Guest post from Melissa Sais, CampaignCounsel.org
If you canceled fundraising events in 2020 and 2021 or if COVID-19 has impacted your annual or project-oriented giving, you’re working hard to figure out how to make up those losses so that your nonprofit can continue to meet the needs in your community.
We suggest you consider capital campaign solicitation strategies. In conducting capital campaigns, we use a proven process to secure large gifts and pledges for multi-million dollar building projects. Integrating capital campaign strategies into your fundraising efforts may put you back on track.
Translating the steps of a capital campaign into your new fundraising effort includes preparing cohesive materials to carry you through the effort, gaining an understanding of the donors on whom to focus your efforts, and embracing new strategies to cultivate, solicit and steward those donors at an appropriate level.
Your path to this new fundraising opportunity breaks down into six steps.
Your first course of action is to identify where your losses have occurred, what is your actual need, and how filling that need benefits your community. These pieces set the stage for what is to come and clarify your goal.
Identifying the specific people who will help you reach this goal is your next task. That will entail reviewing your database and segmenting your prospects in the same way that CampaignCounsel.org does in capital campaigns. During the segmentation process, we help our clients look at frequency of giving, size of their gifts, designation of those gifts, and whether the nonprofit can gain personal access to those prospects.
Our company uses iWave’s wealth screening software to learn more about prospective donors. We also enlist the nonprofit’s board for a confidential review of prospects. We have found that combining public data (iWave) with personal knowledge (board members) is the best means to identifying potential major-gift donors.
With your prospective donors identified, you can now create targeted solicitation materials. That begins with developing a case for support, a document that aligns your organizational needs with community benefits. Your case for support evolves into professional materials that will help you make strong in-person and virtual solicitations.
Before solicitations begin, it is best to spend one to two months educating and cultivating your prospective donors through direct mail and emailed newsletters. These communications do not go to your entire database, only those identified as likely to give significant amounts to this specific effort. Great care is taken to pull out all the stops with this part of the process – first class stamp, hand-signed cover letter, personal notes – as every step is proven to elevate the personal ask that will be coming in the next few months.
Now the process of making solicitations can begin. Solicitors – those board members who helped you identify prospects – should be trained on the qualities of making a good ask and how to handle the possible answers.
This part of the process also will include reviewing ask amounts for each prospect and assigning solicitors so that the asks are peer-to-peer, meaning the solicitor has made a gift the size of that he is asking the prospect to give and if possible is a close friend or family member.
Personal solicitations should continue until 90 percent of your goal is met. After that you can use direct mail and email blasts to bring your entire donor community to a public phase of the campaign.
Every donor deserves to be thanked and recognized in a timely manner. Stewardship includes a thank you letter within one week, pledge reminders that are accurate and timely, and any donor recognition you have planned. You’ll also want to continue sharing your success using your newsletter and, eventually, through a community-wide press release.
This methodology is proven, and we know you can do it, but you must be brave! Learn more at our upcoming iWave webinar, “Events Canceled? Use Capital Campaign Solicitation Strategies to Make up for Losses.”
CampaignCouncil.org President Kevin Wallace and I will lead you through the details of the process of using capital campaign solicitation strategies to advance your efforts and answer your questions in a free one-hour session. This webinar is designed to help small- to medium-sized nonprofits that do not have major gift ($10,000+) fundraising experience or capital campaign experience. See you there!
Melissa Sais is a consultant and communications director for CampaignCounsel.org providing capital campaign leadership, planning and management to nonprofits.