One of the characteristics of most successful capital campaigns is that they ask for gifts from the “top-down, and inside-out.”
That’s shorthand for saying that you’ve got to solicit the people who can give the largest gifts first and the people who have been most involved with your organization and your campaign—that is the campaign committee members and the board.
The Power of an Outside Voice
Yesterday, I had a coaching call with one of my smaller clients. They are just getting ready to start soliciting gifts. The 8-member campaign committee was gathered around a table and my voice was coming out of an iPhone strategically placed in the middle of the table. Sometimes in my virtual coaching role I think of myself as the Wizard of Oz—a disembodied voice.
And if you’ll recall, the Wizard of Oz had great power to convince people when he was just a voice. He could offer courage and heart and intelligence all from behind the screen.
Now, you might think of him as a charlatan, but really, his power was helping the Lion and the Tin Man and the Scarecrow believe they could become the individuals they wanted to be.
What I’ve learned from my virtual coaching is that as a disembodied voice, I can say things that are hard for people in the room to say. And they tend to believe me!
I can tell a group straight up, that before they go out to ask others for money, they should make sure that each of them has made a generous gift.
And that’s just what I did yesterday.
And it worked.
How a Small Campaign Committee Stepped Up
My coaching time with them concluded at the end of the hour, but they continued to meet. And that night, I got an email from the campaign chair saying that one member of the group had stepped forward with a big gift to the campaign. In addition, they had decided on an approach for tying down the rest of the gifts.
At their request, I sent a sample pledge form to the campaign chair. He will adapt it and send a copy to each of the committee members, asking them to fill it out and return it to him within the week. He will offer to meet individually with committee members to discuss their gifts. If committee members don’t send their completed pledge forms back by the end of the week, he will call them and schedule a time to meet.
I would prefer a system that encourages direct conversations about gifts with every committee member. That way, the solicitor can suggest a specific giving level and that is always helpful and raises more money.
But for this group, many of whom are not experienced fundraisers, I think this simpler, and perhaps politically safer version will work well.
Six Keys to Soliciting Your Campaign Committee
Here are six key points to keep in mind as you get ready to start asking for gifts from your campaign committee.
- Give Them an Early Heads Up
Make sure committee members know when they are recruited to help that they will be asked to make early gifts to the campaign.
- Tap an Outside Voice
Your consultant or coach will be able to discuss committee member contributions more easily than someone on the committee can.
- Make It a Group Effort
Involve the committee in developing a plan for tying down gifts from each of them. A plan that they agree on will be more successful than any approach developed on the outside and imposed on them.
- Show Them Everything
Make sure that everyone on the committee has seen the gift range chart, the case for support and the gift range chart as those are the tools that will help them determine their gifts.
- Approach Largest Donors in Private
If possible, quietly ask the largest donors on the committee to give first, leading the way for the rest.
Make sure you celebrate with the committee when everyone on the committee has made their gift. Full participation is more important in this situation than the collective dollar amount. Though, of course, if some of your lead donors are on the committee, the dollars may well be impressive too!
It’s tempting to think that this process will take care of itself ... that every committee member will take the high road and make a contribution without being asked. But that’s seldom what happens. And if you’re managing a campaign, it’s your job to make sure that committee members are solicited in a way that will tie down each of their gifts in the early stage of the campaign.
This post has been reprinted with permission from the Capital Campaign Masters blog. Andrea Kihlstedt is one of the foremost writers and speakers on capital campaign fundraising. Her book Capital Campaigns, Strategies That Work, now in its fourth edition, is one of the primary texts in the field. Her firm, Capital Campaign Masters, helps organizations in the very early stages of planning capital campaigns through online materials and virtual coaching.