Capital campaigns are big and exciting and scary. If you are headed into a campaign, you’re probably setting out to raise five or even ten times more than you’ve ever raised before.
While you’ve got lots to do to get ready, here’s the essential element you’ve got to work on NOW.
Engage People Who Can Give the Largest Gifts!
Yup. It’s that simple. (Ha!)
Without the biggest donors, you won’t have a successful campaign.
Again and again, we learn that organizations haven’t done the best job of staying close and getting to know their largest donors. Perhaps they’re afraid of them. Perhaps they think (falsely) that these people with resources and power won’t want to hear from them.
Whatever causes this problem, you’ve GOT TO FIX THAT if you’re going to have a successful campaign.
Because a successful capital campaign relies on and requires very big gifts from a few (usually 10) people. Even in these days of crowdfunding, you can’t realistically raise big bucks for your organization from thousands of small gifts.
3-Part Plan to Draw Your Largest Donors Closer
Start with sprinkling Fish Food, then invite a Lion’s Pride, and finally Kiss the Ring.
Part 1: Feed the Fish
Fish food, you ask? Yup.
Imagine scattering those little flakes into your fish bowl. What happens? The fish who like that food swim to the top and nibble away.
Start your Major Donor Engagement process by scattering fish food and see who likes the food.
- Identify 50 to 100 people who are major donors in your community. Ideally, many of them should have some connection or expressed interest in what you do. But also include on your list those generous people (and foundations) who tend to give to most campaigns in town. Look… you’ll find some.
- Invite them all to an event to get a preview of what you are planning and to discuss its effects on the community. Invite them with an email and letter from your ED and/or Board Chair.
- Pay close attention to who responds when and how. The people who respond positively and quickly are swimming to the top, indicating their interest.
- If some of your “big fish” respond positively, make sure that you pay special attention to them at the event.
- And finally, follow up, follow up and follow up.
Part 2: Invite the Pride of Lions
The next step is creating a special, hand-selected group (or “pride”) of community leaders in for a special briefing to get their ideas about how your project plays into larger community needs.
Many people who have significant resources won’t respond to a general-group invitation to learn about your project. It’s special if they do, but don’t be disheartened if they don’t. Everyone wants them and they’re busy!
To get them, you need to invite them specifically because they are community leaders.
This works best if you can get one of their “pride” to do the inviting. Ask someone of their ilk who is already in your camp to co-host a small, select meeting. Then be sure to structure your event to get their opinions and thoughts.
Part 3: Kiss the Ring
Finally, you should be “Kissing the Ring.” That’s a phrase Gail uses to indicate that you should honor those donors who can make the biggest difference.
Make a list of your most important donors. Schedule individual meetings with them to let them know what you are up to and to ask for their advice.
Get help setting these visits up from the people on your team who have the closest connections with these donors.
When you take the time to visit the leaders in your community individually, you acknowledge and honor their position and their potential.
Most large donors understand quite well their power and are willing to give you advice. Don’t seek their advice idly, however. Listen carefully to what they suggest. While you don’t have to act on their advice, you do need to consider it fully and find the nuggets that will work for you.
Not One, Not Two, but All Three Strategies
These strategies work together — not one at a time.
Don’t think about feeding the fish and if that doesn’t work, you’ll invite the lions in. And if that doesn’t work, you’ll kiss the rings. If you think about it that way, you’ll see each progressive step as a sign of failure. And that’s a lousy mindset.
Make a plan to do all three strategies.
If you do, you will deepen your engagement with an important segment of your major donors. And that, my friends, will get you ready for a successful campaign.
You’ll find lots of great suggestions about how to engage donors in this list of posts — check it out!
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