Sandy Rees, CFRE recently joined us for a webinar in which she showed us how to plan your first big fundraising campaign, the tools and materials you’ll need, and how to find the best people to ask for a gift.

In case you missed it, you can watch the replay here:

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Sandy, my clock just struck one o’clock. Do you want to go ahead and get started?

Sandy: You bet, let’s jump in.

Steven: Cool. Good afternoon, everyone, 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, “Create and Run Your First Really Big Fundraising Campaign.” And my name is Steven Shattuck and I’m the VP of marketing here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion.

And before we begin I just want to take care of a couple housekeeping items. Just want to let everyone know that we are recording this presentation and we’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides again this afternoon so if you have to leave early or if you want to maybe review the content later on or share it with a teammate you’ll be able to do that. Just look for an e-mail from me later on this afternoon with all those goodies for you.

And as you’re listening today please feel free to utilize the chat box right there on your webinar screen. We are going to save some time for Q and A towards the end so as you’re listening if you hear something that maybe you want to get touched on again or if you have a question for Sandy, don’t be shy at all. We’ll see those and we’re going to try to take care of as many questions as we can before the two o’clock eastern hour. So don’t be shy about that at all.

Just in case this is your first Bloomerang webinar, welcome if that’s the case we’re so glad that you took an hour out of your day to be here. If Bloomerang is new to you, we are a fundraising donor database software program. If you’re in the market for that or if you’re interested in that at all, check out our website. You can learn more. We won’t really talk about Bloomerang per se very much today but we’d love for you to check out our website if you’re interested in that product at all. We’d love for you to do that.

So I want to go ahead and introduce today’s guest. She is Sandy Rees CFRE. Hey Sandy, how is it going?

Sandy: Great, how about you?

Steven: I’m good. I’m so glad that you’re back. We have you about once a year. I think you actually hold the record for most Bloomerang webinars in terms of guests and we just love it when you come on because everyone loves the presentation. Lots of registrants and I know the content is going to be great. I just want to brag on Sandy here for a minute before she gets started. Just in case you don’t know her she is someone you should know.

She is the creator of The Get Fully Funded System. She helps nonprofit leaders to raise a lot of money to help a lot of people. She’s a coach. She’s a consultant. She provides her clients with some good how-to advice on fundraising as well as helping people with their personal and professional development. She is the author of “Get Fully Funded: How to Raise the Money of Your Dreams,” “6 Figure Fundraising,” “Fundraising Buffet” and “Simple Success Fundraising Plan.”

“Get Fully Funded” is a really great book. It’s actually sitting at my bookshelf right above me right now. She is also a frequent contributor to the Fundraising Success Magazine and she’s got a great blog too, which you should bookmark over on her website, Get Fully Funded. She is an accomplished presenter. She is an AFP master trainer. She is brings seminars all the time for AFP. She is super active in the Chattanooga, Tennessee area with those nonprofits as well as lots of regional and national and even international conferences.

So Sandy, I’m just so excited. I’m going to pipe down because we want to hear all the good stuff you have for us. So why don’t you take it away for us?

Sandy: All right, you bet. I am so excited to be here and thank you so much for letting me know that I’m like one of the frequent contributors. I’m thinking that that’s a pretty cool thing. So I’m very honored, thank you. And for all of you who have taken an hour out of your day to come play with me, thank you. I’m so honored. I know that you all have more to do than you can possibly get done and you’ve chosen to spend an hour with me. So thank you, thank you, thank you.

I want to talk today about running your first really big fundraising campaign. And so one of things we need to talk about right off of the bat is what does that mean really? For some of you a big fundraising campaign might be $10,000 for a piece of equipment or to expand a program. For others you may need $100,000 or maybe a million dollars. And we’re going to dig into that a little bit more but just know that we’re going to be talking about how to run a campaign that’s going to be significant to your organization.

And it’s all relative. So it doesn’t matter if you’re with a really big group or a really small nonprofit, I’ve got something for you. And as a matter of fact, I just want to make sure that you know you’re in the right place. If you’ve got a special project, if you’ve got a new program you want to start, a program you want to expand, a piece of equipment you need to buy and you want to run a fundraising campaign specifically for that, this is also going to apply. If you’re thinking about a capital campaign, if you’re thinking about building, if you’re thinking about even just moving into a facility or renovation, purchasing land, these concepts are going to work for all of that too. So I just want to make sure that you know you’re in the right place.

Here’s what we’re going to be talking about today. I’m going to go over how to plan a campaign. I’m going to give you some information about how to get started with that. And we’re going to talk about creating your case for support so that you can answer donors’ questions because really that’s what it’s all about. It’s about overcoming any objections that they might have that might keep them from making a gift to you.

We’re also going to talk about how to find great donors and how to identify diamonds in the rough. Because here’s a fascinating thing to me, the more that I work in fundraising, the more that I help a lot of organizations, the more I realize everybody has diamonds in the rough right under their nose and those people don’t even realize it. So I’m going to give you some hints about how to find those people who are already around your organization and are capable of making a really large gift. Doesn’t that sound good? Yeah, awesome.

And then we’re going to also talk about how to build relationships on purpose. Is another place that a lot of people get hung up on when they know they need to go out and ask for a big gift, they know need to get face to face, and they get all hung up and they start feeling really awkward and uncomfortable and just not sure how to do that whole relationship building on purpose thing. And I’m going to talk some about them and give you some hints and give you some good tips and give you some of my tricks. I’m going to tell you a couple of jokes, hopefully make you laugh, so sit back and buckle up buttercup, here we go.

Steven told you a little bit about me. I am native Tennessean. I live in East Tennessee on a little farm. This is a picture of me and my horse Harley. He is a great, big Appaloosa and he’s grouchy as the day is long. We had to take about 100 pictures to get one that he was looking fairly nice in. I’m a fundraising coach and a trainer and so I spend a lot of time helping organizations figure out their fundraising strategy, figure out how to build those all-important relationships, how to overcome any mindset issues or stinking thinking that they might have going on.

I’ve been working in nonprofit, gosh, since about 1998. By the way, on our farm we do have the whole menagerie. We have a dog, a few cats, the horses, the whole deal. We even have a flock of wild turkeys that live on our place. It’s kind of funny.

I started working in nonprofit I think in ’98. And it’s been quite a while and it’s been a wild ride. And so one of the things that I want you to know is I was not born knowing how to do fundraising. I was not the kind of person who knew all this stuff instinctively. As a matter of fact, I do not remember ever going to a career day and saying, “I want to raise money when I grow up. That’s what I want to do.” I’m yelling, “Where is the table?” I bet like an awful lot of you I fell into it.

I actually I had the opportunity to sit on the board of the local rescue mission and I was on that board for about a year and they offered me a job. And at the time I’m doing marketing for a staffing company and fundraising looked an awful lot like marketing to me. Which it really is, and there is a lot of marketing that I teach now. So I took the job and about a year later I made a job switch, as we all do, right, and I went to the local food bank. Here is where I had my first opportunity to run a really big campaign and it all had to do with frozen chicken.

Let me tell you how I learned about big campaigns from frozen chicken. At the time the food bank had a very small freezer and cooler. If you’re not familiar with food banks, they take a lot of donated food, food that otherwise would go in the trash and they warehouse it and get it into the hands of food pantries, soup kitchens, any organizations that’s actually doing the hands-on feeding of people.

So we had in this really small little cooler, really small little freezer, you couldn’t really put much at all into the freezer. And we kept getting these phone calls, can we take a tractor trailer load of frozen chicken? Can we take a half a trailer load of fill in the blank, frozen vegetables? And we’d have to say no because we didn’t have any place to put it and it just killed us. I was so lucky at the time to work with a bunch of people who all cared very much about our mission. We cared very much about being successful. As a matter of fact, we all, without even saying it we all had this understood goal of working ourselves out of a job.

And we all looked at each other said, “We’ve got to do something about this. This cooler, this freezer, the freezer is way too small. We cannot keep turning down chicken. This is stupid.” So we said, “All right, how big of a freezer/cooler do you need?” and our operation staff they put pen to paper and they started thinking about dimensions and how big. And oh my gosh, y’all, they were so funny. They designed this thing with a garage door on it so that they could stop, push the button, and the door would slide open and they could drive the forklift in. It was really cool.

So I started on this campaign. They told me it’s going to take like $110,000. That was a lot of money to me at that time. I’d never done a campaign that big before. And what I want you to know is that I messed it up. I messed it up. I screwed it up. I did it wrong. Everything that could’ve gone wrong did go wrong. But I learned an awful lot about it. I learned a lot about how to not do a campaign and how to do a campaign. Ultimately, I don’t know if I was just lucky or good but we were able to raise the money that we needed and we built that cooler. We built a freezer and it was fantastic. And we no longer had to turn down those tractor trailer loads of chicken.

One of the really fun things that we did when we got that thing online, we had a great relationship with our local ABC affiliate and I called the weatherman, I was great friends with him, and he’s still there. His name is Matt Hinkin. And I said to Matt, “Hey we’re ready to unveil the freezer/cooler. Why don’t you come over and broadcast the weather from the cooler?” He loved it. He was all about it. So they did. They brought the crew over and he did his weather broadcast from our cooler that night. It was great fun, very cool.

So what I want to share with you today is some of what I learned the hard way because I really do not want anybody else to have to learn the stuff the hard way. Let’s all learn from my skinning my knees and my messing this up. And ultimately I did go on and do some other campaigns that I did right and they were so much easier. And I wish I had known early on but that’s why I want to share this with you. I want to make sure that you don’t make the same mistakes that I did.

What I want to do next to give you a pop quiz. Don’t you hate those? I really hated those in school but I think this will be really good for you, just think just a minute. If you’ve got a pen, a piece of paper, you can just jot down the answers here. I will not be taking these up and grading them. So here is the first question, if you want to embark on a big campaign, do you have the materials that you need to support this campaign and are they ready to go? Do you even know what materials that you need? Next thing, do you know the right people to ask that could give you a big gift for your campaign? And are they cultivated and ready to ask?

Next question, do you know what questions you’re going to need to be ready to answer? Do you know what kind of things your donors want to know or your prospects want to know? Finally, how many donors do you have ready to be asked to make a big gift? Are they cultivated? Have you built a relationship? Is everything ready to go? Now I don’t know about you but I always like those quizzes in school where they are nice and short so I try to keep that one nice and short for you.

So let me ask you, how did you do? Well, if you did really well and if you got everything all buttoned up, then good job. I still had a couple of nuggets that I’m going to be able to give to you but if you’re all set, if you got everything all ready to go, I’m really proud of you. Good job. For those of you who did kind of, “Well we’ve kind of got some things, and we’ve kind of got some donors but not really,” you’re in a great place because I’ve got some great stuff for you. And if you have your tail tucked between your legs on all of those, if you know you don’t have anything ready to go, you’re definitely, definitely in the right place because I’ve definitely got some stuff that’s going to make this a whole lot easier for you. And besides, you’re here to learn this stuff which tells me you’re a really smart cookie. I’m glad that you’re here.

One of the things that I find that gets in the way a lot of times when we start looking at a big campaign is what I call mindset. So I want you to think about what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail. Would you go after a big campaign? Would you go after twice what you need? Would you do something really big? You probably would. If you knew you wouldn’t fail you probably would go after something really big.

And I want you to really hang on to that. I want you to really get your head space into that positive “I can do this” attitude because that’s what it’s going to take. If you want to do something really big, if you want to go after those really big goals, something bigger than you’ve ever done before, you’ve got to really try to get your head in the game. But you’ve got to stay in the right spot and make sure you got your head all ready to take on what’s going to come up.

Okay, so first things first. What we need to do first is get everything ready and get your campaign all planned out. If it is your first big campaign, congratulations. I’m very excited for you. Here’s the very first thing that I want you to think about, that is what will you be raising money for? And I want you to write it down. Is it a special project? Is it a piece of equipment? Are you looking to expand the program or eliminate a waiting list? Are you looking to add staff? What are you going to use this money for? So that’s the number one. What is the special project?

So next to that I want you to jot down why. Why is this important? Why does it matter? Why does it matter to the folks you serve and why does it matter to you? Does it make any difference to you at all whether or not that you’re successful with this campaign? So I want you to write down your what and your why. And I want you to really underline that why. Why this matters, why people should care, why you care. That’s going to be a real touchstone for you. That’s going to be the place that you can come back to if you get into this, if you get overwhelmed, if you get scared you can always come back and look at this and think about why this matters.

Now let’s get into the practical part and that is to actually get the plan put together. Now, one of the things that I find an awful lot is people think, “Well I just really want to get busy with this. I’ll put the plan together tomorrow.” But unfortunately tomorrow is this mythical land where sometimes things actually get done and sometimes they don’t. So we need to get all our ducks in a row before we actually get started. And that’s one of the mistakes that I’ve seen an awful lot of people make, is they blaze off into a campaign without all the pieces in place.

And it’s like trying to drive a car when the wheels are not exactly all the way bolted on. It can roll for a little while but you may have some trouble and the wheels may fall off. Let’s make sure you’ve got everything in place. Don’t try to cut corners. Make sure you take the time to plan everything out and do it well. Also don’t overestimate people’s desire to support your effort. You’ve got to really watch. Assuming that just because you care very much about your organization that all your donors will care as much too because sometimes they don’t.

So let’s dig in to the practical stuff. Here are the kinds of questions that you need to answer. The first one is now that you know your what, you know what you want to raise money for, how much is that going to cost? You need to hang a price tag on it. It can be a ballpark, you can work with that, but don’t go blindly into a campaign to try to raise a lot of money if you don’t even know how much you need. I had this situation with an organization recently. They said, “Well we want to raise a bunch of money so we can renovate our facility. We want to add some programs. We want to do this, that, that.” They had a long list of stuff. And I said, “Okay, so what’s that going to cost?” and they looked at me and they were like, “No we just want to go and raise a bunch of money.” And I said, “No, no we’re going to get clear about it first.” Because trust me, it’s a whole lot easier to raise a lot of money when you’re very clear about how it’s going to be used. So how much?

The next thing is what for. And we already talked about what the money is going to be used for but I want you to think about what for. And here in the South when we say “what for” what we really mean is for what purpose. What is the outcome that you’re going to get when you raise this money and spend it on a special project or expanding the program? What’s the outcome you’re going to get? Are you going to be helping more people? Are you going to be eliminating a problem? Are you going to be solving a problem? What’s the outcome that you’re looking for with this campaign?

When is it needed? By when do you need the money? That’s important. If you need the money next week, we have a huge problem because that means you almost waited too late to get started on a campaign like this. If you need the money by, let’s say, the middle of January, okay you can probably pull this off because you’ve got several months. You’ve got time to make it happen. So you need to get clear about when you need it.

The next thing to think about is who is your ace in the hole. Now what in the world is an ace in the hole? An ace in the hole is somebody who can help you with the campaign and maybe even be your honorary campaign chair. But it’s somebody that everybody in your community or at least your donors that you’re going to approach they won’t say no to. I helped with a campaign here in the community where I live. And by the way the town where I live is all of about 5,000 people and it’s not a real big community at all. And we embarked on $1.5 million capital campaign.

And this was something that we really focused on. We said, “Who is it in the community that nobody will say no to? Who is our ace in the hole?” And we identified someone who is a local business owner who is also a state representative. We asked him if he would help us. We were very clear about what we were asking them to do and he said yes. And he was fabulous. And sure enough when he called, people took his calls and they listened to what he had to say and it really helped us a lot to move that campaign forward. Even if it hadn’t been that big of a capital campaign, he still would have been a total ace in the hole for us because people wouldn’t say no.

So I want you to think about who your ace in the hole is and then think about what they need to know or hear or what do they need to experience so that they will say yes. Then I want you to ask yourself, are we ready to roll? Do we have the systems in place and the infrastructure? Do we have what we need in order to move forward with this campaign? Now, I’ve seen organizations get all excited about fundraising. They get the campaign, they know what they’re going to raise money for, and then they have no software. They have no system. There’s nobody to actually give a gift entry. There’s nobody to run the reports or get the thank-you letters out. And I say to them, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, hang on. Let’s get some of the stuff in place. Because if you don’t, if you don’t have what you need, you’re going to wind up losing a bunch of people. You’re going to wind up making a big mess and if it’s not going to be pretty.”

By the way, if you need software Bloomerang is here. They’ve got a great program that will help you track donors, donations, all that kind of stuff. It’s a great tool. Go look at it. Make sure that you’re ready to roll with all your tools, your infrastructure, your system and your support.

All right, let’s talk about tools. What are you going to need? What are some of the tools that you’re going to need in order to pull off this kind of campaign? There are several different things that I think you need. I’m going to focus on three today because I think these are the three most common. I think you need a case statement. And I’m going to get into that in just a little bit more detail in a moment. You need a gift table. You need a timeline. I think if you have those three, you can work through a big campaign and you can take care of what you need and you can make some things happen. You can make something really magic. It’s very cool.

If you’ve never done these before or if you don’t even know what they are, it’s okay, hang in there with me. I’m going to explain them all to you. One of the things about this is I’m going to show you how these work. I even have some samples that I’m going to offer you in a little while. And you don’t have to have any experience with these to be able to use them. They’re really simple and they’re going to really help you get focused in the right way to make your campaign a success.

All right, so a case statement or a case for support is really all the reasons why somebody might give to your organization. So what I want you to really think about here is, if what we want to do is a special project, let’s say for whatever reason your organization wants to build a playground that’s accessible to kids in wheelchairs. If that’s your special project and I want you to think to yourself what would somebody want to know about that project? You can’t just say, “Hey, trust us we’re a good nonprofit. Give to this.” That might have worked at one point. It doesn’t work anymore. People want to know a whole lot more information. So you’ve got to get inside your donors’ head. You’ve got to figure out what they want to know and what they care about.

I have an exercise for you. I’m going to get you started on this and then a little bit later or actually after this is over I would encourage you to complete this. So grab your pen or your pencil and a piece of paper and I want you to start thinking about questions that donors might ask. If you’ve got your project picked out, what’s the first thing, the first question that pops in your mind that somebody might want to know about this project, and write it down. Then think about the second question that they might ask about this project and write that one down. Then think about the third question, what’s something else that people might want to know?

What I’m going to challenge you to do, so far that’s easy, right? Thinking about a couple of questions that people might ask. I’m going to challenge you to make a list of 50 questions that donors might ask about your project. Fifty. Yeah, I’ll just go ahead and say the first few will be pretty easy. When you get down to about, I don’t know, 20 or 25 you’re going to really dig. This exercise is going to cause you to really think about this project.

You can think about it backwards and forward and from the side and all kinds of different ways to make sure that you’re really thinking about it from the donor’s point of view. Let’s see if you can come up with the 50 questions. If you need help, ask your co-workers. Ask them what they think donors would want to know. Ask your volunteers what they think your donors might want to know. And then if you really want to get tricky about it go talk to some of your donors and tell them about the project that you have in mind and ask them what questions they might have.

Now I know that everybody probably has a handful of donors or they already have some pretty good relationships so ask them. Ask them what they think. What would they want to know? And then say, “What do you think other people would want to know about this project?” and you can come up with a list of 50 questions. Then you can use that to actually start putting your case statement together. Now, the case statement has got to have a lot of emotion and a lot of juice to it. It can’t just be, “We’re a 501(c)(3). We’re trying to do this project. Here’s how much it’s going to cost. Please give,” because that’s just boring as crap. Crap is boring. Donors don’t want to be bored. They want something that they can feel really good about. So once you get this list of questions, then you can start to think through the best angles to present that case so that people get really excited.

Now I’ll give you a big hint, go back to your why. Go back to why this matters. Think about why it matters to you, why it matters to the people that you serve, the lives that you’re impacting, the community and then put plenty of emotion and juice in it. That’s when it’s going to be a really helpful tool for you. Now here is one big, I guess it’s a little bit of a warning, it’s a little bit of a heads up. A lot of organizations, I’ve seen two or three case statements here lately that clients are working on, they’re trying to make it all inclusive. They’re trying to put everything they possibly can in their case statement and it’s too much.

So what I tell them is remember that the case statement is more of a leave behind. You’re going to pretty it up, you’re going to make it look really good and then you’re going to go sit down and have some face-to-face conversation with donors and you’re going to answer their questions while looking them in the eye. And then you’re going to leave this document so that they can look at it later because chances are really good in the moment when you’re talking to them, they may not remember everything. And being able to go back and look at that case statement later, it’s going to be really helpful for them and they’re going to appreciate having that document that’s going to answer some of their questions.

All right, hopefully that is helpful to you too. I’m telling you, if you try with the 50 questions, you’ll be amazed at what you will be able to come up with. It’s a great exercise.

The second tool that I want to talk about is a gift table. This is one of my personal favorites, gift table. I want to give you an idea of what you need to ask for. So think about this for a minute. If you were going to try to raise $100,000 to build a playground that is accessible for kids with disabilities, you could go find one person to write your check for $100,000 and be done, right? Or you could go find 100,000 people to each give you a dollar and that would give you the same result but you’re going to work a lot harder, right?

So in between there is a way, there is a way, there is a way to have a combination of a number of gifts at different levels that will add up to the goal that you’ve set. And the nice thing about it is you probably already got donors who would give at all kind of different levels and it probably would work out really well if you ask them for the amount that they’re prepared to give. How do you find out how much somebody is willing to give? Well, you’re going to have to do some research. You’re going to have to do some cultivation and I’m going to talk about that out in a little while.

What I want to show you right now is just a way, this is a way of looking at raising $100,000 so that you’re not asking everybody for the same amount. So here’s how this works. At the very beginning, if you look at for the top you’ll see that we need one. This is usually called a lead gift year and it’s usually in the 15% of the total. So we need one gift of $15,000 to get us started. The rest of the numbers across the top don’t make a whole lot of sense except when we get out to the end. I want you to know that it typically takes the three prospects to get one gift. So if you’re looking for a lead gift of $15,000, you need probably three prospects in order to get one person who says, “Yes.” If you do this right, if you cultivate well and you choose the right people, one of them will say yes at that level and the other two will say yes at another level. They may drop down and give you the $10,000 gift. So only once you cross the $10,000 line and, so see if this makes sense.

For your next level gift you need two at 10,000. If you multiply two by 10,000 that gives you 20,000. If you add $20,000 to the $15,000 gift that was your lead gift you now have $35,000. So just by asking for three gifts there’s your first $35,000. And then in order to get those two gifts, you probably need six prospects because that definition that you need three to one, right? So then you follow this on down. You’ll need four gifts of $5,000 which is going to give you $20,000. When you add that to the $35,000 in the first two levels now your grand total is $55,000. You see how this works? Is there some magic to this? Yes and no.

It’s really, it’s funny to me. I tell people all the time if we can put a gift table together and it’s going to give you an idea of where to start but it won’t work out this way exactly. They never do. Because you’re going to wind up with somebody who goes, “I can’t give you $10,000 but I can give you $7,500, will that be okay? Would that be helpful?” And of course you’re going to take that. It’s kind of like this, it’s like when you put three pairs of socks in the washer and then you come out with six random socks that don’t match anything. Yes, it’s like that, and that’s just how a gift table will work. But it will give you a place to start thinking about it and you can start thinking about the donors that you already have or the prospects you already have and what level they might give at.

The third tool that I want to at least get you started thinking about is a timeline. Timelines are really important so that your campaign starts when you want it to and ends when you want it to and it keeps you moving along. If you start on a big campaign and you’re just like, “Okay, whenever we get the case statement together that’s when we’ll start asking. And then we’ll just ask and ask and ask and ask until we finally get our grand total.” Well, you can do that but it’s going to be exhausting.

So I want you to just think about things like when you want to do your planning, when you’re going to get your case statement drafted and ready, when you’re going to start asking, when you’re going to wrap up the campaign, and when you’re going to do the campaign celebration. And you can simply pull out this list of items and look at a calendar and then start putting dates in. So then you also want to think about who. Who is going to do each one of these items? Is it going to be you? Is it going to be some combination of you and your board? You and some volunteers? You and some key leaders? You and maybe other staff? Who is going to get this done? Think through that and put that on here as well.

And if you really want to get details you can lay out a full calendar and put all these items on there and then start backing out all the pieces that lead up to one of these being done. If you’re going to create a gift table and put that on your calendar, you can think about what needs to happen leading up to that. Well, maybe we need to look at a sample, or maybe we need to think about what our goal is going to be, or how the gift or how many gifts we want at different levels or what prospects we might have. There may be some tasks that you want to do that are going to lead up to that. And you can put all that on one big calendar and then everybody can see it. Whoever is helping you with the campaign, you can all see it and you can keep things managed and on track much easier.

Okay, so that was the tools. The next piece is who are you going to be asking. Who are you targeting? Who will you approach to ask for a gift for your campaign? Here’s a big mistake that a lot of people make that I want you to avoid and that is thinking that everybody will give. Now I remember doing that when I worked at the food bank. I thought, “Who doesn’t want everybody to be fed? I can’t possibly imagine that anybody would be okay with any of our neighbors going hungry. Everybody should give to our campaign, the end.” And the truth is not everybody gives to charity and of the people who do give to charity, some of them have their favorite. Almost everybody has their favorite and for some of them their favorite is the Cancer Society. For others it’s the animal shelter. For others it’s the local symphony or it’s their alma mater or it’s the rescue mission. And you’re probably not going to move somebody off of their favorite. The best you can do is hope to become one of their favorites and that’s when then they’ll want to give.

So we think that no matter what we throw out there, no matter what it is that people will want it. And that may work really well if you’re fixing food in your kitchen and you have a bunch of dogs. Trust me on this one, any time I’m in my kitchen my dogs want whatever it is I have. They just don’t even care. And it doesn’t work with donors. Donors care about what they care about and so what we need to do is stop thinking that everybody will care and instead focus on ideal donors. Who is your ideal donor? Who is that person that is going to most resonate with this? They’re the ones that are, they’re going to be most excited about this. They’re going to care about your mission. They’re going to want to help make this happen. They’re going to want to see you succeed. That’s who we want to get really clear about.

Well who is that? Who is in practical terms? Think about that person in terms of demographics and psychographics. Are they male or female? How old are they? What do they care about? What do they do for fun? Where do they spend their time? Where do they spend their money? What else do you need to know about them? And when you can figure out exactly who you’re looking for and then you see how many of those people are already in your donor base which there should be a lot, then you can go figure out where else you can find those people. Because chances are really good with a big campaign like this you’re going to have a combination of current donors who are going to give and you’re going to need some new donors to give to the campaign as well.

When you get really clear about your ideal donor, it’s a whole lot easier to go out in the community and find those people because there may be places where they’re congregating. There may be places where you can find them already assembled. Maybe they’re all showing up at the local Rotary Club. Maybe they’re all members of a women’s group that meets at the local church. When you can get really clear about them, you can go find them and it makes this process of finding donors a lot easier.

Now there’s one more piece here that I want to make sure that you get and this is what we call in the business LIA. Some of you may have heard this before. It’s all about linkage, interest and ability. So once you come up with a donor prospect you have to have linkage, interest and ability in order for them to say yes and make a gift, okay? Linkage is some connection with your organization. It could be that somebody has received service from your organization or somebody they know has or they may just be really compassionate to the cause. They may have a very soft spot in their heart for the work that your organization is doing. That’s good. That will work.

Interest means not only do they have some connection but they care about the work you’re doing. There’s an interest. There’s a concern there that they have for the work that you’re doing. Ability means they have money that they can give. They have resources. Think about it. If somebody is missing one or more of these, the chances of them making a gift are slim. So let me show you how this works.

I lost my dad, gosh, probably almost 25 years ago. He had cancer in the pancreas and passed away. We had hospice come out to help my mom take care of him. They were taking care of him at home. And hospice came out to help right at the end and if you’ve never been through anything like that, it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting for the caregivers. It’s a horrific thing to watch a loved one die from cancer like that. The hospice came out, a huge break every day. Loved the ladies that came. They were fabulous and they helped us just make sure he’s comfortable in his final days.

Now would you think that I would make a good donor prospect for hospice? Yes, I’m kind of psychic. I can just hear all of you like you’re all going, “Yeah. Sure,” and you’re nodding your head, going, “Yeah, you’ll be perfect.” But guess what, I don’t give to hospice. And there are actually two reasons. Number one is I’m not interested in that. If you are around me very long, you’ll figure out real quick what I’m interested. I’m all out animal rescue and animal welfare causes. I prefer a food bank or a feeding program. Kids programs, I’m all about. So anything that’s basic human need, food, shelter, education, those kinds of things and animal groups, I’m all about it. That’s what I care about. That’s what I love.

Hospice is not on my list. One of the main reasons though that we’ve never given to hospice is they never asked. They never asked if we would make a donation and I think they probably missed the boat because we probably could have made a pretty good size donation at that point. So I want you to keep this in mind. That you’ve got to have a linkage, you’ve got to have interest, you’ve got to have an ability before somebody is going to make a gift. So you can’t just think of the quote unquote “rich people” in your community and go target them. I want you to think about, “Okay, what link do they have with us? What interest do they have? What ability? Now they’ve got ability but do they care about what we’re doing?”

How about instead let’s start with low hanging fruit. Let’s look at some diamonds in the rough in your organization. Go look at your current donors. Look at people who are already giving and there’s probably a whole bunch that are flying under the radar that you’re missing. Yeah, you see the ones who are self-identifying. You see the ones who are writing the big checks already. You see them. But what about the ones who’ve been giving every quarter for the last five years? What if you’ve got somebody who has been giving you $100 every three months for the last five years? They’re saying an awful lot with their behavior. They’re telling you with their behavior that they really like your organization. Giving quarterly, giving regularly, that’s a big deal.

That’s a big deal for a lot of people. And if you’re not asking quarterly and they’re giving quarterly that means they’re taking the initiative to make it happen.

So look at things like recency. How recently have they been giving? The more recent, the more they care. What’s the frequency been? Look for those ones who have been giving very frequently over a period of time. Those are some people that I’d want to talk to because they probably really care about your organization. They may be able to make a much bigger gift if you were to ask them. Look at that consistency as well. Do they consistently give? What about the person who consistently gives $50 a year and they’ve been doing it for 20 years? Okay, go chat with them. I think that those could be some amazing diamonds in the rough.

Corey is asking about monthly donors. I think monthly donors typically really love your organization. If they’re willing to commit to giving you something regularly like that, that’s a sign that they really love you. Pay attention to them. Don’t just write them off, especially if, let’s say it’s somebody who gives a $10 a month gift and you’re like, “That’s great, but it’s not a lot of money.” It’s not about the money. It’s about the person. It’s about the relationship. That’s one of the things that I really want you guys to get.

And as a matter of fact let’s go ahead and talk about relationship. The more time and money that people spend with you, the more consistently they give you time and money, the more that they care, the more they see themselves as a partner

[SP]. So we’ve got to really think through, more attention to relationships and less attention to check books. The problem is that an awful lot of us get a little weird when it comes to building these relationships on purpose where some of us just have weirdness in relationships anyway. What we really want to do is build very healthy relationships and build them on purpose.

So here’s what we’re used to. We’ve very used to the way a relationship grows organically, the way it grows naturally. If you’re married, if you know somebody who is married, you know that people don’t normally show up on their first date in their wedding clothes. Ladies, we just don’t do that, do we? No, it would be too weird all the way around. And yet sometimes in fundraising we try to do that. We try to show up on a first meeting and ask for some big ass gift when people have not been cultivated. We don’t know if they’re interested. And it’s very pushy. What we have to do is take it a little slower. Think about the steps that we normally go through. Think about the steps that it takes to build that relationship and use those, implement those.

But we’re just doing it on purpose. There’s nothing wonky here. There’s nothing to get weird about. There’s nothing wrong. You’re not being manipulative. And a lot of people tell me that. A lot of people say, “I just feel so wrong building a relationship with somebody just so I can ask them for money.” I get that. I remember feeling that way myself one time. I get it. And what I’ve had to do was really understand that it wasn’t about me. It was about the people that depended on my organization for services. And when I did what I had to do, when I did my part, those services were delivered. And those people that were making donations, they all of a sudden got the chance to be a participant in delivering those services because they were funding it.

I’ve had to give myself a little mindset shift, make sure that I could feel in total integrity in myself and in my body when I went to try to get to know somebody. Was it awkward and uncomfortable the first few times? You bet. I would love to have a video of the first time I took a donor to lunch because I’m not sure that I ate a thing. I think I was ready to throw up when I left. But I survived it and actually it was kind of fun, I really enjoyed the woman. And when I can take the pressure off myself and relax, it was fine.

So let me give you some ABCs of relationship building and see if this will help. What I want you to do as we think about these is also think about relationships that you have outside of fundraising. A spouse, a sibling, a best friend. And when you think about how those relationships started and how they grew and what keeps them fresh, what keeps you participating in those relationships, I want you keep that stuff in mind as we walk through this.

So here is what I think are the ABCs of relationships. First is you’ve got to add some value to their life. Because the truth is people are all incredibly busy and they won’t do something if it doesn’t add some value to their life. If it isn’t fun, they won’t do it. If it isn’t meaningful, they won’t participate. So you’ve got to be adding value of some kind. Your nonprofit has to add value to that person’s life. How do you do that? You make them feel good about them. You’re reminding them that they are, they’re the hero. They’re participating in something that’s so much bigger than them. They’re getting the chance to change lives and that matters.

You’ve got to build trust. Relationships are based on trust. So you’ve got to be thinking about everything you do, from the thank you letters you send out, to the newsletters, to social media, is it building trust with your donors and prospects? Listen, if you don’t get anything else out of this webinar today, get that. It’s a game changer. Build trust. Make sure that you’re doing everything you can in a very trustworthy way. And when I say you, I mean you personally and your organization. From the way you answer the phone to your email signature to how you respond online, everything has to build trust.

And you’ve got to have common interest. Relationships are all about doing things together and things that are fun. So this is where that whole interest piece comes in from the LIA. When donors are interested and they want to see you be successful, when they also care about feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, offering ballet to people, whatever it is your organization does, when your donors also care about that and that gives you a place to have that common interest you can have some really amazing conversation. So I think when you think about it this way, that what you’re trying to do basically is talk about common interest, well, that takes a lot of pressure off because now all of a sudden you’re not manipulating. You’re talking about things that you have in common. And that makes it a whole lot easier.

So here are some steps when you’re building those relationships on purpose that you can use. The first is to have a goal in mind. Where are you leading people? Well, I hope that you’re leading them to a place you going to ask them for a gift. You need to know, you need to have in mind how much you’re asking for. You need to ask questions to learn more about them. I call these very purposeful questions. You want to get to know people, find out what makes them tick.

One of my favorite clients has gotten really, really good at this over the years. He is genuinely interested in people so when he sits down to meet somebody for the first time, it’s not like he’s evaluating that person to see what they can do for him or do for his nonprofit. He really cares about people. He really just wants to get to know them and understand what they value and what matters to them in their life. He’ll ask a bunch of questions and he actually gets to know them but I’ll tell you what there’s something about him, just his presence and the way he shows up, being all interested that makes him incredibly charming. People just fall in love with him.

You’ve got to communicate enough. Think about the friend that you have that you don’t hear from them very often and every time you do hear from them they want something. Isn’t that yucky? Don’t you look at the caller ID and when you realize it’s that person calling you’re like, “I don’t think I want to talk to them because they’re going to ask me for something.” You’ve got to really pay attention to how you communicate with donors so that you don’t show up that way.

And honestly I want you to plan it. Plan the communication. Plan the interactions. Think about when you want to be with those donors, when you’re going to take them to lunch, when you’re going to give them a call, when you’re going to invite them for a tour and then what’s the goal of each interaction. That’s when you start to build a cultivation plan. That’s what we’re talking about here. It’s building relationships, cultivating the donor so that you can lead them to a place where they’ve talked with you about their common interests, they’ve asked you questions about the campaign, they want to see you be successful, and so they’re going to very naturally say, “I would love to help.”

Jennifer is asking, “When you take a donor to lunch or coffee, are you paying or the agency is paying?” I would hope that the agency would be willing to pay. And honestly I just see what’s going on. I am always prepared to pay as a fundraiser and then if my donor says, “You know what, don’t worry about it, I’ve got this.” I’m like, “That’s fine, thank you. I appreciate that,” and just let it go. You just want to be prepared to pay. And different donors are going to want different things and different donors are going to have different opinions about all that.

So there you go. There is the relationship building piece. Yes, as you work on this big campaign you need to get to know people. Here’s the real golden egg out of this, as you go through this really big campaign and you’re raising money for your special project, if you spend the time and start building these relationships and let’s say you’ve got some donors that make a huge gift, for the first time in their life they give you their biggest gift ever, guess what’s going to happen? If you do a good job of thanking them, you do a good job of staying in touch and let them know what’s going on with the project, chances are really good they will do it again. They’ll repeat. Isn’t that cool? People love giving a lot of money because it changes things for them too.

Now here is what happens sometimes. When I sit down and talk to people about these campaigns I’ll hear this “But Sandy,” “But Sandy.” I had one say this to me two weeks ago, “But we haven’t sent out a newsletter in years. We have some people who gave us $5,000 a couple years ago but haven’t done any cultivation with them since then.” Okay, that’s a problem, that’s a problem.

What about if you say, “Well we don’t have any big donors.” Remember what I told you about the diamonds in the rough? You actually probably do. You probably do have some donors. You’re just not noticing them because they’re not giving a big enough gift for you to be noticing them. Or maybe say, “Yeah, we’re in a small community.” Yeah, me too, me too. And I’ve seen millions of dollars raised in the small rural community. Or that you say, “My board won’t help. I know we need board help to do this and my board just don’t help.” Here is what I’ll say folks, those are excuses.

Now, there may be some truth in some of that and we need to address it. So for example, if you’ve not been sending out a newsletter and you need to warm up to some donors, you can do that. It’s okay. You can do that. You can start with a thank-you call. You can send them an update and let them know what’s been going on. Go visit them. Do what you have to do. Do not let these excuses get in your way of getting your campaign underway. If you really care about this campaign and you really want to see succeed, you can’t let excuses get in your way.

Now one of the things that I find and it’s a lot of fun, several of you asking questions, I’m going to try to answer as many of those as I can, when people start getting really interested in what you’re doing, they’ll start making what I call gift noises. They will start asking a lot of questions about the project. They will start asking things like, “Is there a waiting list for this? Where does the rest of the money come from? Doesn’t the government pay for this?” And then the biggest magic question of all is, “Well how much is that going to cost?” and when they start asking that you know that they are really, really interested and that’s when it’s time, that’s when it’s time to ask them for their support.

And if you let any of these excuses get in your way, you’ll never get to that point with that donor of being ready to ask for their support. You’ll never have the opportunity to get that big gift and you’ll never give that donor the opportunity to get the emotional high from giving that kind of gift. And trust me donors get a high when they give. It changes things for them especially if it’s a big gift. So watch out for the excuses. Enter into a no excuse zone.

All right, so this has been a lot of stuff. And as we’re coming into the homestretch here, I want to tell you that here’s what you need to do next. I think you still need a written plan. You need to get all the stuff in writing. You’re going to need some support from your board because right, wrong or otherwise and gosh, we could have a whole conversation about your board, they can probably open some doors for you that you can’t open yourself. They have connections out into the community that could really help. I also want you to set up support for yourself for when you hit roadblocks, because it’s not if you’ll hit road blocks, it’s when you’ll hit roadblocks, because you will. Things will happen. Make sure you have some support in place to help deal with that.

And then I want to make sure that you have some inspiration in place for yourself so that you won’t lose your motivation. Chances are good because you’re here on this webinar, you’re the one who’s going to carry the torch and keep the excitement flowing for the campaign. So you’ve got to keep your inspiration fresh.

So let me ask you, what are you going to do now? Grab your pen and your paper and I want you to jot down three things that you can go do now to get started, to get moving. Even if it’s just baby steps, three things that you can do right away to get started on this big campaign. And while you do that I’m going to have a quick sip of water. Jot down three steps that you can take to get started.

Now, while you’re thinking about that I want to tell you that I do have something that I think will help you and make this a little easier. I put together a freebie for you because I know how overwhelming this can be when this is brand new for you, when you haven’t done this kind of campaign before. And the tools that I talked through with this, the case statement and the gift table and the timeline, I bet some of you were jotting down notes like mad. I actually have some worksheets that come from my book called “6 Figure Fundraising.” It’s all about how to create and run your first big campaign.

And so what I have for you is some of my favorite worksheets out of that book that I put together in a download and you can go grab it at So what I’ve pooled for you are the case statement template, the project summary worksheets, the campaign plan, the sample guest table, and a blank gift table so that should help you at least with those three tools. So then you don’t have to go try to re-figure this stuff out because you’ll go to You can download them there and hopefully that will make this all easier for you.

So let’s see, and then of course if you want to stay connected with me, I would love to. I’d love to hear what you’re working on. I’d love to hear about your big campaign and be able to support you with that. So you’ll find me on Facebook at or Sandy Rees on Twitter. And of course you can always find me at

It looks like we have just a couple of minutes left for questions. So let me back up and see what we’ve got here. Let’s see, Emilia was asking, “How do I motivate my board to be more proactive and go out and meet with our big donors and/or potential donors?” That is a great question, Emilia. Let me see if I can give you a short answer because honestly it would probably take me half an hour to really do a good job of answering that.

But here’s the thing, the more that your board understand how good fundraising works and the more bought in they are to the success of your organization, the more willing they will be to go do that. Now part of what you have to understand is not every board member is comfortable going out and talking about fundraising. Not all board members are the same. So just try to put yourself in their shoes and think about what they need. What do they need to know? What support do they need in order for them to be comfortable to go out and meet with your big donors? If they’ve already got a relationship with somebody, that could be really helpful.

Barbara wants to know, “My organization has never done fundraising and therefore no donor list to start with, suggestions.” Okay, start with identifying who your ideal donor prospects might be. Chances are good it may be you. It may be other staff or volunteers. And then just get as clear you can, go into demographics and psychographics, and then go see where you can find people like that easily and in large numbers in your community. It’s probably going to be civic clubs, church groups, some other kind of clubs and things like that. And then just go talk to them, tell him what you’re doing and invite them to participate.

Rebecca had the same question. What I find is building your donor base is an awful lot like packing a big snow ball for a snowman. It takes a little bit to get it started and then if the snow is really wet and you start pushing that big snow ball, it will pack on faster and faster. So those first few can be hard and they probably will be the hardest and then once you get going, it’s going to be a whole lot easier. All right, let me see . . .

Steven: Maybe one more, Sandy?

Sandy: Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking. Let me see, one more.

Steven: Okay. Then I’ll flash your email address here.

Sandy: Okay, good. Good thinking, so Tish is asking, “Would you recommend slowing down your typical asks leading up to a big campaign?” What you could do if you’re going to pull out, if you’re going to pull out 20 or 30 donors that you wanted to ask for a big gift for your campaign, I think I would take them out have anything you’re doing in a month or so leading up to that. So if you’ve got an appeal that you’re getting ready to put in the mail, I might pull them out of that. But here is the thing, you’ve got to be more careful now, don’t pull people out of an appeal because you intend to go ask and then never ask. Because now you haven’t given them any chance at all to make a gift and that’s not going to help anybody.

So for those of you who we didn’t get a chance to answer your questions, I apologize. You are welcome to come to my Facebook page and ask. You’re welcome to email me and I’ll be happy to see how I can help you.

Steven: Well, great, Sandy. That was a lot of fun. I enjoyed listening along and I know everyone else did. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us for about an hour. And thanks to everyone else for listening along and taking an hour out of your day. It was a lot of fun.

Sandy: Awesome.

Steven: And just so you know we do do these webinars every week. We usually do them in Thursday, but we got a couple of Wednesday editions in addition today. There’s lots downloadables and resources on our website as well. Got a couple of cool presentations coming up one week from today. Marc Pitman is our guest. He is going to talk about donor retention and sort of those first steps with a donor relationship. And then a week later Mazarine Treyz is going to talk about fundraising on a shoestring budget.

So check those out. We’d love to see you again. Look for an email from me later on today. I’ll be sending out the recording and Sandy’s slides. But please do reach out to Sandy. She’s obviously a great resource and I know she’d love to hear from you via social media, and on our website as well. So thanks so much. Look for an email from me and we’ll call it a day there. We hope to see you again next time. Have a great rest of your week and we’ll see you soon.

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.