Leadership gifts, or lack of them, can make or break your capital campaign. Those are the top ten gifts on your donor pyramid (or gift range chart). Generally, those top ten gifts get you to approximately 50% (or more) of your campaign goal.
If you don’t receive one of the gifts at the top of your gift pyramid, the campaign becomes significantly harder, and you are less likely to raise the goal you’re working toward.
That’s why it’s critical to successfully solicit leadership level gifts.
Leadership Level Giving is Critical to a Successful Capital Campaign
Of course, I don’t mean to imply that if you don’t get every gift you ask for, you won’t have a successful campaign. Proper campaign planning ensures you have more than one prospective donor for each gift you need. Assuming you do have more potential donors than gifts you need to succeed, it’s a good place to start.
That being said, you will need to solicit leadership level gifts — and a lot of them — if you’re going to have a successful campaign.
The challenge is that most nonprofit leaders are intimidated by the idea of asking for major gifts. And capital campaign leadership level gifts bring that fear to a whole new level. When raising the top gifts for your campaign, so much is on the line.
5 Strategies to Overcome the Fear of Asking for Leadership Campaign Gifts
Do not panic. If you’re afraid to ask for really big gifts, you are not alone. Here are five strategies to overcome your fear of asking for leadership level gifts.
1. Schedule Pre-Solicitation Meetings
Your biggest potential campaign donors should be well-acquainted with your campaign long before you ask for a gift. This naturally happens during the feasibility study phase of your campaign (when you share your plans and ask for feedback).
A Guided Feasibility Study (whereby the nonprofit leaders of your organization conduct the conversations/interviews) is the perfect opportunity to start getting comfortable with important donor conversations.
2. Listen More, Talk Less
Whenever you have a meeting with a donor, prepare to ask questions and answer questions. Don’t prepare a “presentation.” This will take a lot of the pressure off, because you’re not there to give a pitch — you’re there to listen.
Remember, this meeting is all about having a conversation centered on what your donor cares about and how that intersects with the work you’re doing. Asking good questions will help uncover similarities and opportunities.
3. Admit You’re Afraid
There’s no reason to pretend this isn’t scary. Telling the donor you’re excited but nervous about this conversation may defuse some of the anxiety you’re feeling. Your donor is likely anxious too. After all, they have no idea what you’re going to ask for or if they will be able to help.
You might say something like:
I’ve never been involved in a campaign of this size before. I’m out of my comfort zone and I hope you’ll bear with me as we discuss what this campaign needs and your potential role.
4. Think Beyond Cash
Most large campaign gifts are made with assets — not directly from cashflow (checks or credit cards). That means you should be prepared to help your donor think about using assets to make a larger gift than they might ordinarily make. Campaign gifts are often made with appreciated stock, personal property, real estate, and retirement funds.
While you’re not an expert in these financial areas, you can refer donors to their own financial advisors, accountants, and lawyers to help think through the possibility of a larger gift.
5. Ask Anyway
If you’ve ever asked someone to marry you or asked for a raise, it’s likely you were afraid. But you did it anyway. Asking for a large campaign gift is no different.
In order to accomplish your vision, you need to be bold. Face your fear of asking and do it anyway. Some people will say “no” or give smaller gifts than you hoped for, and that’s okay. If you believe in the vision, do the proper planning, and ask the right people, I promise that more donors will say “yes” than will say “no.”
You Don’t Have to Go It Alone
Only one thing is for sure — if you don’t ask, you won’t have a successful campaign. You cannot do a capital campaign through direct mail and events. You will have to ask for leadership level and major gifts in a personal way.
The good news is you don’t have to do it alone. The Capital Campaign Toolkit has a team of experienced campaign advisors who can coach you every step of the way.