Season 2, Episode 8

In this episode, Andrea and Amy are joined by Sierra Rosen, Executive Director of Planned Giving at Brown University, to talk about planned giving. They discuss why planned giving matters even for small to mid-size organizations. They chew over simple strategies you can use to start building a program and how it dovetails nicely with a capital campaign.

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This episode was recorded as part of a live webinar held Monday, October 4, 2021. To participate in future webinars, register at ToolkitTalks.com.

Amy Eisenstein:
Today, I have a guest host with me, Richard Quinn, who is one of our fabulous Toolkit advisors. I’ve known of Richard on and off for many years. He’s a long, long-time colleague of Andrea’s and how long have you been advising Toolkit clients now Richard, almost two years, about two years, or longer?

Richard Quinn:
Boy, I don’t think so. I think it’s only been about a year, relatively short period of time. And I tell you, it doesn’t even seem like two years, it seems more like a couple months because time has just flown by.

Amy Eisenstein:
That’s funny.

Richard Quinn:
Serving clients all over the country and even internationally, it’s been such an exciting ride to … I’m in suburban Philadelphia so a lot of my clients tend to be in the Philadelphia area, which is great to serve clients across the spectrum from Canada to Hawaii, to Austin, Texas, to other parts of New Jersey that I’ve never been to etc., and some close to me. It’s been a delight and a wonderful ride. And I’ve enjoyed it tremendously. And it has great to see the success that my clients have had as a result of the Toolkit.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah, I can’t believe it’s only been a year, but maybe you’re right. It feels like you’ve been with us for a long time, which I think is a good thing.

Richard Quinn:
Thanks. Thank you. And I appreciate it.

Pre-Campaign and Mid-Campaign with Year-End Fundraising

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah, so I love to read the comments. Feel free to chat with us, of course, as always. So Celeste, says, “I wish we were at the place to start working with you. But we’re still at that good grief, what the heck are we doing stage?” There are several projects titled Noah. It’s an animal hospital I think, animal shelter and hospital. And so it must be a different one we’re starting with. I’m sorry that I got that confused and mixed up. But hopefully you will be in a position to work with us shortly.

And let me tell you, we can help get you out of the, ‘What the heck are we doing’ stage. And so we actually start working with organizations more than you think when they’re not quite ready to go into a campaign. And they’re at that pre … We call it a pre-pre-campaign stage, so that we sort of help them figure out how to get started for a campaign. So feel free to give us a call, and we’ll be happy to talk to you about where you are and when is a good time to start working on it.

Alright, let’s talk about year-end fundraising. We’ve got people on the line who are in campaigns, at different stages of campaigns, in the quiet phase, in the feasibility study phase, in the public phase, and not in campaigns at all. But year-end is rapidly approaching everybody’s in that frenetic fundraising stage I think. Richard, why don’t you start us off by talking about what kind of advice you’re working with giving to your clients, both Toolkit clients and non-Toolkit clients? Just how are you advising organizations? And what are you seeing people do this year for year end?

Richard Quinn:
Sure. Well, thank you, Amy. I appreciate the question. It’s an interesting one. Very often people think that, “Oh, my gosh, we’re entering a major fundraising season, it’s the fall. It’s the time of year that most people make their gifts. And what are we going to do, given the fact that we’re in campaign mode? And how are we going to maintain that robust annual fund given the fact that we’re also asking folks for money for the capital campaign, for example? So what I say in that instance is that more times than not you were already fundraising to the same people for multiple reasons.

For example, many organizations have four fundraising events. You’re talking to the same people often, to invite them to sponsor your event, as you are talking with them about supporting the annual fund. Just be mindful that you want to, what I would say is recognize that your donors understand ways to connect with you philanthropically, in ways that matter to them. So they’re going to support your event, if that’s how they traditionally support it. They’re going to traditionally fully support your annual fund, if that’s the way you traditionally support that usually support, or they’re going to do both.

Because you have by communicating with them, provided them with ways to connect with you in ways that resonate most with them. Now, so just be mindful that it’s not scary time to think that all of a sudden, here you’re in the fall, and you’re engaged in a campaign. But that fundraising is pretty much always works this way anyway, you’re always out there with multiple pitches to the same prospects. In the campaign mode, though, if you’re in a capital campaign, and you’re also fundraising for the annual fund, keep in mind that you want to use that as an opportunity to have a really creative conversation with some of your main donors and to talk to them about making their annual fund gift so that you have gas in the engine to make sure that the capital campaign is as successful as it can be, while at the same time asking them to make a multi-year campaign gift.

So we call it at the Toolkit and elsewhere, I imagine the double ask. It’s really important to have those kinds of conversations in as transparent way as possible. And when you’re asking campaign donors, campaign donors do tend to be those that are totally in the early stage of the campaign. People that you already have a pre-established relationship with. They love your organization, that’s why you’ve gone to them early. So they’ll get it, they’ll understand the importance of them maintaining their annual support. So she shouldn’t be concerned about that conversation, but rather be purposeful with them in having that conversation directly with them.

And I often find that even when you’re fundraising for an event and the annual fund, you will say to particular donor, “We’d love you to keep supporting your annual fund, would you consider also the same because donors often like to make their gifts at once, as opposed to at different times of the year. So you can invite them into conversation about making that double ask, but making that double gift at the same time. Just some thoughts.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah, that’s a great way to start us off. I think it’s super important to think about how are you going to distinguish between donors, and of course, between phases of your campaign. So during the quiet phase of your campaign, or earlier phases, you’re not going to be asking everybody, for two gifts, you’re going to be continuing with your annual funds. You might be talking about the project with the general community. They may see that you’ve purchased a site or that a building’s going up, but during the quiet phase of the campaign, at year end or any other time, you’re not going to be talking about the campaign itself or asking for two gifts, you will continue with your annual fund as scheduled as planned.

The people that you’ll be talking about with two gifts are those lead potential donors. A small group of people that you’re going to be soliciting for funds in that quiet phase. I think one thing that always surprises people when we show them our campaign timeline, is that the quiet phase, when you are just doing one on one solicitations might be very long. Anywhere from six to 24 months for some organizations when you’re soliciting those largest gifts, that’s when you’re raising 60, 70, or even 80, sometimes 90% of your campaign goal before you go public.

The public phase on the other hand, is very short in comparison. It’s three months, four months, maybe six months, it should not be a year. And I think that often surprises people because they think that the public phase is the long part of the campaign. But if you think about it in terms of how long each phase takes and how much you’re raising in each phase they match. So, if you’re raising 70% of your goal in your quiet phase that should take 70% of the time. And if you’re raising 20, or 30% of your goal in the public phase, that should just take a smaller amount of time.

So, there’s a very good chance that when you’re asking for campaign gifts from the public, it won’t be at year end. If you’re doing it for three months of the year, it may not fall when your annual fund falls. So, there’s different strategies that we can talk about, or that you can use depending on when the public phase of your campaign falls during the year.

Planned Gifts and Major Gifts for Year-End Fundraising

Richard Quinn:
Gary asked a very important question, “Do you extend it one step further and ask them to consider a planned gift?” I would say absolutely for the right prospect, who is at a point in their life where a planned gift makes sense. For sure, ask them to consider a planned gift. Anything else to say that, Amy?

Amy Eisenstein:
No, I think that’s absolutely true. Almost everybody that you sit down with, during the quiet phase of your campaign, and probably in your campaign literature during the public phase as well, you should be talking about planned gifts. Planned gifts are a unique opportunity for individuals to make exceptionally large gifts. And we’re actually going to be doing a specific webinar, I think, in the next week or so, probably next Tuesday, on planned gifts. And I’ll put that link in the chat in just a few minutes.

But yes, you should be talking to everybody, especially major donors and campaign donors about making a planned gift as well. All right, let’s go look at the questions for just a minute. We’ve got several coming in now. So John, you’re asking, “For a $3 million capital campaign, what is a good amount to call a major gift? Our annual budget is about 800,000.” So the way you asked the question, I just want to make sure that I’m reading it correctly. But if you start with your gift range chart, or a gift table, or a gift pyramid, so your lead gifts, might get you to about 50% of your campaign goal.

So your first gift is going to be somewhere in the ballpark of 20 to 25% of your campaign goal. So let me use a million dollars just to use a round number or $10 million. If you have a million dollar campaign, your lead gift should be 20 to 25% of your campaign goal. So 200,000 to 250,000. The next couple of gifts will probably be in the $100,000 range. So the first handful of gifts will get you to 50% of your goal. Whatever the next level gifts are after that, in this particular scenario 25 to 50,000, or 25,000 to 100,000 is probably considered a major gift. Richard, do you want to add anything? How would you have answered that question?

Richard Quinn:
Yeah, so I tend to differentiate major gifts from campaign gifts. Because campaign gifts are based on the, as Amy was mentioning, the gift range chart and every gift toward the campaign is a campaign gift and then you three different levels in the Toolkit. Three different levels of giving within that category. So major gifts, it’s so interesting and major gifts is one of those things that’s defined differently no matter where you are. I’ve seen major gifts that organizations defined at a $1,000, I’ve seen major gifts at organizations defined at $25,000. I’ve seen major gifts at organizations defined $50,000 and everywhere in between.

I suppose that if this new organization is … What size budget that the gentleman asked?

Amy Eisenstein:
$800,000. Just under a million dollars

Richard Quinn:
Yeah, just under a million dollars. So I would think the definition of a major gift in that context again, not knowing that the earned contributed divide there probably would be somewhere in the neighborhood of one to $5,000 as it would be a major gift from the annual fund side from that perspective. That would be my guess.

Amy Eisenstein:
I’m so glad you said that Richard, which is why we always have two people on these calls. Because, of course everything in the top of your gift pyramid I should have said we distinguish it by calling them leadership level gifts but of course there are major gifts too. To me, everything that’s raised in the quiet phase, absolutely is a major gift, sometimes even gifts in the public phase are major gifts. So I think you’re so right to point out, it depends what your organization considers a major gift. And the vast majority of nonprofits do consider one to $10,000 major gifts.

Those gifts are significant and meaningful at most small and mid-sized organizations. So I think it is all relative, what you consider a major gift. To me one rule of thumb is when a gift comes in of a certain size, and the whole office cheers, or run up and down and say we got a check for $15,000 or $10,000. That’s a major gift. But it’s not just million dollar gifts, because those are few and far and not so common at most organizations. So I think it’s good, but distinguishing campaign gifts, from major gifts and annual fund gifts, is a good important distinction. All leadership level gifts, of course, are major as well.

All right. Somebody is asking, “What advice do you have for organizations who are just planning for a campaign and aren’t already asking for those gifts?” I think that’s an excellent question. I’ll start this one, and then let Richard jump in whenever. But I think that, prior to a campaign, you should practice and be doing major gift solicitations. So, to spin off our previous question and our recent conversation. Absolutely. You should be asking for major gifts, whatever that means to your organization. $1,000, $10,000, $50,000, for your annual fund, you don’t have to be in a campaign. You can be in an annual campaign.

There’s lots of definitions of campaigns. But for your annual fund, you can absolutely sit down with major donors, or potential major donors and ask for gifts. To me, anytime you’re sitting down with someone, virtually, or in person, it doesn’t matter these days. You can be over Zoom. And you should be asking for gifts in a one on one way. To me, I want you to think about this. Does it make sense for you to schedule time to ask somebody for $100?

Probably not. That’s not a good use of your time. Those gifts come in by mail, over social media, online, those types of things. So that’s not a major gift, and you wouldn’t sit down with someone. But anytime you’re sitting down with someone in a one on one setting, like I said, over Zoom, in person and asking for a specific amount of money, that’s probably a major gift for your organization. What do you want to add to that?

Richard Quinn:
Just to say to ask for the gift right off the bat is not the right way to go about things. You want to really get to know what your donors interests are first, and that takes some time. Some folks will respond to a question when you send them an email or pick up the phone and call them and say, “You know what, I’d really love to get to know what it is about our organization that resonates with you most. Could you tell me a bit about that.” Some folks might say, “Oh, I love everything you do. Everything you do is fantastic.”

And you can be grateful for that. And that can guide you in the direction of assuming that they’re okay, giving gifts that are general operating support gifts. But in conversations you might discover that they have a particular interest in one aspect of what you do. And then you can tailor the requests the major gift requests to them, and also steward that gift in ways that resonate with that particular donor. So building the relationship first, getting clarity on what the donor is interested in, is a great way to build trust, confidence. The trust between the donor and you and the organization. Confidence in your ability to ask that next question. Would you consider a gift off, and it also tees you up for moving from annual major gifts fundraising to campaign major gifts fundraising.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah, I think it’s so important that everybody have experience and practice asking for major gifts. I think every gift that you ask for is practice for the next gift that you’re asking for. Get out there and tell donors, say, “Listen, I haven’t asked for a lot of major gifts. But this organization and this project, and these programs are so important that I hope you’ll forgive me if I bumble it along. And feel free to give me any feedback about how this experience is for you.”

I was coaching someone the other day, and I said, it is fine to say, “You know what, I don’t know how much to ask you for. So I’m going to tell you about our needs. And right now we’re looking for leadership level donors at the $25,000 level to do this. Is that something you could consider?” So really gentle, really humble, acknowledging that this isn’t something that’s so easy or comfortable for you. You might put your donors at ease that way as well. And there’ll be a little more forgiving when we’re stuttering, or hemming or hawing.

But let me tell you, it’s super important to get out there, especially right now, this time of year, if you don’t have a strategy for asking for major gifts, whether you’re in a campaign or not, honestly, the time is now. Alright, so let’s go to Kate’s question. Kate, good question. “Do you have any advice about how to count planned gifts? Especially requests toward your campaign goal?” Richard, do you have thoughts on this?

Richard Quinn:
So what you need to always be mindful of is that if you raise enough money to build the building, have you done enough? No, because that building is going to come with all kinds of additional expenses to make sure that you can run the building. So building some kind of either a reserve funding or endowment into any campaign goal, operating … Even if it’s over a four to five year period, as the development office ramps up to the new level of what it needs in order to sustain the organization with this new shiny, wonderful, fabulous building, it’s really important to think about the long term impact of building a new building or expanding programs or developing new programs through a capital campaign.

Setting the goal is a tricky one. Because this isn’t money that can be that can specifically be used and spent now. So I’m curious to get your thoughts, Amy on what are the tactics that you would recommend folks on the call do to ensure that they’ve done their due diligence?

Amy Eisenstein:
So I’m going to answer but I’m also going to throw it back to the chat. So if you guys have counted planned gifts towards your campaign, I’d love to hear how you’ve decided to count them. I think there are a variety of ways that you can count planned gifts towards your campaign. And I think the critical thing is that you make it crystal clear how you are counting them and recognizing donors in your campaign policies. And so however you decide to do it is probably okay, as long as you’re clear and consistent. So let’s start there.

So if anybody wants to tell us in the chat, how you’re doing it. At the Toolkit, one of the things that we recommend is counting not $1 amount of planned gifts towards your campaign goal, but number of planned gifts. So you might have a plan giving goal of getting 10 new bequest intentions as part of your campaign. And then you can celebrate when you’ve got 10 donors that acknowledge that they have counted or included your organization and their will. And that’s a major accomplishment for most organizations to increase the number of planned gifts.

But as Richard said, and as you all know, it’s really hard to count $1 amount. Sometimes people do it based on age, and of course, based on type of planned gifts. So anybody who’s 90 years old or above, you might count 50% more of a bequest intention, and somebody in their 80s you’d count 40% of a bequest intention, as somebody in their 70s slightly less. Of course, bequests you don’t know when they’ll come in, they’re revocable gifts so they’re not guaranteed anyways. The dollar amount is not always clear if they’ve left a percentage.

So there are lots of complicating factors in terms of trying to count them. So sometimes people just do donor recognition and let people into their legacy society when somebody says they’ve made a planned gift. And honestly, including them in that recognition in legacy society makes it more likely that they’ll leave that bequest intention in and it will come to fruition. So sometimes even if they’re not guaranteed, it is nice to just simply recognize people because they let you know that and we value that. And you can count how many new bequests intentions did you get? And that’s part of the campaign goal is to grow your endowment in the future.

Richard Quinn:
Yeah, if I could add something to that there is a way potentially to count bequest inspired gifts towards your campaign goal. There is something out there called the bequest challenge. Some donors love to participate in this and what they do is they for example, say that, if you can secure a certain number of bequests intentions, the donor will contribute real money toward a campaign goal or toward an annual goal, whatever it happens to be.

Amy Eisenstein:
Current money.

Richard Quinn:
Current money. That’s right. I shouldn’t call it real. Current money because bequest money is also real just down the road. Current money toward the campaign goal. So that’s something to definitely consider in your bequest revenue planning for a campaign.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah, super important. Okay. So you guys get your fingers going, nobody here has counted any planned gifts towards their campaign yet? I don’t believe it. I know we have some really experienced folks on the line who have been through campaign. So I’m curious, how have you counted planned gifts? We’re primarily talking about bequests here since that’s the number one type of planned gift that people make. But certainly there’s irrevocable gifts and revocable gifts, things that people can’t change their mind on, so they might be counted differently than a bequest.

And I’m curious how have people counted them? Alright, so Gary, thank you for chiming in, you say that you’ve counted planned gifts in the capital campaign, but made up the policies in advance also based on what type of planned gifts you’re talking about. So just making sure that you do have your campaign policies established so that everybody is crystal clear on when you’re counting what you’re counting, how you’re recognizing those things should be in your campaign policies.

Doing Feasibility Studies

Amy Eisenstein:
All right, let’s go to Sherry’s question, which is in the chat box. I want to encourage people go ahead and put your questions in the Q&A box, if you don’t mind, so we can keep good track of them. But Sherry, you’re saying that you’re getting ready for another capital campaign. You have a time crunch, because property that you want to acquire is active on the market. How important is the feasibility phase. We’re aware of the need in the community and potential funders. All right. Let me start this one off, I have to tell you that here at the Capital Campaign Toolkit, we feel very strongly about the feasibility study phase for a variety of reasons.

And one of many is, of course, that the feasibility studies primary purpose is to test your campaign plan, the case for support, and your campaign goal. Now, often, organizations want to skip that part because they feel like regardless, we need to do a campaign. And we think we can raise the money. And that’s all well and good. But at the Capital Campaign Toolkit, we feel that the feasibility study serves an additional very critical purpose, and that is to build relationships with your biggest and best potential donors prior to going in and asking them for a gift.

So, I want to encourage you to do a feasibility study. You can do a modified feasibility study. It doesn’t have to be a formal feasibility study. At a minimum, I would say go talk to your top 10 potential donors about the project, get their feedback, ask what their recommendations would be and how they would move ahead. And maybe some of them will even provide early gifts to secure the property. And then you can put it on hold. And they’ll be aware of that. And then you can go ahead and do a fuller feasibility study, so that you can find out the scope and scale of the project that you can really do.

So let me just say one more thing and then I’m going to let Richard chime in. And that is, at the Toolkit, we talked about three different types of feasibility studies. And probably those of you who have been on this call for months or years now have heard us talk about them ad nauseum. But I just want to make sure it’s clear. The most probably traditional feasibility study is when you send in an outside consultant to interview your best potential donors and community leaders about the project. And the outside consultant provides recommendations and a report to your board. At the other end of the spectrum, we call them do-it-yourself donor conversations.

So this might apply to you Sherry right now, if you need to do something quick and informal, don’t skip it altogether, but go out and talk and have conversations with your top 10 donors about the project and get their feedback. Now, of course, you know if you’ve been listening to me and Andrea for months or for years, that we have a hybrid model that we promote, it’s called the guided feasibility study. And that is where the leaders of your organization go out and have these important critical conversations with donors prior to a campaign. As opposed to sending in an outside consultant, you go have the interviews and the conversations. But our advisors like Richard, guide you through the process.

They help you identify who are the best potential people to interview? What kind of questions you’re going to ask them? They help you collate the responses and aggregate the feedback that you get. They co-draft and co-author reports and recommendations to the board and co-present with you. So it’s the best of both worlds in our opinion. And really what it does is help you grow those relationships with your key donors prior to asking for a gift. So okay, off my soapbox, Richard, what do you want to add?

Richard Quinn:
Well, I don’t really want to add to that excellent synopsis, and really we’ve been so impressed by the success of the guided feasibility study at the Toolkit, because things are shifting, high end donors don’t necessarily need to have conversations with a disinterested person, somebody who’s anonymous to the process, they really want to have these conversations with people of the organizations that they’re supporting. And they’re more likely than not to tell you the God’s honest truth unvarnished, which is remarkably helpful to you as you plan.

It says, a feasibility study says to your greatest prospects that you’re serious about this project. This means something to you, and you value their perspective. You need to make sure that you are not suffering from what’s called the curse of knowledge being inside the organization so much that you miss what those outside the organization see clearly. And it’s an opportunity to really test that with your nearest and dearest folks. It’s a cultivation move as much as it is an information gathering one.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah, I think it is the ultimate cultivation technique. I mean, whenever we talk about raising major gifts in a campaign out of a campaign, we talk about and you already mentioned it earlier today, Richard, getting feedback, and going to talk to your donors before you ask them for a gift. Often people will say to me, “Well, what kind of advice should I be getting from our donors?” Well, there’s no better cultivation opportunity than before a campaign because you actually have something very specific and tangible to talk about your campaign case for support, your plan.

And so you’re going to get legitimate feedback about it before you go and ask them for a gift. So, I really encourage you not to skip this step. Okay. So let’s see, Matt is saying that, when they’re soliciting planned gifts for their campaign, they counted the number of new bequests and the dollar amount, if known but broken out as a separate total not included in the cash or pledged amount. So I think that’s really smart, Matt. What a great suggestion. Thank you for sharing that.

Are We Post-COVID for Year-End Giving?

Amy Eisenstein:
All right. So let’s go to … This is a great question. Somebody is asking, “How many people are still addressing COVID in their year-end appeal and other messaging?” I know there’s a lot of fatigue around that messaging. So I’d love to know in the chat box, if your year-end appeal, you are talking about COVID. And maybe one sentence about what you’re mentioning and how you’re framing the conversation. Richard, what are your clients doing in terms of COVID? Are we past COVID in terms of fundraising messaging, are we still having the conversation?

Richard Quinn:
So I would say it depends on the kind of client. Performing Arts clients, those who … You had two choices at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a performing arts client, one was to hibernate, or one was to innovate. And those that innovated wound up coming up with extraordinarily fascinating and engaging and creative virtual experiences. And what did they discover? They discovered that they had fans all over the country, not just in their little tiny town, but all over the country, because all of a sudden, people were zooming in to see their programs. So COVID in certain industries, redefined their business model.

It enabled them to think about the potential of what they do, in exciting ways. So if that has happened, tell the story. Because it says that in the nonprofit world, we are nothing if we are not extraordinarily creative, adaptive, minded people. We just do it instinctively. And to see the kinds of magical powerful things that happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the changes that had occurred and the number of people that came to your cause, as a result you should celebrate that. So in the language of your appeals, absolutely, talk about the new future of your organization.

Face to face health gone to telehealth. I mean that has completely transformed in many ways a lot of healthcare, nonprofits work. There are many other examples that one can point to. Certainly the public interest law field has found that you don’t necessarily have to be in the courtroom in order to defend the rights of the people that you represent from the bottom of your heart. So telling those stories is really important. Don’t just, “Is that a COVID story?” “No.” It’s more of a who we have become and we’re better for it story.

We are meeting the needs beyond the way we ever thought we could as a result of this particular moment. And we just want to tell you about it, because we want to do more of it. And your gift helps us make that happen.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah, there’s a lot of good feedback about this.so I got good conversation in the chat, so I’m going to read a few of them. Lynette says, “We talk about COVID now only in the context of how it has impacted the people we serve.” Good. Yolanda says, “We did not mention COVID at all, but focused on some examples of students successes that have been achieved once they graduated our high school.” Okay, so that’s a vote not to mention COVID. Rob says, “Yes, we’re talking about COVID, but only as it relates to our organization and also a list of many things that we are doing and have accomplished.”

Okay. Karen is going to acknowledge it. “We’re summarizing success stories over the last year and can’t avoid COVID. We’re also sharing what’s on the horizon and not highlighting COVID there.” Okay, good. And finally, Amy’s saying, “We’re addressing it from the With your help, we can make great things happen. We talk about it being a difficult year because we’re in long term care and still in the midst of ever changing protocols, testing, limiting visitors, etc.

So I think that really varies from organization to organization and it depends on your cause. You’ve given us a lot of good examples, Richard of what causes … If your cause has and your community have been significantly impacted, and still continue to be, then you’re probably going to mention it. If it is less impactful as probably it is in some organizations in some sectors, then maybe you don’t talk about it. But I think that if your programs and your services have changed, you’re going to put that in the context of your appeal.

Try a Mini-Campaign for Year-End Fundraising

Amy Eisenstein:
All right, excellent. So we’re going to take a seventh inning stretch as we do so figuratively, and literally, go ahead, and go ahead and stretch. We’re at the three quarter mark. Of course, I do a mini commercial in our seven thinning stretch often. And if you’re on our mailing list, our email list, you know that starting next week, we are hosting our Mini Campaign Boot Camp program. And I have to tell you, this is an amazing opportunity.

It’s for those of you that want to try out and test your chops at major gift fundraising. What we do is we have an eight-week program that’s starting on Tuesday, we do have actually a couple of slots left for a few more people, we’ve almost filled the program, but there are a couple of slots left.

The challenge is eight weeks, raise $100,000 or more by doing a mini campaign where you take capital campaign strategy and smoosh it down into eight weeks, and you run a mini campaign and raise hopefully 100,000 or more. We’ve done this program, we created it as actually a result of COVID a year and a half ago. And this will be the fourth cohort that we bring through this mini campaign. And I will post the link for all of the mini campaign information. But I would suggest that if you’re interested in it, sign up today or tomorrow as we are going to fill up.

Now, I have to tell you, it’s curious to me, the program costs money, it’s $2400. And the offer is to raise 100,000 or more. So if I said to any one of my donors or any organization the investment is $2400, and you’re likely to raise 100,000 or more. To me, that’s a pretty strong return on investment. I always think about the organizations that are trying to decide whether or not to do this. If an organization only raises $25,000, it’s still 10 times the investment that they’ve made. And I don’t know, to me, it is the most amazing program that Andrea primarily has created. And it is so powerful.

If you’ve ever wished that you could raise major gifts, or really raise significant gifts from donors, and you have a campaign on the horizon, there is no better time or way to test your fundraising chops. It provides accountability, it provides knowledge, it provides you with confidence. And honestly, we put the pedal to the metal. You don’t have a choice. Once you’re in the program, you have to go out and ask donors for money. Because if you don’t, then of course, you’re not going to succeed.

But we provide all the tools, encouragement, accountability and resources so that you can succeed because that’s what the program is all about. It is a total boot camp. For those of you exercise-aholics. Anybody who knows that it’s one thing to diet by yourself or to exercise by yourself, but once you’re in there with a group of people and the music’s pumped up, and the bikes are going and everybody’s doing it together. That’s when it works. So that’s sort of I don’t know, my analogy for the day.

All right, that’s the end of the sales pitch. Let’s get back to the questions. All right. If you have any questions about that, of course, feel free to email me. All right. The next question we’ve got. “How do you find the people to ask for a major gift? We don’t have access to millionaires or high net worth individuals.” Oh my goodness, Richard, what do you say to this?

Where To Find Major Gift Donors

Richard Quinn:
My default is always, “Look right at home.” Those that already support your organization, are your most likely prospects for capital campaign gifts. And why is that? Well, because they’ve already said that they’ve made you a priority by having history of supporting you, philanthropically. So they’ve self-selected as interested in supporting you. So that’s the first group that you want to look towards is your current donors. Your board members, board members are your volunteer leadership, inviting them to support early, regardless of gift size sends a very powerful message of support early on.

I know there are some folks who that’s their first question, “Is your board on board with this before they make a gift?” So we should take that advice and invite board members to give or as soon as to pledge as soon as they can for a capital campaign. And then the third I would say is in your campaign committee, there are folks who know like-minded folks who could be prospects for the campaign down the road. They may not necessarily support your organization now, but remember, you’ve got typically in a campaign, you got several years that you’re raising money, so that becomes the cultivation time, to bring those folks up to speed, that to earn the right to ask them for a gift that would be that would be considered a significant gift from their point of view, and hopefully, from our point of view.

So those are three areas that I would focus on, in identifying prospects for your capital campaign.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah. I think that’s so smart. In general, donors are not out there somewhere there already your existing donors. So, I’m not sure, of course, the details of your organization. But if you have been doing annual fundraising, look at the people who give to you consistently, your biggest donors and potential donors. Richard’s absolutely right, you have to start with your board members. And it may be that you are not quite ready for a campaign that you need to do more cultivation and practice your major gift fundraising on the donors that you have as you work up to a bigger project and bigger fundraising.

Richard Quinn:
Amy, can I mention a fourth potential?

Amy Eisenstein:

Richard Quinn:
Those of you who have institutional funders that support your organization, whether it’s government support, or foundation support, or corporate foundation support or corporate support. Be mindful that even though these entities might support a particular program, they may also support capital campaigns. So through a different bucket of their assets, they can support capital campaigns. And you haven’t had those conversations with them yet. So therefore, you wouldn’t necessarily know. So ask your foundation Relations Officer, whoever that happens to be at your organization, to do a little bit of their due diligence. To just look into what their funding has been in the past, and whether they support capital campaigns, because they may be good prospects too.

Amy Eisenstein:
And that’s a great point, not only that, you may include some of your biggest and best potential foundation funders and corporate leaders in your feasibility study. That’s how you’re going to engage them, and get them involved early from the beginning, get their feedback, they’re going to be able to refer you to others, in addition to potentially making their own gifts. Alright, let me go over here to Michelle’s comment. And this I think was made when we were talking about feasibility studies. And she says the fear is that your top donors will not support moving forward, and then the organization has to decide what to do potentially, not what they feel is needed.

So of course, nobody ever wants a disappointing feasibility study report, or feedback that donors are not interested as maybe the leaders are of the organization in supporting this particular project. But to me, that’s much better information to have up front than going in blind. So let’s say you decide to skip the feasibility study project portion, you go out and you start asking, and then you find out that nobody’s interested in supporting the project, then you’re in more of a jam.

Now generally, what happens in a feasibility study is that you either find out that you’re in good shape, and that you’re ready to go and you engage those donors early. Or there are some areas that you discovered that you need to work on, or that the projects need to shift or be scaled back or altered slightly. Generally a feasibility study shouldn’t say, “You can’t do a campaign.” They might say you should do these five things before you do a campaign. They might say, “This is what needs to happen, or this is how the project needs to shift to be ready for a campaign.” But it shouldn’t be, “You can’t do a campaign.”

But to me the idea that you’re so worried that donors are going to not be interested that you’re going to proceed without checking with them is not a smart move to make. Because then you’re going to get into the middle of it and discover that you can’t get anywhere near your goal. And then you’re in more of a mess. So ignorance is not bliss in this particular case. So all right, there were a couple more things that popped up in the chat.

Helping Donors Understand Why to Give

Amy Eisenstein:
Somebody is asking about the recording. So these calls are recorded as a podcast, you can listen later in the week. And in the future from any podcasting app. The podcast is called All About Capital Campaigns. So just go to your favorite podcasting app later this week, and type in All About Capital Campaigns and subscribe to that. Alright, one final question. And then Richard, I’m going to give you a chance to leave some parting words of wisdom or final tips for year-end fundraising. So get ready for that. Let’s see here. It was back in the … Okay.

So Jean is saying in the comments, we have an organization that was established by a bequest of somebody who was very wealthy, and unfortunately, most people, they don’t have … I think they don’t have to give or can give a legacy like this one initial wealthy donor, I’ve actually worked for an organization like that. So a couple of things. I think there’s a couple of issues happening here. One that’s tangential perhaps is, I was talking to somebody the other day, and they said, “All right, we are primarily a fee for service organization.” A theater, or a YMCA, where the bulk of their revenue comes from memberships, or from ticket sales. And so people don’t understand why they have to give. And so, I’m sort of reaching, stretching a little with this analogy, they think somebody’s already covered the expenses, so why should they give.

So I think it’s really critical in those cases, to be able to articulate the difference between what is covered by fee for service, or what the founders money did, and what isn’t covered by what your budget is, and what donations actually enable you to do over and above beyond the basic services that some of those other sources of revenue cover. So let me leave it at that. Richard, feel free to add and then I’m going to let you share some parting thoughts.

Final Thoughts

Richard Quinn:
No, I think that was just fine Amy, nothing to add to that. I suppose I would end just by saying that, remind yourselves that you just went through one of the most challenging times in American history, and you’re still here, you’re still doing the great work that you do. You’re still telling great stories of impact, and you’re not going anywhere. You are committed to delivering on your mission for those you serve. And there are a whole group of donors out there that are rooting for you.

So remind yourself so that as you think about gearing up for major gifts fundraising in the fall, that your donors are rooting for you, they want you to succeed, and you are providing them, and you are inviting them into a conversation that helps you do just that. So congratulations for everything that you’ve done this year, it’s you all deserve, a big giant round of applause for doing everything that you’ve done. We’re still here, and we’re just getting started. Should be your mantra this fall. And your donors are rooting for you and we are too.

Amy Eisenstein:
Richard, I think that is why you are one of our favorite advisors because you are inspirational, motivational, positive. And I think that that is what fundraisers and donors need to hear this time of year and honestly all year long. So thank you. Thank you for joining me, and for providing and sharing your wisdom with everybody today.

Richard Quinn:
My pleasure.

Amy Eisenstein:
Everybody in the chat if you wouldn’t mind thanking Richard along with me, and then Andrea will be back with me of course next week and we’re super excited to see you again next week. All right. Bye, everybody. Thanks for joining us.


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