You’re about to meet a donor that any capital campaign would welcome with open arms. The Rev. Alanson B. Houghton years ago “retired” from the Episcopal priesthood to the coast of South Carolina. There he keeps busy with activities for nonprofit organizations including the YMCA and United Way.
Alan has several valuable assets: he’s a doer, a veteran capital and annual campaigner (along with being a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps), and an experienced donor. In his most recent activity, he has been the chair of the Leadership Division of the “Our Hope for Today…and Tomorrow” campaign for the Georgetown County (SC) Family YMCA, where CDS Senior Campaign Director, D.C. Dreger, ACFRE, served. Alan, a founding member of the Y board of directors, was part of the solicitation team for numerous leadership gifts in addition to being a leadership donor.
Alan has written a statement meant to be read by people on both sides of the donor equation. His words come from his own experiences and from his heart. You’ll see the value he brings to capital campaign fundraising. -Ed.
Money doesn't grow on trees nor does it drop off like leaves in the fall! If we need monetary contributions to help a worthy cause we must ask for them—be it for a church or a charity or a community or public endeavor.
We must be bold and forthright in our asking. People cannot read our minds or sense the feelings of our hearts unless we are open and direct. If we really believe in the enterprise, and have given money ourselves, then our request will ring loud and true. We must be specific with our question as well as with a suggested amount.
If I ask you to give “something,” you'll do just that and it will be the smallest amount you think you can get away with without ruining our friendship, or your reputation! But if I ask you to match what I’ve given or a specific amount I think you’re capable of giving, then I challenge and inspire you to dig deeper. No one is insulted by being asked, or for being asked for more than they might be able to afford to give. Believe me.
The “best in the business” are (1) those who believe in something deeply enough (2) to be able and willing to sell it, and (3) are then willing to call on their peers and “ask for the order,” and (4) last but not least, to use their credit, i.e.: if I ask you to help me, I must expect you to ask me to help you at some later date. Bob Duke, one of the gurus in the charitable giving field, taught me these four principles.
He also reminded those of us he worked with that asking for money was really exposing people to new arenas, and giving people an opportunity to reach beyond themselves—to “do the extraordinary.” In other words, it is a privilege to expose others to facets of our common life that they may have overlooked. And it’s a privilege to ask them to join in common cause for the common good. We’re really doing them a favor!
They may say “no” but that's okay. You can ask them again and the next time you may be pleasantly surprised. You may eventually determine that they are not interested; therefore you must move on to someone else. Yes, it’s tough asking for money but it’s also a chance to underline what you believe in as well as giving others a way of “buying in.” Often they don't know what's out there unless you tell them! You are the messenger.
The reverse side of this coin is what you do when you receive the money, the gift, the offering of a human being, for the church or the charity or the community or public endeavor. You say “Thank you.” Period!! You say it in person, and by phone and by pen.
Eight letters—a mere breath—yet so many fail to breathe them, say them, write them, use them in appreciation for what has been offered or given. I cannot understand the failure or the hesitation to tell someone that you are grateful for what has been given, and at your request! Why the silences?
A simple “thank you” is the minimum response in thanksgiving for whatever has been offered. It reinforces the instincts of the giver, and it reminds the receiver that what has been given is also the gift of someone’s heart.
So it’s not “if” to say thank you, but how? A call and a note are minimum responses to any gift. It takes so little time, yet means so much. But more than that it reminds us who have asked for help that we have been taken seriously, and we who have given that our gift really means something. Silence is not golden here. In fact it can turn gold into ashes overnight.
St. Paul reminds us that God loves a cheerful giver. I agree! But what ensures such cheerfulness will continue, and that the giver might give again, could well be those eight letters, that mere breath—Thank you!
Custom Development Solutions, Inc., (CDS) is among the most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada. If you have a fundraising question, please call CDS at 800-761-3833 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.