One of the keys to a successful capital campaign is to treat every major gift solicitation as a mini-campaign unto itself. Each prospect must receive an individualized approach. Adequate preparation must be invested in each request to create the greatest chance for success. A big part of that work is putting together a case for support: why is the campaign being conducted and what are the objectives. Understanding what specific points will motivate a particular prospect allows you to tailor your presentation and printed materials to each individual.
In preparation for major solicitations, each proposal must be crafted to resonate with that particular prospect. This should be reflected in the knowledge of the solicitors as well as the nature of the packet of materials presented to the prospect. Campaigns often cover several major line items. What is the centerpiece to one person may be marginal at best to another. The success of a solicitation can hinge upon the specific packaging and emphasis of the materials.
The prospect will essentially receive the case statement in two different ways: verbally, during the solicitation; and, in writing, through printed materials that are left behind after the meeting. Of these, the verbal aspect is probably the most compelling. Major gifts are emotional decisions, and the heartstrings are best tugged when the solicitation team is in the room with the prospect.
Careful consideration should be given to those aspects of the case that are most important to the prospect. This information can be gathered from a number of different sources: the prospect’s connection to the organization, and the programs with which they most often intersect; anecdotal conversations with friends and colleagues of the prospect, including the organization’s staff; or, a feasibility study interview with the prospect themselves. From these sources you should be able to glean two or three key points that will strike a chord with the prospect. Make sure to incorporate those into the verbal presentation so that you have the prospect in the proper frame of mind when the request is put forward. Likewise, you may uncover a few points that you definitely want to avoid during the presentation. Sometimes knowing what not to say is as important as knowing what to say.
The other manner in which the case for support is presented is through the printed materials that are left behind following the meeting. There is not quite as much flexibility in this area as there is in the verbal presentation. Obviously, the oral component can be completely rewritten for each prospect. The printed materials will center around a campaign brochure which, for logistical and budgetary reasons, must be mass produced. However, there are still ways to customize the printed materials.
The most common way to individualize the printed materials is to include some slip-sheets with additional information about a specific component important to that prospect. For instance, our company is working with a campground that serves a wide geographic area. It is not practical to dedicate part of the campaign brochure to each and every region. The campaign may focus on the top two or three areas, and then a slip-sheet may be used for prospects in other parts of the region. How many constituents does the organization have in that area? How are they served? What sort of assistance do they receive? These issues may be too minute for the overall brochure, but critical to motivating a specific prospect.
At the highest levels, proposals often include even more complex presentations. A major corporate solicitation may warrant a unique PowerPoint presentation, outlining the different features of a recognition plan for their gift. Naming opportunities also present an opportunity for additional materials. One tried and true tactic is to have an architect create a special rendering of a new building that incorporates the potential donor’s name on the front of the building. This can be a powerful motivator, as the individual literally sees their name up in lights, and it makes a great keepsake after the gift is closed. If these extraordinary steps seem excessive, ask yourself what sort of investment is worthwhile for a return of $500,000 or $1,000,000.
Fundraising efforts rely upon a few key leadership donors to carry a disproportionate amount of the load. Those prospects warrant careful consideration and a highly tailored approach. When a presentation is well crafted, and speaks to the values and concerns of a specific prospect, the chances for success increase dramatically. Stringing together a series of such well-prepared solicitations builds a successful campaign.
Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) is one of 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 email@example.com.