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The case study below was drawn from an interview with Capital Campaign Toolkit Advisor, Kent Stroman. In the interview Kent discussed the process one of his Toolkit clients used to achieve full and generous financial participation in the campaign.

To protect the confidentiality of the board members and organization, we have not used the names of the organization or board members.

The Situation: An Organization with Lackluster Board Giving

When Kent began working with this organization, he realized that the board was made up of very compassionate people who believed strongly in the mission. But, as Kent said:

The board members lived up to what was expected of them. And generous financial contributions had never been among the expectations.

So, Kent knew that he would have some work to do to motivate board members to give as generously as they could.

Kent teamed up with the board chair who was new to her role and amenable to Kent’s guidance.

They began by reviewing the current philanthropic expectations of the board. The policy was written that every board member should “give OR get” a specific amount. Kent began by setting out two goals for campaign giving.

Holding Firm on 100% Board Participation

First, working with the board chair, Kent brought up the topic of full board participation. He explained that unless the board was fully committed, the chances of a successful campaign were limited.

Kent spoke about the importance of leading by example and his belief that full participation was non-negotiable. The board chair asked for and received concurrence from the board.

Getting Around the Existing Board Giving Policy

Though Kent didn’t like the “give OR get” policy, he decided not push to change it. Instead, he asked that for the campaign, the organization adopt a “gift AND get” policy.

To Kent’s way of thinking, changing the existing policy would likely take time they didn’t have and any change in official policy might get bogged down in discussion. The existing policy didn’t prevent high performance, it just inhibited it. So, Kent took the simpler approach of putting good practices in place without changing the standing policies.

Board Management of the Giving Process

Kent made it very clear that the task of soliciting the board was NOT a staff role. And he went on the record telling the board that the performance of the board must be handled by the board itself.

With that approach, the board began to accept responsibility for their giving patterns.

Setting Expectations for Individual Board Gifts

Board members wanted to know how much they would be expected to give. That was a topic that created some anxiety. Kent and the board chair made it clear that it wasn’t their place to determine the giving level for any board member. However, they spelled out the following guidelines:

In ordinary times, board members should consider the organization to be among their top 3-5 charitable interests. But during extraordinary times of crisis or opportunity, board members are encouraged to bump up their giving to be in their top 3 priorities.

Using that simple approach to help board members decide what to give, the board chair asked every board member to elevate their charitable giving to the organization for the campaign, placing their giving in their top-tier of priorities.

Asking for Gifts and Setting a Deadline

Once the expectations and guidelines had been established, the board chair was ready to ask for gifts:

  • At a board meeting, she handed out a simple one-page response document developed specifically for campaign gifts.
  • She reviewed the document, pointing out that board members could make pledges over as many as three years.
  • She set a specific date, three weeks later, by which time all gifts and pledges should be committed.
  • Then, three days ahead of the deadline, she followed up with emails and phone calls with board members who had not yet responded.

Reaching 100% the Other Way

The board did reach 100% participation, but not quite in the way you might imagine. As Kent often says:

There are two ways to get to 100% and both require a signature. One is a signature on a pledge form, the other is a signature on a letter of resignation.

And this board did have a long-overdue resignation. When the chair met with the person who hadn’t yet given, he told her that he knew he was underperforming as a board member and he should step down. She graciously accepted his resignation.

Setting a New Standard for Board Giving

As it turned out, the board collectively gave more than $1,000,000 — an amount that exceeded 10% of the campaign goal. That was many times more than that board had ever given and far more than anyone had anticipated.

What’s more, the board members themselves were delighted and proud of their success!

Celebrating Their Success

At the very next board meeting, the campaign chair planned a celebration complete with party poppers, a champagne toast and genuine expressions of appreciation. And that’s a great way to end such an important chapter in any capital campaign.

3 Comments

  1. Derry Deringer

    Super article. I will use these approaches with a current client. I know this is asking a lot, but I’d love to see a generic example of this doc.

    “At a board meeting, she handed out a simple one-page response document developed specifically for campaign gifts.”

    Reply
  2. Andy Robinson

    “There are two ways to get to 100% and both require a signature. One is a signature on a pledge form, the other is a signature on a letter of resignation.”

    Wow! I am appreciating how a capital campaign is also a “productive turnover” opportunity for the board.

    Reply
  3. Maura Byrnes

    Well done!

    We can tell people they will feel great about making a “Big Gulp” campaign gift, but it only becomes real and powerfully meaningful once they actually make their commitment.

    I love that this milestone was celebrated!

    Reply

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