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Are you familiar with that feeling of endless cultivation with a donor? Let me tell you a story:

Over the past nine months, fundraiser Kim Washington has been diligently cultivating her #1 donor, Olive Robinson. 

Kim has zoom coffees with Olive. They have lunch. Even more, Kim makes sure Olive has regular email and phone contact and keeps her informed all the time. 

In the back of Kim’s mind, she keeps wondering. “Is Olive ready for a gift conversation? Have we warmed her up enough for an ask? It feels like I’m stuck in endless cultivation.” 

Bad News – The Donor Slips Away

One morning over coffee, Kim scrolls through her phone reading the local news. . . and mulling about her next contact with Olive. 

“Oh no!” Kim is aghast.

There, in the news, is a gift announcement from another nonprofit where Olive has just made a $2 million gift, in memory of her husband.

Alas. There goes Kim’s hoped-for major gift. Her donor slipped away. How could it be that Olive, who was so interested in Kim’s organization, would surprise everyone with a gift to that other organization?

Why Does Your #1 Prospect Suddenly Disappoint You? 

Here is why this happens fairly often in the world of philanthropy. It’s because the fundraiser gets stuck in “cultivation” and does not bring up the topic of a gift.  

In reality, most donors do not fit into a clear stage in the donor journey.  You can’t pigeonhole them.

We fundraisers limit ourselves by how we define these stages. 

Some donors may be willing and eager to make a major gift now, but fundraisers miss the signals, because they are defining the donor in a box.

Here’s how to move the donor from an endless round of feel-good conversations over into a discussion about their potential support. 

Escape Endless Cultivation – Move from Discovery to a Gift Conversation in 15 Minutes 

At Gail Perry Group, we are coaching our clients in a new approach with donors – one that helps to identify those who want to help with a gift right now. 

And let me just say that our clients are seeing remarkable results with this approach. Donors are coming forward early in the donor journey and wanting to make a gift right now. 

We have found that we can literally move a donor from a series of discovery questions – right into a gift conversation.

Here’s an example of a typical conversation flow:

Question One: “I’d love to know more about how you came to be a donor.

When you are able to get your donor to share their Donor Story, you can really open the floodgates. You’ll find your donor probably has a deeply personal reason for supporting your work – something that resonates with their personal values of what is important in life. 

This is a powerful question to ask. Your job as a fundraiser is to sit tight, and perhaps say, “Tell me more.” 

Question Two: “I know you’ve been supporting our work for a long time. May I ask, what kind of impact do you feel that you are making through your giving?” 

By asking the donor to describe their feelings, you are helping the donor literally talk themselves into the idea of giving more.

Even more, your donor will tell you what you need to know at this stage. 

Question Three: “I can see that you are deeply committed to this work. May I ask, have you ever thought about doing something even bigger?”

With this question, you politely move directly into a Gift Conversation.

Now, you are using permission to place the issue squarely on the table with the donor. And remember – they are engaged, active, excited, and sharing more and more! 

Your donor just may say, “Wow, I never thought about that. And yes, I might actually like to make a bigger impact. Let’s talk about it!” 

Bottom Line: Don’t Get Stuck in Endless Cultivation

Here is the hard truth – don’t let yourself get stuck in endless chit-chat with your donor.

Instead, ask them why they give. Ask them how much they care. Ask if they’d like to get more engaged and make an even bigger impact.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

Is a major capital campaign on the horizon for your institution? Do you feel a little overwhelmed because, as you know, campaigns can be a heavy lift? Would three secrets to success help guide you in the right direction?

Our goal is for campaign clients is to get focused in three key areas that will set them up for a campaign that brings in extraordinary fundraising results. 

Three Secrets of Success

1. Begin your planning with a deep prospect analysis.

The major gifts in a campaign always come from a very few people. We are seeing as much as 95% of the money coming from only 5% of an organization’s donors. 

Even more, the success of capital campaigns is always built on a small number of large gifts.

So one of our key success secrets is to analyze prospect data early in the game. 

We recommend that all campaign planning begins with a wealth screening on your donor database. This enables us to identify our clients’ sleeper prospects. Those are the wonderful donors who are passionate about the cause – and who have significant wealth.

Most importantly, the screening allows us to organize the prospect pool using our Campaign by the Numbers approach.  This means you will work with the right prospects at the right time yielding optimal results. 

This deep analysis and organization of your campaign prospect pool is THE essential activity for the campaign planning stage.  

2. Use a conversational approach with donors.

Once the priority donor prospects are identified, we recommend that our clients start spending quality time with them. These are very special people who believe in the cause – they often are happy to learn more about the work and engage more deeply. 

But how do you really engage a donor? 

Many people think their goal is to “present” to a donor. They spend hours crafting laborious pitch decks about their institution’s work, so they can “wow“ their donors. 

That’s not it at all. The best way to engage a donor is to get them talking about WHY they care.

The fundraiser’s job is to find out what makes the donor tick. What does the donor want to do that your organization can help them achieve?  We call this approach “listening your way to a major campaign commitment.” 

We teach our clients an approach that we call the Conversational Ask. And, you can move directly into a Conversational Ask with a donor at almost any time. That is, if you know the right questions to ask! 

Involving and engaging these top prospective donors early is literally the key to successful campaign fundraising.  You are creating true partners – donors who are invested in your institution’s success and want to help.

3. Go slow to go fast.

Often board members and/or executive team members don’t understand capital campaign strategy. They don’t understand why we go very slowly and silently in the beginning. 

Organizational leaders often ask: “Where is the money?” “Why aren’t we out in public yet?” “Where are the balloons and parades?” “We want events and hoopla!”

In fact, being out in public too early could hurt you.

We strongly recommend a careful strategy of going slowly in order to go faster later. 

Early in the game, you engage privately with those very few potential lead donors, laying the groundwork and involving them. This takes time, and it might be the most important activity in the entire campaign.

Organizing a campaign is like setting up dominos: take your time to enlist the right volunteers and to engage the right major donors. Take all the time you need to secure the support of key influential leaders

Then, when all your ducks are in a row – so to speak – or the dominoes are all lined up, you’ll be amazed at how quickly everything can move forward. Because you took the time to deeply involve key donors and leaders, doors that were once closed will fly open for you. It’s because the right person knocked on the door. 

Bottom Line: Use These Three Secrets for Capital Campaign Success

All smart major gift fundraisers understand this strategy. As consultants – one of our key goals is to help our clients’ leadership teams understand and embrace this approach. It’s the winning approach every time!

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

Just how difficult is it to create a snappy, compelling case statement?

It’s challenging, no doubt. Our clients ask us often to help draft vision statements for feasibility studies and case statements for their capital campaigns. 

Since this seems to be a challenge for organizations large and small, we wanted to share some expert guidance in this post. 

What’s Wrong with Many Case Statements

Often, there’s too much bragging about how great the organization is, and not enough exciting copy about the vision and the future. Too many cases are missing the important stuff – what they want to accomplish. How they want to change the world. 

The other day, I pulled out some notes from the late great Jerry Panas on developing a case statement. It’s pure gold. 

You may or may not remember Jerry Panas, but he was a mentor for me, and a fundraiser/consultant extraordinaire. He wrote numerous books, and I always liked his natty dressing style, down to the cufflinks.

Here are Jerry Panas’ suggestions for developing your case, along with our own suggestions as a guide as well. 

How to Create a Case Statement Your Donors Will Love

1. The case statement opening. Your first paragraph should seize the reader, and mesmerize them to think about how they feel about your work. 

It should say to your readers: “Let me take you by the hand . . .. there is something very special I want to share with you that is going on at our organization.“

We suggest: Open with your vision of a better world. Describe, in glowing terms, what it will be like at the end of your campaign. What will you be accomplishing? How will the world be a better place? What is the vision of possibility that you are offering to your donor? 

2. Don’t ask for “help.” Instead talk about the important investments needed to make this happen. Use words like dividends and impact

We suggest: Never talk about what you “need.” Never say “we need your help.” You can say the kids need your help, or the (patients/students, dancers, animals) need help. Not your organization needs help. 

3. Tone. Write as if you are sending a note to your favorite aunt or mechanic who works on your car. Be friendly, not highbrow. 

Our take: We are tired of seeing lofty, complex, formal writing. Today, fundraising writing has changed. The best writing is more informal. No policy-speak allowed. No lofty metaphors that are hard to understand.  

4. Unique Factor. Be sure to show how you are uniquely positioned to meet this urgent need head on – no one else does what you do. Try to burn yourselves into the donors’ hearts and minds. 

We suggest: Help your donor understand that your organization uniquely has the capacity and power to make this happen. 

5. Urgency. It’s not about your organization, or your track record of accomplishments. It’s about the urgent need out there that you will address. 

Enforce the urgency: use the word “now” often. Be dramatic, emotional. Answer the question, “Why Now? Why this project?” 

We suggest: If your case doesn’t give solid reasons for why we need to act now, then you are creating a weaker document. You are missing a key opportunity to galvanize your supporters.

6. Images. Use lots of images. Photographs should make the reader see and feel the results of your work. 

Our take: We like to use photographs that evoke emotion. Your pictures can convey your work sometimes better than words can. Use close ups of faces. Images with bright colors “land” better in people’s minds. 

7. Excitement. Close it out with repeated dreams, passion, wonder and celebration. 

We suggest: Your case statement should play on the emotional side of why this is important. Help people feel the possibility of a better future – one that they can help create.  Your passion and excitement for the work should show all through the document. 

Bottom Line: Creating a Case Statement that Donors Will Love

Use these tips to guide your writing.  You’ll create something magical that will inspire donors to open their hearts and help your cause right now.  

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

This happens to too many boards – they lose their enthusiasm and zip. It’s sad to see in board members who have their energy to create change and make a difference in the world. 

However, staff and board leaders can certainly change this situation, using these 7 steps. What’s more, you’ll create happier board members as a result.

Here is our recipe for creating change, renewing enthusiasm and firing up these wonderful volunteers who care so much about your cause. But you have to assume some responsibility.

Whether you are a staff member, manager, executive — or a board leader — the change will really start with you.  Be willing to be a spark plug of energy. Assume leadership if there is a void. Find a way to promote the idea of freshening things up and use these 7 steps to help.

Here are our 7 Steps to Fire Up Your Board:

1. Reawaken Their Passion by Asking Them To Share Their Personal Stories

Board members are serving on your board for a reason. It’s probably a deep personal — even emotional — connection with your mission.

Do you ever talk about it? Probably not. We have found that the quickest way to reengage board members’ passion for the cause is simply asking them to share their story of why they care.

Tip: Asking people why they care can open the floodgates of energy and commitment – even bring people to tears. 

2. Help Them Understand Where the Money is Going

We love data! In fact, real numbers can motivate board members. Once they know the facts, they often get fired-up.

Try setting up these discussion questions:

  • Why does it cost so much?
  • Why do we need to spend money on this or that?
  • How much does it cost to help one kid (clean one stream, present one performance, etc.).

And the most important question your board members need to know is “What do we need the MOST but don’t have money for?”

Tip: When board members understand the urgency and the numbers, they might be calling everyone they know to help. (We’ve seen it happen.)

3. Connect Them to Your Real Work

It’s unfortunate. So many board meetings are stuck in dry business discussions — far away from the urgent, tough work in the field, on the stage, in the lab, in the classroom.  No wonder passionate, well-meaning board members feel estranged from the real mission of your nonprofit. And bored.

Take them out of the office and get them in the field. Give them a direct, personal experience of the amazing change you are creating in the world. You’ll see a sea change in their attitude, commitment, enthusiasm and engagement levels.

Tip: Try cancelling your next board meeting and take them on a field trip instead.

4. Liven Up Your Meetings

Ah, the boring board meeting. Fate worse than death?

Listening passively to presentation after presentation. Death by Powerpoint sometimes. There’s no interesting discussion. Or if there is a compelling discussion, it’s often on a trivial topic.

Yes, we’ve all been there!

Reorganize your agenda to put the boring stuff last rather than first. Make committee reports only two minutes each. Create a consent agenda. Give your board chair training in meeting facilitation.

Tip: Check out our post: “12 Ways to Liven Up Your Board Meeting.” 

5. Give Board Members What They Want

Want to give board members a “terrific experience?” If you do, you’ll be rewarded with enthusiasm, energy and lots more engagement.

What do board members really want? June Bradham’s research in her book “The Truth About What Nonprofit Boards Really Want” shared some mind-blowing insights.

Ms. Bradham found that board members want to:

  • Work with people who are as passionate and excited about the organization as they are.
  • Feel that their time is used wisely.
  • Get their hands dirty with real work.
  • Meet the other board members.

Tip: Give your board members some meaningful work that will actually help your organization.

6. Give Them Social Time

If one of the top things board members want is to meet the other board members, then we recommend more social time. That’s why coffees and lunches before and after meetings are so important.

Social time helps foster closer personal relationships among your board members, and a sense of trust among them all. Then they can function better as a team or a committee.

We think board members who don’t know each other well, cannot do a good job of running an organization.

Tip: Build optional social time into your regular meeting agenda.  

7. Focus Them on Action Items

What do your board members need to “do” in order to be good board members?

Simply attend meetings and offer their judgment and opinions?

We like to see board members equipped with actions they are supposed to take.

Whether it is calling five donors to say thank you, or introducing five new people to your organization, or selling five tickets, or opening the door to an important connection, or advocating for your nonprofit at a community forum, or researching roofers so you can get a new roof donated — there’s lots they can do.

Tip: Send board members out the door with a clear idea of what they need to do between now and the next board meeting.

Bottom Line: Try Out These 7 Steps

Take the responsibility to rev up the energy and enthusiasm of your board.

Try these ideas and see what erupts, we’ve tested these 7 steps and they really do work!

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you as we cover new fundraising trends. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

There is really nothing more painful than a capital campaign that loses its momentum. It’s a sad situation – the institution is out there in public with an important initiative, a very public goal, and major gifts designated toward the goal.

Yet the energy of the campaign has fizzled out. How will the organization go forward, when everyone is tired, no more donors are coming forward, and there’s little progress towards the goal?

It’s a very difficult situation to turn around because the energy and momentum are gone. The lead donors have been approached, but they made disappointing smaller gifts.

What now? Don’t let this happen to you and your campaign!

Here are three key reasons we see capital campaigns start to stall in mid-stream and lose momentum:

1. Rush to begin asking.

We all know that the heavy lifting in a capital campaign starts at the very, very beginning. There’s much work to do long before we even think about asking for gifts.

The very first thing we do is evaluate our fundraising capacity – do we have the donor prospects to reach our hoped-for goal? We begin with a deep evaluation of our donor files to identify the most likely donors for the upcoming campaign.

In addition to researching our donor prospects, we prepare by enlisting important volunteers to help lead the campaign and provide credibility, stature and influence to our initiative. Another important early step is to test out our campaign case and proposed projects with potential donors to find out where they stand.

Smart organizations develop trusting relationships with a consulting firm, and initiate a feasibility study to find out how donors feel about our upcoming campaign.

All of these vitally important steps go into setting a winning campaign strategy.

When there is a rush to imply “get going,” and get some initial money in the door, then you are forced to skip over the most important strategic steps of all.

Takeaway: Lay the proper groundwork for your campaign and don’t lose momentum. Don’t let an eager board or CEO rush the campaign planning process. Rushing now will make everything take longer in the end. 

2. Board is not in full agreement.

Occasionally, board members are not all aligned with the organization’s plan to expand, build or grow. Some board members who are not familiar with big ticket fundraising may stonewall because they do not understand the strategy, or may feel intimidated by the numbers.

In other cases, we’ve seen board members argue among themselves about the specific plan for expansion. It’s really impossible to gain momentum when part of your support team is dragging their feet.

When the board is not fully aligned, the division and discord is a huge distraction for already stressed staffers who are trying to move forward. This type of background chatter can make a campaign run aground, even before it starts.

Takeaway: Take the time to help your board come to agreement about the path forward.

3. Campaign prospects turn you down because they are not ready to discuss a gift.

Oh dear. You’re approaching major campaign prospects for 6 and 7 figure gifts – but they say they’re not ready to discuss a gift. Clearly this means that you are trying to move too quickly to the ask.

This is what happens when planning and preparation are rushed. Most donors have to be engaged and warmed up prior to a big ask. It’s so important to take the time to bring them into the campaign process and make them feel like insiders.

Even worse, if you are skipping the discovery and qualification process with your key donors, you could be shooting yourself in the foot. If you skip this basic donor research, you may even approach the wrong people – donors who simply are not that interested.

Moreover, when you ask for a gift too soon, you may even damage your relationship with your donor. You certainly don’t want them to feel this is an affront, which can happen if you try to rush them.

Take away: Take the time to cultivate your important lead donors – and don’t ask until they are ready.

Bottom Line: A smart consulting firm can help you lay the proper groundwork and set up your campaign to sail smoothly toward your goal.

We can help. Let us know if you’d like a free campaign strategy call – just send an email to coaching@gailperry.com with the subject line “Strategy Call.”

Some days the work of a fundraiser is not easy. But stories like this one can remind you why a fundraising career is the right choice.

Have you ever had one of those affirming moments where your inner voice says you have made the right choice – you are on the right path?

Let me share a story with you. 

A story about a young woman and her father, and the gentleman who changed their lives. 

The story.

When I was Director of Development at an independent school there was a young woman who had received a full scholarship for four years.  She was a great student, active in student life and well respected by her peers.  She was even graduating with honors.

On graduation day her family came to celebrate her achievements, proud as can be. Her father was literally bursting with pride. He beamed with joy.

The scholarship fund that had funded the young woman’s education had been created by a gentleman and his wife. They also came to witness her graduation.   

I had the special honor of introducing the young woman’s father to the donors.  Full of joy, pride and gratitude the father took the donor’s hand in both of his and just held them.  The two stood with their hands clasped – tears in both their eyes. 

To this day, it is a moment I treasure.  For in that one moment, I saw the true meaning of what fundraising is all about. That was my affirming moment and I knew I had made the right choice to pursue a career in fundraising.

So how did i get to that moment?

An affirming moment. How I got started in fundraising.

Many years ago, when I was nearing the completion of my MBA,  I didn’t have a clear idea of what my next step would be.  I was selling real estate to fund graduate school and I knew that was a means, not an end.  This question kept coming up -what was I going to do with my career and my life? 

A friend and I talked this over. She suggested I might like, and be good at, fundraising. 

She said I had the right personality and the “smarts.”

Before I knew it, my friend set up a meeting with her father, who was a fundraising consultant. Fast forward and within two months I had a job with the consulting firm as an assistant campaign director.

A fundraising career was born.

As I look back on those early experiences, I am filled with gratitude.  A young thirty-something woman embarking on a new journey – suddenly I was working with smart and passionate professionals. And I was working with donors looking to make a difference in the lives of others. 

Whether through education, healthcare, child welfare, animal welfare, the arts and many more, I found that the desire to generate goodwill in the world is the key motivation for giving.

This is my inspiration every day.

Some days the work of a fundraiser is not easy.  My career has certainly had its ups and downs.  But on days when things are not going as well as I hoped – I remember the story of that young woman, her father and the gentleman.  This story always reminds me why I do what I do. And I smile and know I made the right choice.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you, especially our personal stories. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

Over the years, many fundraisers have asked about our journey from practitioners to consultants. How Gail Perry Group got started. And how did we come to be consultants – offering advice and strategies to all sorts of organizations and institutions?

Well, we can tell you – it’s a journey filled with adventure, mistakes and lots of learning.

Here’s our story – with the lessons we learned along the way. 

Years ago, Kathryn and I were advancing in the fundraising field, doing well at our universities – seemingly happy.

But something kept bothering me. Something was missing. 

I enjoyed my work, but all along I had this idea that I needed a broader scope than only one organization. I wanted to reach out – and inspire – more and more nonprofit leaders and fundraisers.

That’s why, for me, when the time came to leave my position at the University of North Carolina, the move to consulting happened organically. Organizations were reaching out to me quickly – asking if I could help them grow their revenue so they could expand. And before I knew it, I was in deep with many consulting clients. 

But the transition wasn’t easy. Becoming a consultant required some learning. As Kathryn and I embarked as consultants, we learned that to achieve true mastery with our clients and their campaigns, we had to get a few things right.

Lessons Learned: Becoming Master Consultants

1. Always Keep Learning and Learning 

As a consultant, you must keep up with the latest knowledge and trends in the field – especially the various reports tracking shifts in donor behavior, along with everything else.

In addition to major gifts and capital campaigns (our forte) we also needed to know as much as possible about all types of fundraising: integrated direct mail and digital campaigns, planned giving, Donor Advised Funds, corporate and foundation grants, government and public sector funding, event sponsorships, auctions, and social media. 

And yes, finance and accounting, too.  Don’t forget digital and video marketing. Add Big Data, CRM’s and wealth screening to the mix as well. Acquiring the scope of knowledge we needed was – and is – a lifelong commitment. 

We found that to be expert consultants, we consistently need a solid working knowledge of all these areas, and more. 

2. The Art of Client Management

One thing we learned quickly is that, as a consultant, you can’t just pontificate and tell people what to do. It doesn’t work.

People don’t want to be told what to do – they need to be coached in opening to a new idea. 

What does it really take to get someone to accept a change or a challenging concept? We learned to go slowly, and respectfully meet people where they are. We learned to serve as mirrors – reflecting back to our clients and guiding them to come to their own realizations.

Only when you do that can you really create an impact or foster deep change. 

We also learned that all organizations are different. What works for one may not be right for another. Flexibility is the name of the game. We learned that you can’t only see things one way, and that a cookie cutter approach just doesn’t work. 

Mostly, we learned to ditch the standard cookie cutter approaches, and instead customize each campaign and fundraising initiative to each client. 

3. Mastering Board Dynamics  

The field of board governance is complex and vast. And as a consultant, it is a critical arena to better understand and know how to maneuver in order to help clients.

Learning to understand the subtle arts of organizational politics and the psychology of group process (management by committee, anyone?) was a journey in itself. We needed to develop a working knowledge of organizational behavior, and hone our leadership and facilitation skills.

Not only that, but our clients needed us to be a grounding force with their boards. Corralling board members into one direction, while at the same, inspiring and motivating them. Needless to say, this is an art that not everyone masters. 

We learned how to build a strong board, how to best introduce fundraising and friendmaking to boards in a way that makes it fun, and how to get board members to engage in and support the fundraising process. 

Bottom Line.

Sometimes to get where you want to go, you need to ask for help.

As a blossoming consultant, I hired a business consultant myself. They taught me powerful new facilitation skills and the secrets of creating change within an organization. Those ideas are ultimately what inspired my bookFired Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action, and my popular board workshop, Easy Fundraising and Friendmaking for Board Members. 

Looking back, I can confidently say that when we started we did not know what this journey would entail. But now, after helping hundreds of nonprofit organizations and boards, and learning through experience, we know this journey was our calling and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

I wish you could have been there. 

It was a hot Friday evening in July, and a group of friends had gathered together for supper at my house. 

My new daughter was a year old, and I was just starting to think about going back to work, after taking a year off to enjoy being with her. 

As we enjoyed the cooling air on the back deck, one of my friends spoke to me directly. 

It was my good friend Michael Rierson, who was the head corporate fundraiser at Duke University.

And he said some magic words: 

“Gail, are you ready to go back to work? 

There’s a fundraising job at Duke that you’d be great for.” 

Hmmm, I thought to myself. Fundraising. I had several years of professional sales experience but had never thought about getting started in fundraising. 

Yes, at 35 years old, I had already served on several nonprofit boards, and even chaired a board. Yes, nonprofit causes and making the world a better place definitely interested me. 

To me, it seemed like the perfect match: Professional sales plus nonprofit mission. And I heard a little tiny voice in my head: 

“Fundraising. That feels like fun. Yes.”

Now and then in people’s lives, a small voice speaks clearly inside their heads. Some people ignore that voice. The lucky ones hear the message, listen to it – and take action. That voice is how I started in fundraising.

I jumped at the opportunity to interview for the position of Major Gifts Officer at Duke. Six weeks later, I started my new job. Hurray!

Now, raising money at Duke University was a lesson in advanced fundraising. These people knew the art of cultivating donors. As a result, the gifts were flowing into Duke. Here are some of the lessons I learned at my very first fundraising job at Duke:

Lessons learned at Duke University. 

1.     Make the first gift such a nice experience for your donors that they will quickly give again.       

Make it an occasion of joy and celebration on the part of the receiving institution AND the donor. So – the first gift from a donor is (hopefully) never the largest! 

2.     Set objectives for each donor meeting.

Once you get started in fundraising, if you don’t have a plan for each visit with a donor, you may end up wasting your time. It’s easy to be social, and avoid having a direct conversation. But if you don’t engage the donor in a conversation about their interests, you lose a valuable opportunity. 

3.     Find seven ways to thank your donor, and they’ll give again.

Donors who are thanked properly are highly likely to give again. There are all sorts of ways you can acknowledge and appreciate your donors – videos, impact reports, personal notes, events, invitations, etc. It takes a lot of work but it’s totally worth it when your donor gives more and more and more. 

4.     95% of the money comes from 3% of your donors. 

A whopping majority of your gifts and contributions comes from very few people. If they are wildly passionate about your work, then they deserve your focused attention. You must focus on the very few people who can give the most.

5.    Stay in front of your prospects.

There is a direct correlation between the number of contacts a donor has from the organization – before the ask – and the amount of the gift. This also means that the longer you wait to ask, then the bigger the gift will be. 

6.    Ask for a specific amount always – based on the donor’s values and explicit motivation. 

Say: Would you consider a gift in the range of _X dollars_ for _X years_ if we can show you how it could be done?  In the life cycle of a donor there are perfect moments for asking for money. You are just nudging the inevitable.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. Let us know what you think of our new branding in the comments below!

Over and over, we all fight the same battle: how to control our talking when we are meeting with a donor.  After all, talking too much is the kiss of death.

It’s a challenge for everyone – newbies, experienced fundraisers, executive directors, board members, academic leaders alike. 

So, let’s review why it’s so important to listen to the donor, rather than to make a presentation. Why do we want the donor to do most of the talking? Why is talking too much the kiss of death in fundraising? 

You will turn your donor off.

Guess what – in a meeting, your donor is probably expecting to do most of the talking. She has opinions, she’s been thinking a lot about your organization, and she wants to express her point of view. She’s expecting to be heard, and she is not expecting to be presented to by you. 

Above all, you want your donor to stay interested and involved in the conversation. If you are talking and talking, she may start taking mental side trips. Her eyes may start to glaze over. And then, the worst thing can happen – she may feel bored. 

If that happens, she just might not want to see you again. Who wants to visit with someone who talks and talks all the time?

Put yourself in your donor’s shoes.

How long has it been since you felt stuck in a meeting with someone you could not escape from? And you were longing for a way out?

You certainly don’t want your donor to feel like she’s desperate to get away from you. Not at all; you want her to enjoy the visit and want to see you again.

You may think you’re being interesting, but your donor may think that you are droning on and on. 

Are you guilty of the kiss of death – the “talking problem?”

Too many nonprofit leaders – CEO’s, development directors and board volunteers alike – are guilty of the “talking problem.”

Everyone thinks they need a presentation that can sell the donor on their cause. Even more, too many people think they need a sales pitch.

Here’s the truth.

You don’t need a pitch. You need to listen to your donor instead.

Why are listening skills more important than presentation skills?

Because in fundraising, we have to follow our donor’s lead. When meeting with a donor, we cater to them. Always, we try to bring the donor out and make them feel comfortable. It’s far more important to listen than it is to talk.

As major gift fundraisers, we pay very close attention to what is on our donor’s mind, so that we can find out where she stands. If we want to develop her interest, then we have to know where her strongest interests are. 

If we truly want a warm relationship, then we need to know what is important to her. What her values are, and WHY she is so interested in our cause.

If we have this information, we can probably engage her deeply, get her involved, create a happy long term relationship and develop some wonderfully generous gifts.

Without this information about your donor, you are pretty much at a dead end. There is no cultivation pathway, and no way to plan an appropriate ask. 

Our recommendation is that you and your team should never do more than 50% of the talking. You’ll find that you can become quite comfortable, simply sitting there, holding the space for your donor to share her thoughts. You can relax, watch, gauge and listen.

We think that self-awareness, self-control and a light touch should be very highly prized skills for major gift fundraisers.

Bottom line. Make this your fundraising motto: “Listen Your Way to the Gift.”

The donor will show you the way.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

How Board Members Can Help Increase Donations by 39%

If you are serving as a nonprofit board member, I’m sure you are often asked to help in fundraising.

Here’s how you and your fellow board members can help increase donations to your organization by 39% – without having to do any “asking.”

To Increase Donations, All You Have to Do is Say “Thank You.”

Are you and your fellow board members nervous about having to solicit or ask for gifts? We understand.

So we’d like to suggest a different role in fundraising for you. How about taking on a thanking role with donors?

When you, as a board member, offer your personal thanks to your organization’s donors, you can make a huge difference.  In fact, you can directly impact your institution’s bottom line, while avoiding gift solicitations that could be awkward.

Special Thank You Treatment for Donors.

Try this test and track your results. Then you can evaluate how this strategy works for you and your fellow board members.

The next time your organization sends out a fundraising appeal, work with your staff to select out a random group of donors to receive a special thank you treatment.

Organize a team of  board members to make thank you phone calls to these donors within 24 hours of the gift being received. It’s important to make the call immediately after your organization receives the gift.

If the donor does not answer, the board member can leave a message that simply thanks the donor.

The phone calls are not about asking for another gift. They are for stewardship only.

If any of the board members are adventurous, they can take another step and ask the donor why they chose to make this gift. That would create a rich conversation that the donor will enjoy.

Track Your Results.

A few months after this first gift, your organization should send another fundraising appeal to all donors – both those who received the extra thank you phone call and those who just received a standard acknowledgment letter.

And when repeat gifts come in, compare the results of both groups.

You’ll find, when all other things are equal, some interesting results.

The donors who received a prompt, personal thank you from a board member within 24 hours of the gift being received, will usually give up to 39% more than the other group.

This is how board members help increase donations without having to ask.

3. The Original Research Findings.

Fundraising pioneer Penelope Burk performed the original research that found these amazing results. Her team originated the  “Donor Centered Fundraising” philosophy, a paradigm shift that changes the emphasis away from the organization’s needs and instead focuses on helping the donor create an impact.

Penelope Burk shared this data on board member thank you calls at an AFP International Conference from her research:

  • Donors received a thank you phone call from a board member within 24 hours of receiving the gift.
  • The next time they were solicited, they gave 39% more than the other donors who did not receive a call.
  • After 14 months, those called were giving 42% more.

4. How to Implement Board Member Thank You Calls.

Some board members may offer to make calls, but not follow through. So you will want only those who are enthusiastic and committed to sign up for this project.

  1. First, share the data with board members about the financial results from making prompt, personal thank you calls to donors. Be sure everyone understands the “why” of the project and the upside positive potential from making these calls promptly.
  2. Have one or two board members take charge of the project. Enlist a small committee. Be sure to coordinate closely with your staff.
  3. Make sure the committee members all understand that prompt timing is essential.
  4. Give each committee member specific phone calls to make. Don’t send out a whole list to the entire committee and hope that someone will make the calls.
  5. Have each board member report back weekly on the results of their calls.

One organization we know asked the board members to post their thank you call results on a shared Google document. That way each board member could see who was making their calls. Word had it that a competition took hold and each board member tried to outdo the others.

The busiest person on the board – a busy lawyer – made sure his calls were as up to date – or more up to date – as all the others. Now that is productive and friendly competition!

A Success Story of How Board Members Can Help Increase Donations:

Here’s an example from our own history:

One of our consulting clients, a local Rape Crisis Center, was staging their annual auction. One of our friends attended with us, and apparently purchased a lot of items at the auction.

The next day I was sitting in my office, when our friend called.

Excitedly, he said, “You won’t believe what just happened!”

“I’m speechless,” he continued. “I just got a phone call from a board member of the Rape Crisis Center thanking me for . . . for   . . .  for being the largest donor at the auction last night!”

“I just can’t believe it,” he gushed. “I’ve given money all over the country and I’ve NEVER gotten a call from a board member.”

We could just feel him beaming all the way over the phone. He was absolutely thrilled.

The next year, he asked us “Is the Rape Crisis Center having their auction this fall? I haven’t gotten an invitation yet?”

That year, he bought an entire table and hosted the president of the largest foundation in North Carolina at his table. I think the Rape Crisis Center has him for life now, because they gave him such special treatment.

Bottom Line: Board Members Can Increase Donations to Their Organizations – Simply by Saying Thank You.

A little effort goes a long way – remember that and remind your board. A simple acknowledgement phone call could be just the thing your donor needs to become a loyal lifelong major donor.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

We were helping one of our clients work through a challenge yesterday.

Our client, a national organization, is planning a $300 million capital campaign. The problem is, the organization’s board is not composed of “heavy hitters” so to speak, who hold power and influence.

The organization has a lot going for it. Its mission is solid and its impact is proven. But its leadership doesn’t have the connections they need to raise hundreds of millions.

Our recommended solution: we are guiding them through a deliberate networking process to bring in individuals who have power, connections and influence with funders.

Do You Have Enough People of Power and Influence Standing Behind Your Institution?

Every successful capital campaign needs powerful individuals who add credibility to the campaign. Their most important function is to help open doors to important donors – which can significantly shorten the time it takes to close a major gift.

For example, some key individuals can make a phone call, and quickly give you an open door to an important funding source. Or you have may a specific need: with one email, a key leader can suddenly access the resources to make it happen.

What You Get: Instant Leverage

Early in the game, we advise our clients to identify significant leaders of influence in their sphere and pull them in closer. As we all know, one key, well-connected individual can often draw three powerful leaders in.

When they lend their authority and back your work, their own credibility increases the standing of your organization. It builds confidence in your mission.

It’s like they are giving their seal of approval to your initiative.  Again, they can help you dramatically shorten the time it takes to forge significant relationships with funding sources. You can raise serious money much faster.

What You Get: Shortened Timelines

When you have the benefit of the right door-opener, then you don’t have to painstakingly build a trusting relationship from scratch with a donor. Instead, your “key influencer” can help you move right into a Gift Conversation with the donor. This saves you and your team so very much time and effort.

They add a backdrop of visibility and prominence so that doors to donors will fling open early in the game. Key funders will say, sure, I’ve heard about this and I’m happy to discuss your project with you.

In two of our capital campaigns, we’ve helped our clients network their way to a former governor of their state. Imagine how helpful a former governor could be to a campaign – he or she can be a key influencer of many companies, foundations, families, and even government funding sources. It’s a win-win all around.

Planning a Capital Campaign? Stack the Deck with Power and Influence

This is one of our key campaign planning strategies that we incorporate in our campaign planning studies. Who are the leaders who can help your campaign the most?

We advise all our clients – early in the game – to set themselves up for success. Add the right well-connected, influential volunteer leaders as soon as possible. As we mentioned, they’ll  bolster the prominence and visibility of the pending campaign, and make things so much easier by offering access to major and lead donors.

The Right Timing Can Build Momentum

How, and in what order, do you enlist your key influencers? It’s important to understand the whole landscape and lay out a careful sequence of priority steps.

Who is the first person you can enlist? If you can get a certain individual on board now, then who will they attract? What relationships can they leverage?

This is why the early campaign ramp up activities are absolutely critical. The right sequence of key people joining, one by one, to back your project can create that magic campaign ingredient we call momentum.

For example:

One wonderful individual joins on, and they say “have you talked to this person?”

You say, “I barely know them.”

Then your key influencer says, “I can fix that.”

You just moved from game space one to game space five.

Building Your Board Prior to a Major Campaign

If you are even thinking about a capital campaign in the next few years, you need to immediately start building connections with potential board members of influence and standing in your community.

Your board will play a key role in the campaign.  While you are working to recruit top volunteer leaders for the campaign, your board can help create the confidence and momentum needed to help attract those special individuals.

For example, achieving 100% giving participation by the board early can send a strong message to potential leaders that your board and organization are committed to the success of the campaign.

One of our campaign clients did just this. When they went to recruit their campaign chair, they were able to use the board’s early campaign commitment to successfully recruit their desired campaign chair.

It’s never too early to stack your board with people who can not only make major campaign gifts, but also bring other donors with them.

Bottom Line: Who Do You Need to Add to Your Team to Increase Power and Influence?

Is it time for you to reestablish key relationships? Who are your former board members, key funders or supporters who might have drifted away?

Can you seek out advice visits early while your campaign is still an idea? Can you engage them early in campaign planning?

Remember, stacking your deck with people of power and influence can shorten your campaign timeline, help you secure lead gifts faster, and give your campaign prominence in your community. It’s a smart strategy.

Does your institution have a true culture of philanthropy?

Diving deeper, the real question is: is there really full support for fundraising across your entire organization?

All the way from your board members to program staffers?

Often, we find many fundraising teams are not getting full support from their institutions. They are forced to operate in a silo – walled off from other departments. A sense of camaraderie between colleagues is missing.

When fundraising operates in a vacuum, results will be less successful. You’ll never reach your true financial potential in this type of environment.

If you want to reach your ultimate revenue goals you must have broad support for fundraising across your entire organization.

So how do we build broad-based organizational support for fundraising – a true culture of philanthropy?

1. It’s an Attitude Thing

We find that non-fundraisers tend to think of fundraising as only one activity: “asking for money.”

What’s more, it’s not understood that smart fundraising requires much, much more than just the act of asking.

If your colleagues and leaders get stuck on the issue of asking, they might default to thinking that fundraising is distasteful.  As a result, they certainly don’t want to get involved.

Your colleagues may think if you ask them to get involved in “fundraising,” then you’ll ask them to solicit, which they very likely will avoid.

So, you are dealing with an attitude thing – people’s thoughts and their feelings.

If you want to create change – remember meet people where they are. Your job is to slowly start to land different ideas in their heads. 

2. Redefine “Fundraising” into Something Broader and Bigger Called “Philanthropy”

The idea of “fundraising” carries with it ideas like sales, money, asking, soliciting and hitting people up.

The term “fundraising” can put people off.

Yet, on the other hand, the idea of “philanthropy” feels grand and lovely. It carries with it a sense of nobility and community.

The term “philanthropy” can attract people. It makes them want to get involved.

Don’t forget: When you redefine fundraising into the more lofty concept of philanthropy, you open people to new ideas and new possibilities.

Jeanne Tedrow, CEO of Passage Home , (now head of the NC Center for Nonprofits) told us, “Philanthropy just feels different when you are talking to your board and volunteers – they are not so scared to get involved.” 

3. Begin by Asking Everyone to Take Part in Thanking Donors

Thanking donors is an easy job. It’s enjoyable and satisfying, and it’s the right thing to do.

Why not ask colleagues across the organization about creative ways to thank your donors?  This can be interesting and fun, while introducing the idea that donors are important, wonderful people.

When you make it about honoring the awesome people who make your work possible – then it’s not about “fundraising.” Instead- it’s about philanthropy.

We find board members often really enjoy saying thank you. It’s the perfect place to get them started in fundraising. Try a thankathon to launch your next annual campaign.

Focus your board members on thanking and suddenly you just might have enthusiastic board members on the fundraising train.

Sue Acree of Literacy Connections summed this up during an Insiders webinar:“Focus on the donors and the money will follow.”

4. Find Ways for Everyone to Engage with Your Lovely Donors

Just think how much fun you could have if you got the entire organization actively engaging with, and celebrating your donors.

You may be asking: how can you engage donors with your mission? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Give them tours.
  2. Invite them to panel discussions.
  3. Introduce them to program staffers. Bring your key “subject matter expert” program heads to meet donors. Donors always love to meet your program colleagues who are carrying out your mission.
  4. Ask donors to volunteer. Ask them what they think of the work.
  5. Share stories and more stories about your organization’s work. Donors love to hear often about how they are making a difference through YOU.

As Meg Revelle from Arts Together shared after an INSIDERS webinar:

“At our board meeting, we brainstormed all the ways we could help engage donors. Each Board member left with at least one idea to implement. They chose what excited them and they wanted to do – and it was such fun!”

Bottom Line: Create a Culture of Philanthropy

If you want to create a culture of philanthropy at your organization, make it easy and make it enjoyable for everyone. You’ll find broader support across your organization once more colleagues participate.

As Suzie Acree said, “This is changing my thinking….I am gaining a new perspective on donors that makes it more fun, for not only me, but my staff and board!”

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

One of the biggest challenges for major gift fundraisers is prioritizing their assigned prospects, and understanding the role of a Backburner List.

It’s a matter of organizing your portfolio.

How do you sift through many names to find the right people to build relationships with?

With over 100-150 donors to manage, how do you make sure to focus on the right prospects at the right time?

Are you operating with maximum productivity, spending your time at its highest and best use?

And yet, you don’t want to overlook a prospect simply due to lack of time and/or the prospect isn’t responding or available.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of only seeing your “favorite” people – the easy prospects who are always game for a call or visit. But this may not be the best strategy.

What Can Go Wrong?

A lot. While you are chatting up your most available prospects, you might overlook that more elusive donor. You know them – the ones who are hard to get a meeting with, the ones who take weeks to call you back, the ones with whom no one at your organization has a relationship.

But that prospect may just be worth your time. They have capacity and a solid giving history to your organization. They do have potential, and you don’t want to forget about them. What is a major gift fundraiser to do?

Your Top Secret Strategy.

Every day, you need to evaluate your list of prospects and set priorities. Who will you be focusing on? Which donors need to be on your Priority Prospect List?

First, your goal is to identify them, which is more work than you might think.

Then you need an organizing scheme that allows you to segment your portfolio. Create your top ten and then your next group, etc.

What Should You Do with Elusive Prospects?  Create a Backburner List.

Your Backburner List includes prospects who are not a priority right now. For example, they may not be ready to discuss a gift – yet. These donors are simply “simmering” on the back burner while you focus on the prospects who are warm or hot.

Who Goes on the Backburner List?

  • People you don’t want to forget about – they are promising, but their timing is off. They’ll need attention later, but not now.
  • People who may merit a closer look. One day you will be able to have more discovery conversations with them, so you can find out how interested they really are.
  • People who may have given recently and who (of course) need continued touches and attention.

Why Have a Backburner List:

1. Lowers Stress.

Trying to pay concentrated attention to a large number of donors is simply impossible. You are spread too thin. You will end up feeling stressed because you’re not “covering” your portfolio of donors well enough.

2. Organizes Your Prospects.

The Backburner List allows you to organize your prospects. Everyone needs a workable prospect management system that guides you to set your priorities.

3. Bless and Release.

How wonderful! You can even bless and release prospects who are not responsive, who are rude or unpleasant, or are simply not interested in a closer relationship. You can put some of them on the Backburner so you don’t forget them later.

4. Makes You More Productive.

Yes! Let’s make everyone on the team more productive. You have a system that helps you focus on the right prospects. You’re not spreading yourself too thin. Instead you’re concentrating where you see the highest gift potential for right now.

Remember, it’s all a judgement game. We are not saying “ignore half of your portfolio.” Instead, we recommend a system that lets you sift through everyone on your list so you can set priorities efficiently.

Bottom Line: Create a Backburner List and you’ll lower your stress level, sleep better at night, and raise more money!

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

With the positive economic environment right now, most capital campaigns are really taking off in 2021. We’re seeing some interesting new capital campaign trends among our clients’ capital campaigns, and wanted share them here.

As we’ve seen with many of our clients, your capital campaign can be a booming success with a few strategic efforts. Donors are feeling wealthy right now, and they are often ready to move forward and discuss how they can help. Take advantage of these capital campaign trends for 2021:

1. Taking Advantage of the Soaring Stock Market

Most donors make larger gifts when they see strong growth trends in the stock market. As we mentioned above, they “feel” wealthier.

Because the stock market has grown so much over the past few years, investors are enjoying record high stock appreciation and profits.

It’s a wonderful time to remind donors about the benefits of giving appreciated stock. Not only can donors avoid capital gains taxes, but they can also gain significant tax deductions from their charitable contributions.

For example, a donor purchased stocks for an average $100 per share, investing a total of $10,000. Ten years later, the stocks could now be worth $280/share. The donor’s original investment is now worth $28,000.

By making the gift of the fully appreciated stock, the donor avoids capital gains taxes and gets to help their favorite organization with a significant campaign gift.

Takeaway: Many donors have extensive paper profits from the high stock market. Don’t forget to gently inquire about giving with assets other than cash.

2. More Transparent Messaging

We are seeing a strong trend toward more specific, much more transparent communications with major donors. Organizations that are sharing their status openly and honestly with their donors are receiving more support.

All along, donors have shared that they dislike formal, lofty language from the organizations they support. All the acronyms and nonprofit-speak puts them off, and dampens their enthusiasm.

During the pandemic, nonprofits are talking about their work very differently. Our clients are being frank with their supporters. They’re sharing exactly what is going on financially, and what they really need. As a result, donors are responding generously.

Our Major Gift Coaching client, Historic Columbus worried about a serious drop in contributions last year just about this time. We suggested to the Executive Director that she choose 20 major donors, communicate often with them via email and share an update of how the organization was adapting.

A few months later, out of the blue, one of the donors suddenly gifted $40,000. The donor explained that he appreciated the Executive Director’s frequent communications, and the transparency she showed in being perfectly open about the numbers.

Capital campaign trend takeaway: When your financial situation shifts – or when you have a major opportunity like a capital campaign – it is more important than ever to be transparent with your donors.

3. More Straightforward Conversations with Donors

For over a year, fundraisers have not been able to meet and greet our donors. No more coffees, lunches, meetings, gatherings. All the schmoozing of major gift and capital campaign work evaporated as we shifted to shut down for the pandemic. All the “fluff” of major gift fundraising went down the drain.

As a result, we were forced into absolutely direct conversations with our donors. No more oblique dancing those awkward discovery and qualification questions.

Now, we are training our clients to move right along with their donors, to find out what they are interested in. Be ready to ask your donors, in a very straightforward manner:

“Could you see yourself becoming more involved with our work?”

“Would you like to know more about how you can help?

As a result, our clients are saving so much time by finding out quickly which donors are interested, and which ones are not.

Capital campaign trend takeaway: It’s easy to find your most passionate supporters by asking a few direct questions.

4. Donors are Ready to Discuss Their Gifts Early in the Campaign

In this environment where donors are feeling wealthy, and nonprofits are directly discussing their needs with donors, good things can happen quickly.

For example, our campaign clients are seeing extraordinary results with one simple question:

“Would this be a good time to discuss your support of our campaign?”

This polite question is usually easy to ask. For instance, one of our clients closed a $100,000 gift the first time she asked this question. The next time she asked it, she closed a $250,000 gift.

Note that both of these gifts came in without a formal campaign ask. We just coached her to look for the right signals, and then be ready to gently pose the question. Note: she was on the phone or zoom for both of these conversations – in a digital format.

Takeaway: You can close major campaign gifts by asking your donor about their timing. Many of your donors are more ready than you may think.

Bottom Line: Capital Campaign Trends for 2021

Remember, the fundraising outlook for 2021 and 2022 is very positive. Make sure you prepare and seize this ripe opportunity.

Take advantage of these new capital campaign trends. Be willing to be transparent, direct and straightforward with your donors. You’ll see terrific results.

Don’t forget, we are happy to arrange a free campaign strategy call if you are in the process of planning a capital campaign.

NO ASK fundraising strategies for board members? Is this possible?

Often, we find that board members are nervous about the idea of fundraising. They want to help, but shy away from the idea of “asking.”

We recently shared our favorite list of the Top 10 Fundraising Responsibilities of Board Members. Today we want to dive deeper and discuss how each board member can find a comfortable role where they can personally support fundraising, without having to solicit.

Here are just a few of the productive jobs they can do to raise friends, thank donors and help create a sustainable fundraising program.

1. Spread the word among their networks and social circles.

Your board members need to be roaring advocates for your organization; they need to talk it up wherever they go. Every organization needs their board members to be in action, spreading the word and making friends for the cause.

It’s important for all board members to enthusiastically share news about their favorite cause with their friends. Most are willing to share posts, videos or images with their social networks. For example, many board members jump in to support Giving Days by reaching out to friends via social or digital channels.

One thing board members need to remember: they have immense credibility within their communities.

One reason is because they are unpaid volunteers.  They are only supporting the organization out of the goodness of their hearts – because they care. This gives board members more stature within the community and their circles of friends than they realize.

So the job is clear: ask your board members to introduce your organization to everybody they know. Let’s start a groundswell of good news about your cause that will spread through your community.

2. Open doors by hosting Small Socials.

You can expand your community relationships and make new friends through gatherings such as Small Socials. This job is perfect for socially oriented board members who have a large network.

A Small Social can take several formats. For example, it can be a coffee, a tea, a dinner, a porch party, a cookout, or cocktails. The event can be a breakfast meeting or luncheon. It can include 3 people or 100.

Here’s our preferred format for a “door-opener” Small Social:

  1. Board members, volunteers or donors invite guests, underwrite it and serve as hosts.
  2. There is no charge, because this is a cultivation event designed to introduce new people to your organization’s work. The goal is to work the room, so to speak.
  3. There is a short presentation (max 15 minutes) in the midst of the socializing.
  4. The board volunteer host welcomes everyone, and the CEO gives a short high-impact message about the work and your results.
  5. You follow up with attendees after the event, by asking them about their impressions and if they’d like to get involved.

Small Socials are one of our favorite no ask fundraising strategies for board members. Opening doors and making connections is a most important role – one that can pay off in future major gifts. 

3. Host a tour to showcase your organization’s impact.

Board members can host tours to bring prospective friends closer to your organization. We find that a carefully scripted tour can be a powerful way to demonstrate your organization’s good work and to illustrate unmet needs in the community.

The tour lets your work speak for itself.

Your guests will hear staff members, or even clients/students/stakeholders, express in their own words their personal first-hand experiences with your organization’s mission— and the good it does—in the community.

A well-planned tour is hosted by a board volunteer. Just like in Small Socials, the CEO will share a visionary message. Use the same follow-up plan as a Small Social.

By hosting a tour of your organization for donors or friends, board members play a powerful role showcasing your organization’s work. Even more, their presence adds credibility and stature to your organization.

4. Thank you calls to donors.

One of the most powerful actions a board member can take is to make thank you phone calls to donors. This should always happen soon after the gift is received by your organization.

When board members call to thank donors, the donors are usually quite impressed. Donors will  think:

“This organization appreciates me”

“I am a real person to this organization, not just a checkbook”

“This organization is well run”

Donors who receive phone calls from board members invariably tend to give larger gifts the next time and tend to stay on board as donors longer.

Some studies have shown that donors who received a thank you call from a board member within 24 hours of making a gift, later made subsequent gifts that were 39% higher than donors who did not receive a call.

This means that board members can directly improve your organization’s bottom line without having to solicit.

Bottom Line: NO ASK Fundraising Strategies for Board Members

Every board member can support your organization’s fundraising.

There is a fundraising role for each person on your board – whether they are in an asking role or not. Opening doors, making friends and thanking donors are valuable jobs that can pay off with increased gifts to support your cause.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.