In my work with organizations around the country, I find that one of the biggest obstacles to fundraising success is groups' inability to mobilize diverse people in the organization to participate in fundraising activities. Staff and board members come to trainings to learn the skills and strategies, but only a handful of people end up actually doing any fundraising work. As consultants like me make their living trying to entice board members and others to participate in fundraising, we often leave out the bigger picture — the need to integrate fundraising and program work.
Most of us are familiar with the scenario above by which a promising donor prospect delivers a far less than expected (and respected) gift. By deferring a gift commitment under proscribed circumstances, you can often increase (even double) your prospect's level of charitable support. Asking for a major gift is only half the equation; you must be prepared to respond appropriately to close a gift at the highest possible level.
What’s the most effective way to raise money? Special events, direct mail, phone calls? The reality that many board members of nonprofit organizations often find difficult to confront is that face-to-face visits remain the most effective strategy for fundraising, far outpacing special events, direct mail and telephone calls. Personal visits for fundraising fall into three main categories: discovery, cultivation, and solicitation. My family and I enjoy visiting a South Texas museum and observing the enthusiasm and energy of younger visitors. On Saturday mornings, you’ll see many children lining up to participate in the museum’s Treasure Hunt. This popular activity for children and families sends participants scurrying through every part of the museum to find answers to questions related to the dazzling and informative displays. In addition to more knowledge about science and history, the finishers receive prizes. Discovery visits with donors interested in your organization resemble the Treasure Hunt, although the stakes are higher. The key to a donor Treasure Hunt is to search and uncover donors with values compatible with your mission and your organization. When donors make a gift to your organization, they are saying in a very tangible way that your mission reflects their values. As shared values between you and your donor increase, so also does giving. Why should you conduct discovery visits? Many organizations lack a clear understanding of the values of their donors—the information they have now doesn't give a clear picture of the donor’s philanthropic interests and how those interests might be fulfilled by the organization’s own values, vision, and strategic plans. Thus, discovery visits provide an enjoyable and highly productive way to identify a donor’s giving priorities and values and learn how the interests of both the donor and the organization can be realized. Discovery visits accomplish three objectives:
There comes a time in an endowment campaign when the initial urgency of the need inherent in the campaign's case for support begins to fade. The excitement of the kickoff, anticipation of success as the personal solicitations begin, the first promising results --- can go for naught if the campaign goes on too long. As an organization's endowment campaign begins to extend well into its second year of actual solicitation activity, volunteers begin to grow tired and donors will not believe there is a real and immediate need for their money. Invariably, campaigns of this type slow, stall, and sometimes fail because the management and implementation of the campaign plan were not well organized. The key to successfully completing an endowment campaign on or before its established and public deadline is, in a word, organization.
Everyone knows someone who is capable of making a major gift. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard trustees and volunteers tell me they don’t know anyone capable of a gift of $25,000 or more. Images are conjured up of mansions, exotic sports cars, and lavish lifestyles. “I don’t run in those circles,” they tell me. According to The Millionaire Next Door (Stanley and Danko, 1996)—most millionaires don’t either.