It’s Always Best to Ask Your Donors
September 20, 2018
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October 3, 2018

Real-Life Campaign Success: What It Takes

A client of ours recently surpassed their endowment campaign goal by 50 percent. Woohoo! This community-based human needs organization now has a corpus of more than $1.5 million that will grow over time and provide an important safety net, as well as funds for special opportunities.

A couple of weeks ago, we sat down with the Campaign Steering Committee and the staff team to celebrate and to debrief on the campaign. What worked? What didn’t? What were the key elements of success?

Many things came in to play, of course, such as a powerful case for support, professional solicitation materials, a great institutional reputation, a thoughtful feasibility study in advance of the campaign, and more.

But, a few things really stood out as pivotal in not just meeting, but surpassing the campaign goal:

The Board came in big at the beginning.

Board giving was the first order of business for the campaign and it was a grand slam. The combined Board contribution was large in part because the Board Chair made a significant stretch gift to set the tone for the campaign.

The Campaign Chair was fearless and determined.

This client really had the dream scenario with their Campaign Chair. Teasingly called a “volunteer zealot” by the rest of the team, he was not afraid to ask, determined to meet goal, made his own significant gift, and motivated others on the committee. This is a reminder that it’s worth the effort to find the right person to lead a campaign. It truly meant the difference between a so-so effort and an amazing one.

The Campaign Steering Committee was highly effective.

The Committee was made up of people with real passion for the program. Most were former Board Chairs of the organization. Most had never solicited five- and six-figure gifts, but rose to the occasion because they cared so deeply. When asked what made them so successful, they cited strong staff support, a positive tone throughout the campaign (no emotional stress, anxiety, or pressure tactics), and a primary focus on donor visits rather than lots of committee meetings.

The staff was, quite simply, fantastic.

Neither the Executive Director nor the Director of Development had any campaign experience. But, they did have major gifts experience, passion, a willingness to learn, and foresight. They knew going into the campaign that they couldn’t just add it to their plates without additional help. So they brought in a part-time, temporary Campaign Assistant for just 10 hours a week and it made all the difference in their ability to support the Committee’s work and do a lot of the solicitation work themselves.

Fundraising counsel provided a framework and training.

The client relied on Front Range Source to provide the “scaffolding” for the campaign with a comprehensive plan. We offered guidance along the way to accommodate shifts and changes, as needed. And, most importantly, we prepared each solicitor for their asks. Our presence helped the group stay on track and feel confident along the way.

None of these things happened by chance. Everything from the Board effort to the staffing support was planned in advance. That said, there were elements of magic that bubbled up unexpectedly.

I attribute those moments of magic to the team’s deep love for the organization and its community. Where there’s passion, there’s success!

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