To have a successful campaign, you need literal and figurative buy-in from donors and supporters. And to get buy-in from donors, you’ll need a BIG, bold vision.

During a campaign, you’ll ask donors to consider giving more than they’ve ever given. For them to give a meaningful gift, they will need to be inspired by your vision for the future.

4 Questions to Help Determine Your Big, Bold Vision

Before you start soliciting gifts for your campaign, you’ll want to answer the following questions:

  1. Would donors be excited about your idea and vision? Does it matter?
  2. Why would donors consider a bigger investment than they’ve ever given to your organization?
  3. How will your community look and feel different after the campaign?
  4. What can donors expect their impact to be? Will their gift really make a difference?

Without a big, bold, specific vision, your donors will not get excited enough to give to a significant and meaningful gift.

Anniversaries are Reasons to Celebrate; Not to Give Big

Nonprofit leaders often get the idea to have a campaign around a milestone anniversary. For example, someone decides it’s a good idea to raise $25 Million for their 25th anniversary.

Unfortunately, there are a few key problems with that idea.

Anniversaries don’t motivate donors

First and foremost, while it may be exciting to you that your organization is 25 years old, it’s not motivating to donors. Sure, some donors will give a small gift in honor of an anniversary celebration, but it’s not a sufficient reason for them to dig deep or give big.

Anniversaries look backward, not forward

Second, an anniversary celebration looks back at what your organization has accomplished but doesn’t necessarily focus on what the future holds. In other words, anniversaries look backwards while campaigns are about the future and looking ahead.

If you are going to have a campaign coincide with an anniversary, it’s important to make sure the focus is on the future of your organization — not the past.

Motivation to Give: Arm Twisting or Inspiration?

When we speak to board members, we often talk about the importance of changing their language and their mindset when it comes to fundraising.

Many volunteers and staff members feel fundraising is about twisting arms and guilting donors into making gifts. This leads to bad fundraising, because you might be able to guilt a donor into making a one-time small gift, but that certainly won’t work for a subsequent or larger gift.

Instead, encourage board and staff members to consider how they can inspire a donor to make a gift.

In other words, rather than making a donor feel guilty, they should get donors excited about what they can help accomplish and the good that they can make possible.

The large scale of campaign fundraising and major gifts provide the opportunity to make a real difference. Donors want to make gifts they can be excited about and feel proud of. You should inspire them to make gifts they will want to tell their friends about. Giving in that way feels fantastic!

Does your organization have a bold vision that inspires big gifts?

Focus on Benefits, Not Features

When I was raising funds for Rutgers University, I scheduled a meeting with a big prospective donor at one of the libraries on campus. I wanted him to see how outdated the library had become and discuss the vision for a library of the future.

When I met with the library director to prepare for the donor visit, she had displayed all the paint and carpet samples on the conference room table. Although technically the donor would be paying for paint and carpet, the new library was so much more than that.

Benefits paint the bigger picture

The library director was focusing on features rather than benefits. At my urging, we put away the paint and carpet samples. And when the donor arrived, we were able to talk about the bigger vision for the library.

  • We talked about how a library for the 21st century didn’t need space for card catalogues but needed places for students to work individually and in small groups.
  • Next, we discussed how students were using the library differently. We painted a picture of students coming to the library as a respite for peace and quiet from the hustle and bustle of campus life.

Ours was going to be a library for today’s students — to be place where they wanted to come study and congregate.

Big, Bold Visions Are the Heart of Capital Campaigns

Coming up with a big, bold vision takes time and planning. It’s probably not something you’ll be able to articulate in a single meeting or come up with on your own. But often capital campaigns grow out of big ideas that move an organization forward.

Those big, exciting ideas about how an organization might invest in the future makes campaigns among the most effective kind of fundraising. That’s one of the reasons that organizations should invest in a capital campaign every 5-10 years.

Planning for your next campaign

If your organization hasn’t had a campaign for ten years or more, perhaps it’s time for you to consider developing a plan to move your organization to the next level of operation. Then use that plan to fuel a capital campaign and inspire your largest donors to give special, meaningful gifts.

And if you need a hand planning for your next campaign, sign up for a free strategy session with one of our campaign experts. We’ll help you get started on the right foot.


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