Your organization is thinking of embarking on a capital, endowment or comprehensive campaign. It is what you do before you embark on a major campaign that ensures success.

Jeff Jowdy, Founder and President of Lighthouse Counsel, recently joined us for a webinar in which he showed us the eight foundations that need to be in place in order to maximize campaign success. In case you missed it, you can view the replay here:

Full Transcript:

Steven: Cool let’s do it. Well, good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon if you’re on the East Coast. Good morning if you’re on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s webinar, “Eight Foundations for a Successful Major Campaign.” My name is Steven Shattuck and as always I’ll be moderating today’s discussion. Thanks for being here.

Before we begin, I just want to go through a few housekeeping items, just want to let everyone know that we are recording this presentation and I’ll be sending out a link to the recording as well as the slides later on this afternoon, so look for an email from me in just a couple of hours after the presentation concludes.

As you are listening today please feel free to send in any questions or comments through the chat box right there on your screen. I’ll see those, Jeff will see those throughout the presentation. We’re going to save some time at the end for formal Q&A. So don’t be shy about that we love to get some conversation going in the chat room. We would love to see people participate in that way. It always makes me smile to see people talking to each other and asking questions of our guest.

Just in case this is your first Bloomerang webinar welcome. Thanks for being here. Some of you who attend our webinars know that we took February off. This is kind of the kick off to our new season of Thursday webinars. We do this every week usually on Thursdays. They’re totally free. They’re totally educational. We would love for you to register for more of these sessions. We try to bring on an expert speaker every week to give a highly educational presentation just like Jeff is going to do today.

But in addition to that Bloomerang is also a provider of database software for nonprofit. So if you’re in the market for that, if you’re interested in learning more please check out our website after the presentation. You can get a look inside the software, you can look at a video demo, you can look at some customer testimonials, and we’d love for you to learn more if that interests you.

So I want to go ahead and introduce today’s guest. He is Jeff Jowdy. Hey there Jeff, how is it going?

Jeff: Doing great, Steven. Great to be here.

Steven: Thanks so much for being here. Jeff, he is one of my favorite guys, he is a southern gentleman. He is one of the nicest guys I know. Jeff he joined us for a webinar back in 2013. We just had to have him back. For those of you who don’t know Jeff, he is the Founder and president of Lighthouse Counsel, which is a consulting firm that serves nonprofit clients in board development, fundraising, strategic planning, and communications. They have offices in Athens, Georgia and Franklin, Tennessee.

Jeff himself has more than 25 years of experience actually in nonprofit leadership. Prior to joining the development field, he was a human resources executive for a major medical center. He’s a graduate of The University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication where he studied speech communication on the graduate level at that same university and he received a master’s degree in human resource management from Troy University. He’s involved with tons of nonprofits, he’s a frequent writer, and he’s a frequent speaker. It’s going to be a real treat for you all to hear this presentation. I’m just really excited to hand things off to him. So I’m going to do that now I’ve said too much already Jeff why don’t you take it away for us my friend.

Jeff: Great. Thank you, Steven and thank you everyone for being with us today. Certainly appreciate I’m sitting trying to learn the clicking, Steven, but I’ve got it now. We’re going to talk today about the Eight Foundations for a Successful Major Campaign. When I put this title well it’s actually something we’ve given a few times in the past and I start worrying that some of our listeners we’re going to know eight foundations that we can send grant requests to. So we’re talking really about the foundation not foundation in terms of philanthropic foundations but what things really need to be in place before you look at a major campaign. That major campaign could be a capital campaign, it could be an endowment campaign, or it could be a comprehensive campaign as so many institutions today are looking at where you incorporate annual endowment capital or any combination thereof.

I love this quote from Tommy Lasorda and it speaks of what we’re going to be discussing today and that is that “Pennants are won and lost during spring training.” This has a special meaning to me because actually one of clients had Tommy Lasorda as an ambassador so he’s certainly someone who is very philanthropic-minded but what great wisdom that he has because the foundation for success in a major campaign really is what happens before. And we’re not talking about the feasibility study and other preparations. We’re talking about these eight foundations that really take in many cases years and years to prepare.

So it’s what happens before a campaign that determine success. One of my favorite quotes from Ben Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” and it really is. When you have these eight foundations in place before you embark on a major campaign, your road map to the campaign is then accelerated and your chances of opportunities for success are certainly increased by far.

So today our conversation Eight Foundations for Success in a Major Campaign, you see it here. Number one, strong staff and board leadership. Two, an effective strategic plan. Three, programs in institutions, so whatever those things that your great mission is fulfilled through, those programs. Financial strength, four; annual fundraising success, five; appropriate technology and systems and how appropriate that we’re here today with Bloomerang, six. Seven, a strong case for support. Eight, an effective prospective donor engagement.

So we’re going to talk about these briefly. It was fun via Twitter. Steven and I engaged in conversation with someone who said, “Gosh, you’re going to cover all that in one webinar.” Because each of these eight foundations really can easily be a whole presentation on their own. We’re going to have a high-level overview of each and hopefully there will be plenty of time for questions and answers, and then afterwards I’ll be happy to have dialogue with you by email if there’s still questions.

So number one, strong staff and board leadership. If you see the quote there from J.R. Tolkien “Shortcuts make long delays. We’re in a business and great profession where there are so many demands on our time as fundraisers, the nonprofit professionals, and so often we are tempted to take shortcuts. What I found is that 9.5 out of 10 times that shortcut results in a delay.

One of the those foundations of course that we’re talking about again strong staff and board leadership committed to a culture of philanthropy. That means time and resources. So it means the CEO of the organization, our colleague at the senior level of the organization, and in particular the board has to be committed to the culture of philanthropy. As long as we’re on the path to that culture of philanthropy, we’re in good shape because it’s something that’s certainly built and reinforced over time.

One key is the expectations of board involvement and board giving and obviously 100% board giving, hopefully the leadership level for the institution, and board involvement in the fundraising process and of course, different board members have different levels of expertise and comfort in that process, and different organizations have different culture. But at some level the board needs to be involved in this whole process and we’ll talk more about donor engagement. They have to be involved in cultivation and identification and hopefully soliciting and for sure given.

Then we come back to the shortcuts make long delays. The CEO and senior staff have to embrace best practices. That is so essential that the CEO in the organization really understand those core basic fundraising principles and so they don’t go down the road and take shortcuts that then deter your success, our success as fundraising professionals. So strong staff and board leadership and again specifically where it’s committed to a culture of philanthropy.

Then we have an effective strategic plan. This is really magic for several reasons because if you drop back to the history of most successful campaigns, they begin with a strategic plan. You can see it there pretending that it’s useful because so many times organizations may embark on a planning process and they’re really not committed to it. Mostly of these eight foundations I’ve learned through experience over 25, 30 years and some of them the hard way and to do a planning process it’s so important and especially to conduct what we’d say is an effective planning process.

Plan is important and how it’s created is important and you want to use the plan to gain confidence, to have the organization on the same page, and then to actually implement it. So an effective strategic plan drives the fundraising initiatives. One of the things that a lot of our friends and colleagues and independent skills and higher education joke about is presidentitis and that’s the desire of a new president to build, build, build and that it happens often and then the pendulum swings to the next president kind of spills into other needs.

But really an effective plan it’s not the CEO, it is the CEOs vision, but they are part of an overall process. It’s really involving the board, it’s strategic, it’s well thought out, it’s responsive, but not reactive. In other words, it’s going to respond to situations but not jump without thought. So it drives the fundraising initiative.

A great planning process involve key constituents. What a great opportunity for engagement and involvement. One of my favorite quotes is if you want money, ask for advice. If you want advice, ask for money. But at a level, but much like a feasibility study in a broader sense, an effective planning process is great cultivation and you have the opportunity to involve your key constituents, the donors among them, stakeholders and other constituencies to get their insight and through that there’s an incredible cultivation opportunity.

We believe that planning the process not an event very important. You put people in a room for a day-long retreat if you do leave but after two hours I’m ready to get out of there and planning does not occur in a vacuum. So good planning process from our experience and our perspective takes time. It takes a year or two to build a five-year plan, you spend half of that time planning and some organizations do.

We have one organization I’m aware of that’s actually been in the planning process now about three and a half years for a five-year plan. They can’t pull the trigger. But it is a process and ideas develop and gel when you have time. But you’ve got to drive the process.

Then the plan has to be communicated. Very important at the end of the day and one of the huge things, failing to execute a plan makes it a wasted effort. It really frustrates constituencies and leaders that have been involved in the process but an effective planning process to our point today it builds confidence in institutions, aligns resources, and from that you can then see where your eventual campaign may be headed.

Next we have successful programs in institutions and that is your organization needs to have a track record of programs that make a difference, make a life changing difference. Certainly you can include new programs and new initiatives in the campaign and donors respond and want to make those happen and provide seed money, but you have to have credibility that donors know that you’re going to deliver and do what you say you’re going to do.

So successful programs, vibrant programs that support your mission, that align with your mission, existing level of excellence, so you’re known for excellence in areas, measurable outcomes, the track record of success, and again, a brief overview today and we’ll cover this more on donor engagement and communication but the ability to tell those stories of how lives are changed and communities are made better. So a good track record of success in programs gives people the confidence to invest and gives you programs to include in your campaign.

Next we have financial success and one of the lessons I learned early in my career was of a school that was lacking resources and a leadership thought we’ve got a great mission but certainly were needy and people are not going to respond. Well, that is not typical. People don’t give to a sinking ship. They don’t want to put good money after bad and if financial strength and sound management aren’t in place, then more often than not donors and leaders will flee and increasingly so.

So if these practices aren’t in place, they need to be. And by being good stewards, of course, this would include financial strengths of budgeting for reserve, building endowment, and having other safety nets in place, and we’ll talk about case development in a minute with financial support, financial strength rather, the abilities to sustain the programs that are worthy of support and that you have sound management and that financial strength then gives people confidence to invest in you in a larger level in a major campaign.

Now, annual fundraising success also very important. It really allows you to benchmark your success every year, every month, every week. How we’re dealing? How we’re tracking? And really every year you’re asking your donors to vote with their

[no audio 00:16:35] or their purse. So fundraising program and annual fund is vital to your organization for the funds. It’s vital also for the feedback that you receive from your donors, from your volunteers. How are we dealing? How can we better?

Also you’re giving success to really develop your staff and volunteers kind of the baseball analogy when they’re preparing them for the big game maybe. And again the annual fundraising success is the foundation, it’s a predictor of future success, and it’s critical in identifying major prospects.

We have appropriate technology and systems and certainly love this quote, used to have a poster much like this in my office, “Attention to detail improves the net.” Really, this speaks to the ability to give donors a good giving experience. It speaks to tracking and processing gifts. It speaks to allowing donors flexibility.

One of the things is you’ve asked me for a gift and I could pay it off on a monthly or over a number of years or even change payments along the way. I’m more likely to invest. If you make it difficult on me and I’ve got to remember to go online and make a gift, then you’re going to get a lot smaller gift.

We’re talking about really the donor engagement and stewardship and knowing birthdays, knowing family members, having to correct spelling of names all those details and having a system in place to support them because if you can’t appropriately support annual fundraising and ongoing fundraising, then when you have a major campaign and the number of gifts and commitments increases exponentially and the size and the scope of what to do and the details, then it makes it more challenging.

Having the appropriate technology and systems and again probably recommend Bloomerang. We recommend them to our clients so if you’re looking for the right software, then we’d encourage you to take a look at our friends at Bloomerang but you want to have the right software for your institution today and for the next five years. So often we see people get software that is just overwhelming and not intuitive and user friendly and Bloomerang certainly is all those things user friendly, intuitive.

Be sure you’re trained and cross trained. You may be at a major university or you have four, five people in a department but you might be in a smaller shop where you have one person or half of one person. What happens when he or she leaves or gets sick or has an occasion where they’re gone for some time? So make sure you have training and cross training. Make sure you have regular report that on a weekly, monthly, even daily basis that are produced, so you know how gifts are coming in, how you’re tracking towards your goals so you can benchmark your progress. Of course, updating your records regularly and then having your systems for gift processing and being sure that the checks are cleared and things happen in a prompt manner and appropriate manner, so again you’re giving a donor a good giving experience. You’re helping them and you’re giving them confidence with appropriate technologies and systems.

By the way, we’ve got good questions and we’ve got plenty of time to address those in just a few minutes. We appreciate those and keep them coming. I want to go ahead and finish our presentation and then have some great conversation and address the questions and appreciate your sharing those and keep them coming,

Next is the strong case for support and this goes back to several of the points that we’ve just covered the financial strength, the effective plan, etcetera. One of my favorite quotes from a great fundraiser, great philanthropist John Rockefeller and it resonates so strong, “Never think you need to apologize for asking someone to give to a worthy objective, any more than as though you were giving him or her an opportunity to participate in high-grade investment.”

So if you use that analogy and you think about asking someone to invest in your organization and some of the topics that we covered these eight foundations already, you wouldn’t make it an investment in a company, you wouldn’t buy stock in a company, or be a partner of a company with poor leadership, or with a board that wasn’t committed to best practices, or that didn’t have sound finances or plan for growth and a plan for future. So John Rockefeller really speaks to some of the cores of what we are discussing today.

And that strong case for support and this is something that we say a case for support is the rationale behind your campaign and it evolves over time. It evolves as you prepare for a campaign. Your organization should have an overall case for support for different funding options. When you go on a campaign, you begin to hone a case for support for that campaign and when you get involved in the pre-planning and the feasibility study, the case for support changes.

And this broad case for support then gets refined and developed into what we call a campaign case statement and then other campaign materials for the objectives that you have at hand. And an effective case reflects compelling and well defined objectives that have been developed out of a planning process of leadership and some of the things that we’ve discussed. So a strong overall case for support, rationale for giving honed into a case statement eventually for your campaign.

Then we have the prospective donor engagement. This is a big foundation area, a very important one. It ties in to some of things we’ve discussed, especially the strong annual campaign. But how we’re engaging with our key constituents and our donors and our best donors? And there’s Lee Iacocca, “You can have brilliant ideas but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” So often we’re guilty of that. We’ve got a great mission and we’re just not able to articulate it where both understand how worthy we are of their investment, their involvement, and their support.

So prospective donor engagement, we’re talking about comprehensive donor identification, cultivation and stewardship. With a piece of that the Lee Iacocca quote would be effective communications and that’s broad-based awareness for our organization and philanthropy followed by strategic communications efforts. I would say more personal. So as we have broader efforts for annual giving, new donors, but obviously that strategy and those tactics change become more personal, more timely, more responsive as you talk about donors at higher levels.

It’s vital that on a regular basis your best friends and your future best friends are hearing from you regularly. Then that they need multi-channel and that’s especially important in today’s world that the average age on Facebook keeps increasing, so are college students, friends are fleeing from it because their parents and grandparents even great grandparents are all there. But we’re all in today’s world getting information from more and more channels and we have to know where we need to be, where our donors are, and where the donors of tomorrow will be. So that engagement and effective communications is a very, very important piece.

Then a huge piece is just prospective donor engagement. Fundraising, of course, is an art and a science. It’s an art because it’s all about relationships and knowing those nuances and knowing your donor and every donor is different. We often laugh but it’s true that donors are even different at different months or years, and so it’s definitely an art. But it’s a science because there is practices and because it’s really built on numbers. If you’re going to be successful in a campaign in a major campaign and laying the foundation, we know that we’re going to have a certain level of prospective donors. And we say really qualified prospective donors, which will be cultivated in people who are engaged on a campaign, so we have the opportunity to qualify people through this engagement before a campaign.

We know we need a robust prospective donor pool and that’s the all-important pipeline of current and future` major donors to meet those campaign goals. We need to grow in number of donors, repeat donors, donors at a higher level. We need to be building further engagement through volunteer opportunities. We know intuitively and an independent sector to the study years back and it validated that people give significantly more to where they’re involved. If each of us were to take a minute now and think about where out top two or three gifts go, I would imagine that 75 or 80% of those organizations are things that we’re involved with or our families are personally. So we want to get volunteer opportunities part of the engagement process to get them involved, to get their expertise.

We have the past donors or repeat donors we talked about but also we want to use as we look to building a robust prospective donor pool to use volunteers in that process. They often know who amongst their friends have an interest in different missionaries who might have wealth personally or family wealth whether it be parents or grandparents and of course, they’re wealth screening services. But to all these mechanisms have a robust prospective donor pool that then can support major campaign.

Then a key piece of the prospective donor engagement donor is it’s a continual cycle and you’re continuing relationships and always on lookout for new relationships and ones with the greater potential and to focus on. You don’t stop. You’re always in this process.

We were involved with a client feasibility study back in the fall and I’ll never forget meeting with this organization’s by far ever top donor and in our conversation I asked him when the institution’s president had visited him last. It was 18 months. Then I paused and then he smiled and then he shared and he said when I asked the president about plans for the future, he endowed a program with a huge level, he said the president couldn’t answer the question. So this is that continuity and 18 months of your best donor is not a good thing. So an ongoing strategy for identifying who new donors might be, who donors with greater capacity might be, and we’re just doing things continually to get them more and more involved and shares to get that big old and embrace them further in our organization, but it’s always a process, it’s ongoing, and continues.

Then love this quote by one of the classics of fund raising author “Si” Seymour Designs and Fund-Raising that you can get it. The language is a bit dated, it’s out of print I believe, but it’s a great classic. So if you can find it of Amazon or eBay of wherever, it’s a great but love this “If you want to raise alfalfa, you can get several crops a year. But if you want to raise oaks, it will take a little longer.”

This is what we ‘re talking about is eight foundations for success in major campaigns. If these things are in place, you’re really building a program that will outlast you and will benefit those you serve for decades to come with these eight foundations really speak organizational capacity, then you will find your actual campaign experience so much more successful, so much more present with these eight foundations in place.

Steven I would love to take some of these questions that we’ve had come in through the program.

Steven: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much, Jeff. We’ve had some people ask questions already and I’ll kind of go through but if you’ve been listening along and maybe you’re sitting on your hands, please feel free to ask some questions. We probably got about 15 or so minutes that we can spend in this formal Q&A setting. So Jeff, I’m just going to kind of pull them out from the top. Jenny here was wondering have you ever seen an all-volunteer nonprofit run a successful fundraising campaign. Have you ever worked with an organization or seen one that did all the things you talked about but was all volunteer run? What advice would you have for her there?

Jeff: In the campaign, yes. Well, all volunteer and no staff at all, I’ll say no. We’ve worked with organizations with no fundraising staff and seen them. But if you scale this down, it’s certainly more challenging about having all volunteers. They have other commitments and at the end of the day we’re volunteers but one of the whole processes or thoughts behind the eight foundations is really how you approach a campaign is to divide things up, put them into smaller pieces, do it in segments, be strategic. One thing builds on another. So I think with that approach you can be successful.

The question was have we been involved personally, no. Could you? Yes, you certainly could. It just takes huge commitment on the volunteer part and that’s I guess the challenge and downfall we all know from working with volunteers and you can see that rule of a third is often talked about. You’ve got a third that are committed. You’ve got a third that are just there, and so it would really rely on that top third and what can they make happen.

Steven: Definitely possible though. Well, we’ve got a question here from Mercedes and Mercedes is wondering what are some recommendation for leading the board and living a culture of philanthropy. What advice would you have for her and getting the board on board with your eight principles, with the advice in general? Obviously, the board’s involvement is going to be super powerful. What advice would you have for her in getting the board involved with all these?

Jeff: It’s a process number one if they’re not there and it takes time. It’s a process of ongoing education, encouragement, reinforcement, and even making some tough decisions. But one thing I would share is if you want to change the culture of the board and move things along, you’ve got to make it personal too. So you can’t rely if you’re building a culture of philanthropy.

The question that I mentioned earlier that we asked a major donor in a feasibility study when was the last time you saw a president, we’ll ask the same question of CEOs. Outside the board meeting or chief development officer outside the board meeting when was the last time you saw the board member and if you’re relying on even monthly typically quarterly board meeting to build relationship with the board, it doesn’t work. It takes time and being face to face and having conversation and being able to bring things up and bring them along.

So I would say that’s really important is to reach out to your board members in an ongoing basis. It’s very, very important that as the development staff that you have a role in selecting the board and being a part of that process and if and if you’re the chief development officer, you should be at the table and that you’re picking board members with that in mind, so that going forward you’re prequalifying people who have an inclination and understanding. And then it’s ongoing coaching on a regular basis and education and not to be into the weeds of fundraising that is much like the planning process. Do you have a development plan and does the board know what those key directions are so that when the board member has a great idea for a new special event or something that they know that that’s part of the plan? That there’s an overall strategic direction for the organization and in fundraising.

Steven: Makes sense. We’ve got a question here from Karen and I like it because it’s about databases and I’m kind of a database guy. But Karen here is wondering what sort of detail should we be putting into our database to prepare a capital campaign, specifically looking for info that may be more relevant for large campaigns versus just what they do in a regular annual campaign. What about the database side, Jeff? What should people be thinking about in terms of maybe their contact information or the constituent information database?

Jeff: Steven, this maybe something that I’ll pass off to you, so I want you to after I’m meddle through it, please I’m counting on you to save me. But there’s a couple of big thoughts and one would be that you need to be sure that you have information you need on major prospects and however you code those and if you’ve done wealth screening or whatever or past giving, then before you looking at the campaign, you better reach out and do the research. If you don’t know where Jeff went to school and does he like pets and when his birthday is, then that takes a lot of research and you can do that in a number of ways and of course the best way is being at someone’s home or their office observing and getting back and putting things into Bloomerang. Having that information and then two would be how you can code and segment and pull reports, pull different constituencies, and how they are identified, so you can target communications to them. That would be two, but Steven you help me out here please.

Steven: Yeah. You read my mind on those things. The prospect research for sure. Segmenting so that you are making appropriate asks through appropriate channels and the one thing I would add to what Jeff said just kind of at a basic level making sure that you up to date contact information. If you’re going to do capital campaign, it’s probably more unlikely that you’re going to do maybe a direct mail campaign or some sort of direct marketing.

And one thing you can do that’s pretty painless is something that’s called an NCOA, which stands for National Change of Address. That’s United States Postal Service database that you can compare to your database to make sure that your contact information is up to date and specifically for mailing addresses and that’s something that’s not very expensive typically. I think about 14 or maybe it’s 17% of Americans move every year, so that’s a lot of lost dollars you’re going to spend on direct but never reaches its intended destination. So an NCOA is something that I would do a few months before any capital campaign or any major campaign honestly.

But I do think Jeff really nailed it with the prospect research and the segmenting side. If you’ve been doing a good job maintaining your database, you should be in good shape as long as you’ve got your policies and procedures and your data entries is good and people are using it correctly, you should be fine, but those additional things really just gives more insight as you go along. That’s pretty good. We tag teamed that one, Jeff.

Jeff: Great. Thank you, Steven.

Steven: Yeah, there’s a couple of more here I’m just going to go down through the list. We probably got maybe ten more minutes or so. Amy here is wondering what are the advantages if any to creating webinars and podcasts for campaigns. So she’s kind of asking about maybe those digital communication tools. Do you have any experience with that, Jeff? Have you seen anything that you thought was particularly good in terms of digital piece of content for a campaign?

Jeff: Yeah. I think any chance you have for people to be engaged but with that in mind, if you’re in a major campaign, remember that the major gifts are going to need to be face to face. Not many people are going to make a six figure gift remotely. You’re going to have to get to them and then as the campaign goes public and broadens, then it may not be a webinar on the campaign. That would be a great tool for training volunteers, frankly. Because if you have a national campaign, national organization, that would be excellent, great idea.

If you look at a campaign and you look at some of these eight foundations, then maybe the planning process. You do a webinar or maybe a virtual town hall meeting with constituencies to get feedback and ask questions. It may be the same thing on different topics that relate to the campaign. It may not be the campaign specifically, but it could be. I haven’t seen anything like that for a campaign, but I wouldn’t rule it out. I think it would be worth trying.

Steven: Absolutely. Here’s fun from Bonnie, I say fun because maybe I’m a little bit of a downer but, she’s wondering what are the best practices for house cleaning an inactive board who are simply historical friends of the organization, or maybe they’ve been on the board for a long time. I know a lot of people say you should fire bad board members. What advice would you have for Bonnie who’s got an inactive board who isn’t really helping a lot, but maybe there are some political reasons why they’re on the board that are sensitive? What advice would you have for Bonnie there?

Jeff: Sure, and I’ve been through that many, many times. It’s never easy. At the end of the day, when you have to make a tough call, and I’m going to back this up. At the end of the day, if you have to make a tough call up, if you’ve got a bad board chair, or a bad board member, you need to treat them with respect and do all the things that you need to do but end of the day, if you’ve got to make a change, then not doing it makes it worse.

But how do you do that, it can take time. You can do it in a number of ways. You almost always need to have, of course, your CEO committed. She or he have had that board and have had to work, so if you’re a new CEO, then that’s a whole different circumstance. The CEO and the chief development officer need to be on the same page. It always helps to have a champion. When you’re thinking about who your next chair is, then you want to get someone who understands where the board should be.

Then a lot of times you just give the board the opportunity to change and to step up. One of the funniest things, and it always happens when you, we’re not going to talk about it today, but one of the things that work invents is the best practice that we don’t vary from is to do a campaign feasibility study before a major campaign. When you get in that process I don’t think I’ve ever seen a board not lose two or three members because they know a big campaign is coming. There are usually two or three members that needed to go anyway.

Increasing gift expectations and I know there are varying philosophies among my friends and colleagues in nonprofits. We’re firm and believe that board members should make a leadership gift, whatever that is for your organization, and changing that expectation usually helps with people either who are stepping up or rolling off. Providing them with other opportunities for involvement, and you’d have to be careful because you don’t want to make a bad board member and maybe a negative board member then make them emeritus board member where they can come to every meeting forever, would be negative, bad.

Moving them to an advisory board, moving them to a program board, and really getting in front of people and either back to the relationships, being sure that you understand who they are, that you try to connect with them, that you try to move them along on that personal manner, and helping them feel important. I want to be appreciated. What can we do to turn that board member?

We had a board member at a foundation I used to staff that I took it over and we had someone in their office that wrote the minutes. This board member would tear them apart, and he wouldn’t do it beforehand. He would wait for the staff member to present the minutes or the volunteer who was secretary and the board member would stand up and rip them apart in the most condescending manner.

I was like, what am I going to do with this guy? I went to see him and asked for his advice, and I said would you mind reviewing these before we sent them out and he said “No, I’d be glad to.” So we sent the minutes to him ahead of time, he tore them apart but didn’t change the meaning, he wrote them how he wanted them written. With great fanfare at every board meeting we began to laugh and say well these minutes have been pre-approved by X board member and everybody laughed. Everybody approved it and he became a pleasure to deal with and then give an increase, because he got to write the minutes for us. All I that to say, get to know your board members there and be sure that you’ve made every effort in a personal way to change them and if they’re not moving, you need to get rid of them.

Steven: Yeah. Here’s one from Danny, which I think is short for Danielle. Danielle and I think she comes from a higher education background, so that gives a little context to the question. Danny’s wondering when it comes to planned giving as part of a campaign, what do you recommend in approaching donors for this. My organization has decided to use it as a sweep up after major gifts have been solicited. We are looking at setting up an educational workshop on planned giving. Do you think that that is an effective approach?

Jeff: We like planned giving to be considered as a part of menu for every campaign. What we typically recommend is it’s a part of the initial discussion, frankly, because if you’re out visiting with your top prospective donors, we all want to know what’s expected of us, right? In a major campaign, and one that might have a period of five years for a commitment to be fulfilled, personally, I would like to know upfront what all do you want from me. What is it that I should consider? We would recommend if you could include that in every ask as appropriate. There are exceptions obviously.

Someone can be new to your organization and have high net worth make a significant gift but they don’t have a track record where they’re going to consider you for a planned gift. You use discernment. It certainly should be a part of, or considered as a part of every campaign as long as the organization is over most of it. Five or ten year old organization, it may not even have an endowment, it doesn’t have that connectivity, so that might be the exception.

Then if you haven’t addressed it, to Danielle’s question, if you haven’t addressed it earlier visits [SP], then absolutely. I would work to have goals for planned gifts in every campaign, and there would be goals for the number of planned gifts, the number of new members of your plan giving society, heritage society, also the dollar value based on past history.

Absolutely and if you haven’t made that part of the business to date, then I think get to that final stage and wrap up, I think that’s what she said, that definitely be out visiting with people. It gives them another chance to be part of the campaign to be recognized, and if you haven’t already built in those goals or numbers. As you make those visits and close out the campaign, it puts pressure on them time-wise just to respond.

Steven: Yeah, that makes sense. Doug here is wondering, would you do anything different for an endowment campaign? Is there anything about an endowment campaign that maybe would alter in terms of the advice you’ve given? What about an endowment campaign there? Doug’s asking about that.

Jeff: In terms of foundations, the only difference, we just consulted on an endowment campaign that frankly had no annual fundraising success. We did a successful endowment campaign for an association that had a foundation that had been self-funded, and there was no donor history really. They had one donor in their history. That would be an example probably, but they had incredible staff and board leadership, the planning process, great programs, they were sound financially. They had the systems. They had the case. They did not have prospective donor engagement.

We created that with over about a year before they started asking for gifts. They got out and made a lot of visits. That was accomplished in a short period of time with great focus and vigor. The prospective donor engagement happened and I did a feasibility study, but they still had no track record of annual giving. I would think that would be based on our experience the one of the eight that you wouldn’t have to have an endowment campaign.

Steven: That makes sense. Here’s one from Paige, and I think we’re going to do about two more, because I don’t want to keep people too late after 2 p.m. Eastern. Paige here is saying that she’s in the midst of planning a campaign that is seeking donations from local small businesses. I want our resource development committee, which is comprised of about eight volunteers from businesses, to be more engaged in that endeavor. She wants those eight volunteers to be helping with that, but their time is limited. Do you have any tips for greater engagement ownership and follow through for volunteers which is who Paige is working with? Any advice there for Paige?

Jeff: Absolutely, and this is the school of hard knocks. What we like to do is narrow, and this is almost counterintuitive to a lot of people, narrow of what we ask of anybody. There’s a real estate phrase that a property is worth its highest and best value or purpose whatever. When we look at a staff member or a volunteer, what is the thing that he or she can do best and no one else can? What are the one or two things?

And the same thing for volunteers. If I’m in a campaign and you try and give me ten names, and so often campaigns still run this way, we’re going to give or write ten names, and they’re going to make these calls and you’re going to make these cards. I’m going to shut down. I’m not going to do it. As you mentioned, I serve on several boards and each of those boards I’m engaged in reaching out and cultivating and soliciting as appropriate but it’s people I know. I think that’s part of it too. I narrow and I ask, and be sure they feel comfortable doing it, and be sure that they are trained and coached.

I met with a great friend yesterday who’s running a higher ed [SP] advancement professional. He’s running a campaign and was commiserating about his campaign committee and some weren’t moving along and I said well the people who aren’t moving along, have you gone on a visit with them? No. The best prospects go on a visit with them build their confidence and just narrow that scope and be sure that people are set up for success.

Steven: Good, well I’ve been saving this question for last because I think it’s appropriate. Valerie is wondering how do you keep your campaign members committed without getting so frustrated that you just find it better to do everything yourself and get burned out. I assume Valerie is that person trying to avoid burn out which we can all understand. What advice would you have for that? I think that’s a really good question.

Jeff: It is a good question. One thing and I’m gathering Valerie you’ve already got your committee. What we do in a major campaign is we put a price tag on being on the committee. For example the endowment campaign ended up raising almost $11 million. They have a committee of 26 on their steering committee.

By design one or two of those people only made a gift six figures or more and they’re on the committee and they got recognized, and they knew that going in. Probably, not a third of them back to our earlier conversation only made one or two visits, but they were huge visits. Then you had people who really, back to that rule of the third, we had five co-chairs for this campaign, and those five co-chairs were the ones who made four or five and ten visits.

I think part of it again is how you structure it. The other thing would be back to the other thing we just mentioned for Valerie would be, you’ve got to meet face to face with them. They’ve got demands like you do and you’re getting burned out, and they’re getting frustrated. If you’re on, and they probably involved in more than one thing, we all other demands. We got professional, family, personal, other things we do, volunteer things.

Oftentimes in a campaign your committee members are on other organizations, other boards, so part of it is you’ve got to create a relationship where when Valerie calls, they return your call. When Jeff and Steven call, the note sits there. When Valerie calls, they call her right back. You got to have that. It’s true, you’ve got to have that relationship. It’s not easy.

Again, I would narrow the scope. If they’re sitting there with a bunch of things, then hone it to one thing. If they do that well, give them one more thing, but don’t let them get overwhelmed. Coach them, be there if it’s a local organization, but you can get in front of them, get in front of them. Let them know they are appreciated, communicate regularly in terms of work, work things are, what they should be doing next.

If I’m in a campaign, I’m sending emails out every week to the committee, what their next steps are and I send them every week. They have a list of what they should be doing, or who they should be calling on and personal.

Valerie, I hope that helps, that’s a good question and such a key part of the campaign. And the other is and I’ll just close with this, Steve, is design a campaign that doesn’t go on forever. I’ve mentioned this before but if you do the feasibility study, do the right research, you’ve got the eight foundations in place, then when it comes time to plan campaign planning you should be able to know how long a campaign should take.

If it’s a university campaign that may last several years, but some of these campaigns can be accomplished in a year and should be. If it’s a church campaign or other internal organization, four to six months. Again, when you’re looking ahead and you’re strategic, and you accomplish things before a campaign, that some people do during a campaign. Then your campaign is six months not two years and people feel better about it.

Steven: Makes sense. Valerie, don’t get burned out. We don’t want you to get burned out. We care about you.

Jeff: Absolutely, absolutely.

Steven: Well, Jeff, I feel like we could talk about this for hours and I know we actually have talked about this for hours, so we got to leave it there, especially if people haven’t eaten lunch yet. Don’t want to keep people too long, but this is a lot of fun. I always like when the Q&A people are asking questions, people are talking to each other, so thank you all for asking questions and talking with each other. It’s always fun to see that.

I know we didn’t get to all the questions because we’re about out of time. We’ve got about two minutes left. Jeff, would it be safe to say you would be willing to take questions via email, via Twitter. You’re kind of a big Twitter guy.

Jeff: I am. Find me on Twitter. I’d love to follow you. If not on Twitter, email me and I’d be happy to answer your questions.

Steven: Yes, please do that and check out Lighthouse Counsel. Check out Jeff’s blog. He writes a great blog called Bedrock and Beacons. Please search for that. I think it’s a weekly blog. Isn’t that right Jeff?

Jeff: That’s on You won’t find my weekly blog on Light House, but we do have great blogs and podcasts on that I love and thank you, Steven. Weekly blog at

Steven: Yeah check that out. Great content. We’d love for you to check out our website as well. We’ve got a daily blog post on the Bloomerang site. Again, we do these webinars every week. Starting the second week of March we’re going to have an educational webinar every week through July. We’ve got them scheduled out already. Check out our webinar page. You may find a topic or a guest there that looks interesting to you. We would love to see you again.

We will leave it at that, look for an email from me a little later on this afternoon. I’ll be sending out the recording and the slides, and we’d love to see you again, hopefully, on another webinar, so have a great rest of your day, have a great weekend if we don’t talk to you, and we will see you next time. Bye now.

Major gift fundraising

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.