“Ack! We need to fix the board!” + Don’t Break Down ~ Break It Down! + Six Factors When Considering Major Campaign

 In Smith & Dale Blog

“Ack! We need to fix the board!”

Sound familiar…? It’s the plaintive cry heard in offices and board rooms across the country…

Here are some more:

  • “My board won’t fundraise!”
  • “Board members don’t answers my emails!”
  • “Why can’t we get 100% board giving ~ I’ll take $10 fer gawd’s sake…?!”

We hear this ~ All. The. Time. Now let’s be honest… the fault does not lie entirely with our boards. What did we ask them for, specifically, when they joined?  How did we recruit them? Strictly by pulse detection…? Let’s fix it.

Here’s a goal, aim high!: ‘WE WILL HAVE A WAITING LIST OF QUALIFIED INFLUENCERS WHO WILL ENGAGE FULLY ONCE THEY JOIN.’ Think that’s not possible for your organization? Well, it is!

There is a proven, strategic, systematic way to go about board recruitment, onboarding and engagement. It works. Be very intentional about who you want on your board, and why, and communicate that to them every step of the way.

Yes, it takes some energy on the front end, but guess what?! We’ve done the work for you. Enter Stress-Less Fundraising Toolkits #1 and #2. Twenty editable documents, DONE, and all in one place. Tweak to fit your organization, drop in your logo, and VOILA ~ you look like a praise- and raise-worthy hero to your boss and board! Go you!!!

Don’t Break Down ~ Break It Down!

During a recent weekly meeting with a client, we reflected on how much had transpired during the 12 months we’ve worked together.  A huge effort went into growing the board and we had been successful.  He had raised over $1 million for this small organization’s capital campaign… all a great success!

BUT… his organization was looking at a shortfall for annual operating funds six months into the budget year. AND… on top of that he was dealing with some very difficult personnel issues.

We can all imagine, we’ve been there, right!? Is your blood pressure elevated? Are you reaching for the Xanax? He was panicking. So, I shut my laptop, looked at him and said, “We will break this down one issue at a time.”

  • We identified five donors for him to meet with and tour the construction site.  He was to thank them profusely for their large capital gifts, give them the very exciting news about the success of the campaign, and then tell explain to them that he was now focusing on operating this fantastic facility and the amazing mission… In other words, ask them for their annual gift now, that will support all the wonderful programs they know and love.
  • Schedule a final campaign committee meeting and go through all those prospective donors who have yet to be asked ~ no stones left unturned ~ and light a fire under the committee to close out the campaign.
  • Write his fall appeal letter focusing on the mission and programs now that the capital campaign had been completed – and get it in the mail.
  • Send a follow up e-mail appeal, with small naming opportunities for the campaign (our strategy for smaller gifts).

Together we accomplished these tasks within a week.   A $100,000 challenge gift came in via an email.

When we become overwhelmed and panicky, create a list, and begin to execute.  Breaking it down will make it less daunting, and seeing progress helps alleviate stress!

Six Factors You Should Evaluate When Considering a Major Campaign:

The Image and Reputation of your organization in the community

Personal interviews, surveys and focus groups help determine how your organization is perceived by your leaders, volunteers, current and potential donors, community, corporate and foundation partners. Specifics of these findings will form the case for support for fundraising. Negative image issues or incorrect assumptions will be addressed prior to, or in conjunction with, any fundraising campaign.   

Your Case for Support – Does It Resonate? Are people buying what you are selling?

The case for your organization, and any campaign, should be benefits based, not needs based. Create an ‘Information Statement’ to ‘float’ to stakeholders to gauge their support and identify which elements of a campaign the community will most enthusiastically support. The Information Statement serves as the basis for all campaign fundraising materials.  It is intended to test assumptions and perceptions of your constituents.

Prospective & Current Leaders: Are You Able to Cast a Wider Net?  

Identify the individuals, current donors, community groups, foundations, government sources, corporations and small businesses that would be willing to provide their leadership (credibility) to your campaign, and potentially your board. Determine the willingness and ability of key internal and external leaders to enthusiastically endorse the organization, and help to solicit funds on your behalfThank strategically about your Chairs or Honorary Chairs.  Leadership is probably the most critical component to successful organizations and campaigns. 

Your Current Donors & Prospects: Do They Exist, and Are They Excited About Your Project?

Identify who the most likely donors are, and through surveys and interviews, cultivate and educate them about the benefits of supporting your organization.  You are trying to ascertain whether significant leadership gifts exist, to determine if, and how, a fundraising campaign will succeed.

These stakeholders will want to provide their input about such an important undertaking by your organization.  By asking, you are “pre-marketing” them on the project, and this shows your donors that you take this decision seriously, and are doing the due diligence to make sure it will be successful.

Ultimately this process should provide a list of donors who are not only able, but willing to participate in the campaign, AND the strategy to reach every level of donor, from $50 – $500,000.

The Feasibility of the Project and Goal

Test the project and amount you wish to raise in interviews and surveys.  If the desired goal is determined not to be feasible, an objective assessment study will help determine why, what amount is feasible, and what you need to do to prepare for a successful campaign.  Specific recommendations should be provided to run a successful campaign, AND if the amount is not feasible, or program not desirable – recommendations for remedying any issues, phasing the approach or simple preparation required to be ready.

The Plan and Resources

You must determine whether sufficient resources exist – human and financial – to sustain your fundraising effort.  You should do an in-depth review of the resources available, personnel, training, donor tracking software, and all other facets necessary to raise money successfully.  If you can’t afford to print a brochure, you can’t afford to launch a campaign.

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