campaign was a considerable success and soon after, both gentleman were revered and hounded for campaign clocks/thermometers for smaller, local campaigns throughout the organization. This process design became defined as the “YMCA School” and has propelled YMCA’s efforts across the globe still to this day.

Kudos to Charles Sumner Ward and Frank L Pierce who proved that a little innovation never hurts in fundraising and provides exponential potential when properly explored.  




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