Welcome to the sixth installment in a seven-part series on Capital Campaign Basics. Click here to start the series from the beginning.
- Capital Campaign Basics: 7 Steps to Success
- Step 1: Clarify Your Fundraising Goals
- Step 2: Write Clear, Effective Campaign Material
- Step 3: Develop a Gift Range Chart
- Step 4: Make a List of Prospects by Giving Level
- Step 5: Contact Your Best Prospects
- Step 6: Ask for Gifts in Person Using Gift Range Chart
- Step 7: Follow Up with Every Donor
Ask for Gifts in Person Using Your Gift Range Chart
Asking for gifts in person is so important that I’ve devoted both Step 5 and Step 6 to it. What I think of as “real fundraising” isn’t done through the mail or through a Kickstarter-like campaign. “Real Fundraising” is done by talking to people in person!
Create a Context for Your Donor’s Gift
As you get ready to ask people for gifts, you will certainly wonder how much to ask them for. Sometimes you’ll know enough to have a sense of what’s appropriate. You can look at their giving history to your organization. You might also find out about other gifts they’ve made to comparable projects. Giving, like many other activities, has a large element of habit.
People who are used to giving $500 are likely to do that again. And, yes, people who are used to giving $50,000 are likely to do that again. Don’t get me wrong, they won’t give $50,000 to your $15,000 campaign! But $50,000 donors will be comfortable giving larger gifts to larger projects. And people who have never before given more than $500 will have a hard time deciding to give more even if they have more to give.
Use Your Gift Range Chart to Help the Donor Decide on a Gift Amount
Before you go any further, be sure you’ve pulled out a copy of your gift range chart. Remember? That’s the little planning chart you created in Step 3 of this series.
You created it so you could see just how many gifts you’d need from how many donors to get to your goal. But now, you can use that same little chart to help your donors figure out how much they want to give. Here’s the chart from Step 3 for your reference.
This chart provides a crystal clear context for someone’s gift. They can see where they will fit in the larger community of donors. And if you think about it, you’ll know that everyone wants to know that.
The funny thing about people’s urge to fit in is that some consistently want to be a the top; some people are more comfortable at the bottom; and others are happiest in the middle. While that placement has something to do with how much money they have, it also has to do with how visible they want to be. And that’s at least in part a personality trait and not a financial one.
Take the Gift Range Chart to Your Donor Meetings
Put your chart on a separate piece of paper. Make sure it’s formatted so it’s easy to read and understand. I like to divide the giving categories into three levels, lead gift level, major gift level and general gift level. You can do this with spacing or two lines dividing the categories. You can see the darker lines on the chart above that create three primary levels.
With three broad giving levels, when you ask for the gift, you can show the chart and ask if the donor would consider a gift at one of the levels rather than a specific gift. Of course, with some donors, you will want to invite them to consider a specific amount–the top gift, for example.
When Margaret, who had never before asked for gifts, went on her first donor meetings, she found the gift range chart tremendously helpful. Not only could she use it to explain how she was approaching her fundraising, but she could point to a giving level without actually saying the amount. Somehow that feels a bit easier to a timid asker.
As you can see in the chart above, Margaret’s top gift was $3,000 or 20% of her goal. When she went to talk to her family members, she asked them if they would make a family gift of that amount. She (and they) were delighted when they agreed. The gift range chart made simple sense and gave a clear context to that ask.
Even if your campaign goal is many multiples of Margaret’s, this simple strategy works!
Don’t forget that the order in which you ask for gifts matters. Try to tie down the large gifts before you turn your attention to the smaller ones. That will not only build your confidence but it will also provide momentum and confidence the smaller donors need to see how their gifts will make a difference. It’s a matter of proportion. As the amount you must still raise gets shrinks with every large gift committed, the power of the smaller gifts becomes more important. Get it?
Use the Gift Range Chart to Plan Your Donor Recognition
When you talk with your donors, you may wish to tell them how they will be recognized. This will be particularly important if your campaign is funding a building and you will recognize people through naming opportunities and wall plaques. Develop your donor recognition program so that it dovetails with you gift range chart. Let the donor levels also serve as recognition levels. That way your campaign will make simple sense. And simple sense is very helpful when it comes to explaining things to your donors and board members.
Now Don’t Procrastinate! Just Get Out and Ask
I don’t know very many people who can get themselves to do this part of the work without a mighty push. Asking in person is the scariest part of the process. But I promise you than once you’ve started and someone says yes to one of the top gifts, it will get easier and more exciting and it might even feel like fun!
Don’t forget to join me for the last step in our simple 7-Step campaign process.