Guest Post by Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE
How did you learn how to drive?
You didn’t just hop in your parents’ car and take off down the highway (I hope!) – instead, you took classes and had a lot of practice sessions before you were able to drive well on your own.
As Andrea and Gail will both tell you, there are some similarities between capital campaigns and learning to drive. Everyone involved in the campaign will need to get at least some training as well as guidance and support along the way – that’s why you hire a capital campaign consultant.
However, there’s something else you’re going to want to have under your belt before you start asking for capital campaign-sized gifts.
Just like you drove on busy main streets before heading down your first freeway on ramp, you need practice asking for larger gifts to get ready for the demands of capital gift solicitation.
How do you get practice asking for major gifts before your capital campaign?
How do you get that practice?
By implementing an ongoing major gift campaign for your annual fund.
Raising major gifts as part of your annual fund is an excellent way to prepare for a capital campaign, because going into a capital campaign without any major gifts experience is like trying to run a marathon before learning to walk.
If your organization is considering undertaking a capital campaign but you haven’t yet raised major gifts, ask yourself this: do you think you’re ready to ask for six – or even seven – figures? More importantly, are your donors ready for such a request?
One of my current clients is facing this challenge right now.
Instead of starting off by incorporating major gifts as part of their annual fund drive, this client decided to skip straight ahead into a capital campaign.
While their organization isn’t in the same kind of danger as someone getting on the highway during their first time behind the wheel, they are in the very stressful place of having to learn everything they need to know about raising larger sums while also dealing with the pressures involved in a first capital campaign.
Added benefits of incorporating major gifts into your annual fund drive
There are several additional benefits to incorporating major gifts into your annual fund drive; benefits that go beyond becoming comfortable asking donors for larger amounts.
For one thing, a successful ongoing major gifts campaign can make a significant positive difference to your annual fund – and major gift fundraising costs significantly less than direct mail or fundraising events! Those are funds you can start using right away to do even more of the great work that will attract donors to your capital campaign when it’s time to hold one.
An ongoing major gifts campaign also gets your donors accustomed to being asked for, and giving, larger gifts. (If you think you’ll have trouble asking for a five or six-figure gift when you’ve only ever asked for three-four figures in the past, imagine how your donors will feel making that leap!)
Granted, there are circumstances where an organization might have to go straight to a capital campaign.
If this is the case for your nonprofit, don’t panic. As my client is learning, it can be done. But if you want to enter your eventual capital campaign feeling trained, practiced and ready, the best way to get there is to start working on major gifts right now.
Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, is an author, speaker, coach and fundraising consultant who’s dedicated to making nonprofit development simple for you and your board. Her books include 50 A$ks in 50 Weeks, Raising More with Less, and her latest book, Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops (pictured).
Be one of the first 100 people to purchase Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops between 6 am and Midnight on Tuesday, March 18, 2014 and receive free access to Amy’s webinar, The Art of the Ask (a $129 value).