When it became clear the Pandemic wasn’t going away anytime soon, Andrea and I knew we needed to do something drastic to help nonprofits in need.
We decided to apply a capital campaign fundraising strategy to condensed “mini-campaigns” designed to raise critically needed funds.
A Closer Look at the Success of Mini-Campaigns
Normally, capital campaigns aren’t about raising money quickly. However, desperate times call for desperate measures.
We put together a program that included all the best practices of capital campaign fundraising and smooshed it into an 8-week period. That meant focusing only on the highest potential donors. There simply wasn’t time to find new donors or build relationships.
The campaign’s success or failure would hinge on less than 20 donors (which is actually true of most capital campaigns, regardless of the goal or timeframe).
Once we had a bare-bones outline, we extended an invitation to our followers to participate.
Participation in the Trial Program
Participation wasn’t free. The investment was $2,500 with the opportunity to raise $100K or more. Not a bad ROI by any standard.
Twelve organizations participated in the trial program. They included all of the following types:
- Social justice (3)
- Animal sanctuary and welfare (2)
- Community college
- After school program
- Historic performance hall
- Professional development
- Private K-12 school
- Performing arts education
I’m delighted to report that in 8 weeks, eight organizations have surpassed their goal of $100K. An additional two organizations are well on their way to raising $100K, and two organizations are still preparing to ask. So ten of the twelve will have reached (or exceeded) their goal within the next month or so.
With such a short timeframe and such clear indicators of success, it’s crystal clear what differentiates those which were (and will be) successful from those organizations who are struggling.
Asking — plain and simple.
Asking: The Primary Indicator of Success
To raise $100K (or more) in such a short period of time requires being willing to ask for gifts. Those who asked the most, raised the most.
And it’s not that the others didn’t have good prospects. Or strong cases for support. Or poor infrastructure. Or less know how. They just had trouble mustering up the courage to ask.
Of course, it doesn’t mean the organizations were identical. But it wasn’t the bigger, more sophisticated organizations that raised more money. Sometimes it was the smaller, scrappier ones.
Ultimately, it came down to who got out there and asked. Despite of their fear (everyone was scared), the ones who were most successful were the ones who asked more often.
Clarifying the Case Made Askers More Courageous
We also found that the organizations with the clearest and simplest cases for support about why they were raising money were those who did the best.
We suspect that the organizations with cloudy cases had trouble getting themselves to asking because they weren’t really crystal-clear on just what they were asking for and why.
With some nudging from us, some of them were able to simplify and amplify the reason they were raising money. As they did that, their courage to ask went up as well.
As they developed and crystallized the reasons for raising money, they talked themselves into its importance. And once they fully believed in it, they could more readily ask donors for gifts.
Becoming Donor-Centered Made Asking Easier
When participants learned that asking was as much about understanding the donor as it was about the case, they became even more courageous. It was easier for them to ask when they thought about asking as a conversation rather than a sales call.
Asking Practice Techniques
We encouraged all of our participants to use their early asks as “practice.”
They selected people close to them and, when setting up the solicitation, they told those people that they wanted to practice their asking skills. They would solicit the gift and then talk to the donor about what had worked and what hadn’t.
They felt better about asking when they realized they didn’t have to be experts.
You, Too, Can Raise $100K in 8 Weeks
We’ve taken all of our lessons learned conducting our first cohort and further improved the program. In addition, we’ve added several bonus sections with more targeted help. And with that, we’re ready to roll out another round of Mini-Campaigns:
Space is limited. Don’t miss your chance to be in the next cohort (starts mid-September).