So, maybe you have been operating without a plan up until now. And, that is ok, but it is not strategic, and to meet your goals, you need to have a plan that you follow, monitor, and correct if needed.
Here are some simple instructions on how you can quickly create a development plan if you have been operating without one.
Once you have your gift chart created, it will guide your strategies. Take that gift table and think about how you are going to raise your top gifts.
Then break out all the possible fundraising strategies into key categories. Those key categories may be major donors, individual donors, Board giving, special events, corporation and businesses, private grants, government grants, and earned revenue.
Plan on how many you are going to solicit from each category and how i.e. individual donors you may send out a lapsed donor appeal, an annual renewal appeal, and perhaps a prospective donors appeal using direct mail appeal and maybe phone follow-up. Your complete mail out will be close to 1,000. You can even go a step further and calculate the average gift amount if you are able.
From the numbers that you will be soliciting and the calculated average gift amount determine what your estimated income will be. Know or have any expenses, calculate those and subtract them from your expected income, and you have a net income number.
Then the last key element of this plan is to determine when you will complete each strategy by and who is responsible for the strategy i.e. development staff, executive direct, Board of Directors, etc.
Then implement your plan. But, most importantly use this plan as a monthly monitoring tool. Share it at your Management Staff meetings and with your Development Committee or the Board of Directors. If it appears as if you are “off” on projections, make mid-course corrections and adjust your budget.
But, don’t let this sit on a shelf. Get it in action.
You may want to consider putting all of the key plan information in a spreadsheet to have it all in one place. Or you can use a Word document table. Whatever format you use, start with the gift table, develop the plan, keep this plan in a prominent place, share it and monitor it, and make mid-course corrections.
You can’t operate successfully without a plan in place to drive and focus your effort
Then you will be on your way to reaching your yearly fundraising goals.
One may think that there are only a limited number of donors to go around, but think again.
In my work, I assist small to mid-sized organizations in running their first capital campaigns. Many do not have established donor bases to tap into for an already existing pool of major donors. So, I assist. And, I am here to say that yes, you too can, even in your small nonprofit, develop a list of 25 or more possible major donors to your organization.
I am going to take you step by step on how to begin establishing that prospect list for your nonprofit organization and then share with you some next steps on how to prioritize that list.
Here are the steps you can take to develop your prospect master list:
Use informal organizational networks including organizational friends and family members i.e. Board members, staff, volunteers, etc. to identify prospects within their respective networks who have both wealth and affinity for the cause.
Ask your current donors when meeting with them if they know of anyone else who may support the cause.
Research prominent donors to other similar organizations who may be making small gifts to your organizations. It is helpful to obtain copies of their annual reports, newsletters, and even event programs to see the giving levels of the prospective donors. Annual reports may be found online or hard copy by request.
Research who has been attending your events. There are folks here who already know of your mission and may be willing to deepen their relationship with you.
Research others who live in your community who might give to you using voter, property (Grand), the local chamber of commerce, houses of worship, and other lists.
So now what do you do when you have all this information?
Here is what I recommend:
Cull through all these lists to create a Master List of prospects whom you think “make the cut” regarding any possibility of capacity, affinity, or connection.r
Let me define these for you.
Capacity – ability to give
Affinity – philanthropic to a similar cause or interest
Connection – involvement in your organization
Once you have this Master List developed then work with the fundraising/development committee, Board of Directors, or other volunteers (they should know folks in the community) to rate and rank each donor during a rating session to determine potential giving capacity, interest, and affinity.
And, from there you have a Master List of the top 20-25 prospective donors to your organization. Even the smallest of non-profit organizations should be able to come up with a Master List of at least 25 potential donors after following these steps.
So, your consultant has just finished your capital campaign feasibility study. The report is sitting on your desk, and you are wondering, where do I go from here?
Here are some possibilities:
The report may recommend that the organization takes some time to prepare its fundraising infrastructure before going into full campaign mode. Preparation may include things such as strengthening volunteer leadership, identifying campaign chairs, enhancing their fund development office, etc. The organization should take the time to heed these recommendations and work either internally or with the/a consultant to strengthen some of the key identified areas before mounting a full capital campaign effort.
In some cases, the report may recommend that the organization move into full capital campaign mode. In that case, the agency should seek to hire outside counsel either the firm that conducted the feasibility study process or another fundraising firm specializing in capital campaign management.
This report should be presented to the Feasibility Study Committee for review and once accepted by this committee; the committee should then give the report to the organization’s full Board of Directors for approval. Once the Board approves, it should move to act on the recommendation found in the study.
In no shape or form, should this study be allowed to slip away or be placed on a shelf somewhere. Time for action is now. You do not want to lose the interest of donors and other key community members who have been part of the process and in some senses cultivated for a capital campaign effort.
In fact, the organization should share an abbreviated format of the study with these key donors and community members, and seek their opinions and possible engagement in the findings and campaign next steps. The worst thing that can happen is that momentum is built through the study process and then grinds to a halt.
Accept the report, begin recommendation implementation, and engage key stakeholders throughout the process.
I often get asked from my clients, how many touchpoints do you need to give to a donor at a certain level?
And, my answer – it varies.
There is some science to the whole matter. In fact, after I conduct a rating and ranking session, I will combine all of the numbers and come up with a formulaic cultivation quotient. The number of touches estimated for a particular donor’s rating score and ranking.
To me, that is a guide. What we must remember is that each donor is an individual. They have different motivations for giving, different ways that they would like to be recognized, and different things that they are interested in giving to support. And, that means that they all have different cultivation and stewardship needs as well. So, while I could say that the cultivation quotient for Mrs. Smith came out to 20 touches per year, she may not want to be contacted or that involved with the organization.
I advocate that each necessitates a thorough review and a particular strategy custom and unique for them. And, often, it takes a wise fundraiser who has been in conversation with the donor to recognize what is or is not important to them.
Now, I am not advocating that we throw the “moves management” system of relationship-building out. However, what I am recommending instead is that we seriously advocate instead for a very donor-centered process that takes in the uniqueness of each donor into the “moves management” equation when developing strategies for cultivation and stewardship. Let’s not reduce our donors down to formulas, quotients, or tactics. They are people – unique and compassionate!
There are quite a number of groups seeking to test the feasibility of a possible capital campaign.
And, so naturally being a consulting firm catering to small fundraising shops, I tend to get asked to talk about these, and I am currently in the midst of one now.
What I find is that groups think that feasibility studies only test for one thing and that one thing is a financial goal.
I assert that there are many different types of things that a feasibility study tests for as a result. Financial goals being just one. In fact, more importantly, feasibility studies look at both internal and external perceptions and find areas of opportunities and challenges for an upcoming campaign. Things such as “what about that large endowment the organization has?” or “it doesn’t have strong fundraising leadership?” or “you need to ensure that so and so is on board and committed to launching a full-scale effort.”
Through a feasibility study, a group also finds out about potential campaign leadership, which by the way, can make or break a proposed capital campaign, other competing campaigns currently or just recently completed within the same community, and potential prospective donors to a capital campaign. Also, a capital campaign feasibility study will unearth the general economic outlook both nationally and locally and how will that impact the success of a capital campaign.
So, as you can see, a feasibility study done correctly will provide lots of data that can then be used to refine the case for support, determine if it is time for the organization to mount a significant campaign, and what is the recommend campaign plan based upon findings as part of the study. Oh, yes, and what fundraising goal will be feasible.
If you or your group is considering an upcoming capital campaign, I urge you NOT to skimp on the process of conducting a feasibility study. You will learn more than just – can this campaign make a go of it. You will find out exactly how much and how it can or cannot!
What? That seems like something so mundane. Well, it may be, but it is so critical to fundraising.
Throughout my professional career, I have been victim to bad databases, and I have been asked to work with bad databases.
One thing is for sure, without an initial thought out structure, problems are inevitable. I often come into organizations that have no rhyme or reason as to what they call their Campaigns, Funds, and Approaches. You know, one year it is called Spring Appeal 2016, and the next it is labeled the Mother’s Day Appeal.
Consistency is key. I see so much inconsistency that why bother having a database, to begin with at all. The way names are entered i.e. Mr. and Mrs. Smith or Bob and Laura or even Robin and Smitty or Robin & Smitty.
It drives me mad.
Having a database procedural manual developed with consistent data entry standards specified is critical. How do you pass this institutional information along when staff transition or do you? Do you let them sink or swim?
Hey, garbage in is only garbage out.
The most important thing is the question of who has access to this database? Who does the main gift entry? Moreover, I pray that your answer is a development staff person. Please, do not say that it is a member of the finance department, or even worse, a volunteer or an intern.
Provide those using the database with training in the software itself and budget for it every year. Moreover, don’t think that a cost saving is ignoring software updates and the resulting costs.
I cannot stress enough how important the database is to your fundraising efforts. It will allow you to be donor-centered in your work regarding recognizing donors and their giving the exact way that they want to be recognized. It lets you accurately report on giving and make comparisons that will affect the future of your fundraising efforts, and it will allow you to become more strategic in your endeavors through segmentation and greater personalization.In all of my career if I had to answer the question of “What impacts the success of fundraising THE most, besides the Board, of course,” I would have to answer, the database.
Moreover, folks EXCEL is not a database; it is a spreadsheet tool used by those in the finance department. Please don’t say that you cannot afford a database. Some great databases are available for a very fair and affordable price.
Pay close attention to your database – this is the brain behind your efforts.
Development Consulting Solutions is announcing NEW interim and project-based service offerings:
Who is “DCS”? There are limited Certified Fund-Raising Executives (CFRE) providing outsourced fund development services and serving as interim fund development staffing. What most organizations need is someone who can do the work for them!
“DCS” recognizes this need and has provided this service to a variety of small to mid-sized nonprofits throughout the New England region. Some of these nonprofits have included Malta House of Norwalk, CT, Friends of Buttonwood Park of New Bedford, MA, and United Methodist Elder Care of East Providence, RI.
“DCS’s mission” “DCS” does not engage with everyone! We have a rigorous eligibility requirement and screening process and only work with four select clients at a time.
What are our requirements? We only work with small to mid-sized organizations that are ready, receptive, and willing to take their development program to the next level through outsourced assistance. These organizations have an engaged Board of Directors, an open-minded and willing staff, and leadership ready to support the organization.
We only work with organizations that are willing to invest in their development function, value established service costs, heed professional advice, and strategy, and act respectfully in the client and consultant relationship.
By selecting those clients most ready to embark on taking their organization to the next level, “DCS” provides you with the tools and staffing to raise more money in support of mission!
To provide outsourced development expertise to organizations that do not want to hire someone in-house.
To assist busy executive directors with taking a few things off their plates.
To reassure donors during a transition or vacancy in your development office that your fundraising efforts will continue
If time is needed to do a search for a permanent development director, and you do not want to be rushed to make a selection
When you are seeking a new executive director and you want to be sure that this leader has an opportunity to select the permanent development director
Because as interim development director, I can have more candid conversations with the executive director, board, and other leaders about why there are problems with keeping development staff or staff is underperforming
When your organization has never had a development director and needs an experienced professional with a proven track record to start up the development office and pave the way for a more junior development officer to be successful.
Here is what “DCS” can do for you:
Assess current fundraising activities and make recommendations to improve strategy
Improve your fundraising efforts
Model what a good development officer does
Enhance systems and processes within the development office
Troubleshoot development problems
Coach the Executive Director and Board in fundraising to boost confidence and skill
Help with the hire of a permanent development director
“DCS” helps with:
Direct Mail Appeals
Development print publications – your newsletter, annual report, brochures, etc.
A question that I am asked a bit. When can our capital campaign go public? When can we put a thermometer out on our lawn? When can we start to ask our constituents and the general community? When can we have a special event and invite everyone?
The all important question, “is it time?”
My answer? Not until you have a certain number of lead gifts in hand. And, not before you have your institutional family committed to the campaign – folks like your Board of Directors, staff members, Campaign Steering Committee members, and your leadership donors.
Only when you have the majority of lead and family gifts in, is it time to broaden the focus and extend the solicitation process to more prospects through a more public campaign. Some say that you should have at least 50-70% of the entire gifts needed for the campaign in hand. But, one thing is for sure, the “Quiet” Phase is that indeed – quiet. There is no general advertising of the campaign or overall campaign fanfare.
Once you have a significant number of advanced gifts in hand, it is at this juncture that you should plan a campaign kickoff celebration event to aid in your project going “public.” This “public” phase is when the work of soliciting the organization’s broader constituency begins.
Then and only then should you put that “Community Thermometer” in the ground and start having your special shindig events.
So, is it time to go public – maybe or maybe not. It all depends upon the science of campaigns and it is not something that you want to rush.
Best practices. We hear that phrase often. This week, I even read a question asking if “best practices were misleading?”
Are we throwing that phrase around to legitimize our field? Our do we have best practices and what are they?
Well, I contend that the only true best practice is one that is grounded in research. Those are harder to find that than the other so-called “best practices.”
While studying for my Masters Degree in Philanthropy and Fund Development, I learned that philanthropic research has many gaps. However, there are people now making a study of philanthropy and conducting research. Folks like Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang. More research is needed in our field to support our work.
I can tell you that when research is grounded in actual studies, it works. Eye motion studies, philanthropic psychology, etc., etc.
Recently, I have been working on many appeal letters. And, each time I craft one for the client, I get pushback. Why do you indent paragraphs? Why do you repeat yourself often? Why is there bold and underline? Do we need to include a P.S.? And, can’t the letter just fit on one page? Must we send more than one appeal?
Pushback that is unfounded. And, I push back with research. When the client allows me to use those best practices, the results speak for themselves.
When those results speak for themselves, it is magic. Campaigns get funded, new projects begin, and donors have the opportunity to make a greater impact.
We forget that the fact (and it is a fact) that we are not beggars. Donors want to give. And, to give, they must be asked. Asked in a way that moves them to feel connected to their core beliefs through your organization’s mission.
Know the difference between unfounded best practices and best practices backed by scientific research. Read blogs, stay current with trends, and keep furthering your informal and formal education. When you do, and you practice it, your results will show all the difference.
Fund development does have a researched body of knowledge. Don’t allow anyone to convince you that it does not.
What, wait, we hired that Capital Campaign Consultant to run the campaign, and now you are telling me that I have to do something. No, this can’t be possible.
Yep! It would be unrealistic to think that a capital campaign is left up to the staff to manage. How could they? The staff doesn’t have access to donors and to peer networks? A campaign is not a one, or two, or even three person job. It is even more unrealistic to think that now the capital campaign consultant is in town, no one needs to do anything period.
So, I know you’re shaking in fear that you might have to ask for money. Well, yes, you may. But, that is not your only role in a capital campaign.
When running a capital campaign, I meet with each of my campaign’s Board of Directors and review the Campaign Plan, goal, schedule, gift chart, and Case for Support. I insist that they vote to approve these primary campaign documents.
And, I also share with them a Board commitment form that I have each and every one of them sign and date.
Board members have many responsibilities to a campaign. Below is my top ten list of capital campaign responsibilities and what I expect them to commit to:
Not taking on any major new volunteer roles for other organizations and consider how to pare down current obligations and be accessible to the campaign.
Review their philanthropic planning for the next year and perhaps beyond, as well as their calendars for those years.
Consider what role they could and would like to play in the campaign. Every board member will be responsible for some part of the campaign and will be engaged in identifying and enlisting campaign committee members.
Review their list of contacts – friends, neighbors, business associates – and carefully consider which of them may be interested in learning more about the organization.
Review and approve the capital campaign plan as recommended by the capital campaign planning committee.
Make a “stretch” gift to the campaign. Board members will all support the Annual Fund campaign each year in addition to supporting the capital campaign. All board members will participate financially in the campaign – to the best of their ability. The board will be the first to give. It is essential that other donors see 100% percent participation of the board. It shows them that the board has the utmost faith, confidence, and enthusiasm for the organization.
Ensure that contribution are used well and according to donor intent.
Read all materials given to them by the organization and the campaign. Members of the community – donors, clients, friends, neighbors, etc. – will turn to the members of the board for guidance and information.
Be an advocate for the organization, to the best of their ability, in the local and the wider community. Help expand the organization’s influence and exposure throughout the community by:
o Securing the sponsorship of a community group to support the campaign.
o Recruiting a speaker, host, or sponsor for a special event.
o Arranging tours of the organization for interested individuals, corporations, foundations or others.
o Hosting an event at their home, place of business or community organization.
o Endorsing a solicitation made by the campaign leaders, either by phone or by letter.
o Setting aside at least 20-30 minutes weekly to plan how to help the organization’s campaign.
o Thanking donors and staying in touch keeping them informed of the project plans.
o Evaluating the success of the campaign to determine strengths, areas of improvement and effectiveness of board policies and decisions.
So, I have a niche somewhat of assisting smaller nonprofits with their capital campaigns.
This niche can be challenging because many of these groups have not had an ongoing, comprehensive fund development program in the past. However, working on these smaller campaigns can also be very satisfying because I can help them use this campaign to begin to develop these efforts. I take those campaigns that a lot of other consultants won’t touch! Many while not having a sustainable donor base to build from, often needs a campaign without doing the preliminary feasibility study. They need the money, and the campaign must go on.
In the process, there is one thing that I have come to realize. The capital campaign steering committee is an absolute must. And, for these smaller groups, it becomes the backbone of their campaign. In forming this committee correctly, the group has the potential to propel the campaign forward. Without this group, it may flounder.
And, this group can’t include just anyone. It needs to include folks that can open doors to others have known networks, and believe in the cause. They hold some of these smaller campaigns in the palm of their hand.
Without having a known, loyal donor base, this committee can introduce the campaign to a wider net of contacts who may be interested in learning more about the case. They can leverage their networks to build relationships with, the can act as ambassadors for this campaign, and they can help, to ultimately build this organization’s future.
Not only that, this group can serve as a “feeder” system to the larger organization’s Board of Directors introducing them to a pool of prospective Board members who have deepened their engagement within the group.
Far too many smaller groups gloss over the importance of the who on this committee. And, by glossing over the who, they are, in essence, glossing over what it takes to be successful in raising money for a capital campaign. Let’s face it, without a loyal donor base, who else and how else are they going to get access to building one.
I purport that a committee group of connected individuals means success. And, don’t settle for anyone who says less because they are just fooling you into believing that you can pull this stuff out of thin air.