Kevin Wallace and Carlyn Runnels will explore how your nonprofit can move forward with its capital campaign in the current environment.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right. Carlyn and Kevin, you okay if I go ahead and get things started officially?

Carlyn: Absolutely. Thanks, Steven.

Steven: All right. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Good morning if you’re out on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar. We’ll be talking about how to map your capital campaign during the COVID-19 crisis. We got some capital campaign experts here. I’m super excited. I’m Steve and I’m over here at Bloomerang, Bloomerang home office. My daughter just started crying. So sorry about that. I’ll get through my intro kind of quickly here, but I hope you’re doing okay. Thanks for logging on. We have a few 100 people already joining us. We got a really good presentation in store for you.

Just a couple of housekeeping items, just want to let you all know that we are recording this session and we’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on this afternoon. So if you have to bounce earlier, you got another appointment or a conflict, don’t worry. We’ll get all that good stuff in your hands later on today. I’ll email it out to you. But most importantly, please feel free to use the chat box there on your webinars screen. I know a lot of you already have. Introduce yourself if you haven’t already. Tell us about yourself, tell us where you’re from, how the weather is, anything fun you want to say. But most importantly, ask questions. We’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy. Don’t sit on those hands. We’d love to hear from you. You can also send us questions over on Twitter. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed. On Zoom there’s Q&A box and a chat box you can use either of those. I’ll keep an eye on them. No problem. We’d love to hear from you.

If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just for context, just want to explain what Bloomerang is. If you’re wondering what the heck is this company, they’re doing all these webinars all the time, we’re also a provider of donor management software. It’s kind of what we’re best known for. So if you’re interested in that, check us out, check out our website. You can watch all kinds of videos, get to look at the software. Don’t do that right now because like I said, we got some capital campaign folks on the call joining us from kind of a distributed workforce, right? We got Arizona and Montana represented. We got Kevin and Carlyn from CampaignCounsel. How’s it going? You guys doing okay?

Carlyn: Yeah. Great.

Kevin: We’re doing fantastic.

Steven: Yeah. This is awesome. I’m so excited to have you. We’ve been talking about this for a few weeks. And capital campaigns, such an interesting topic in these wild times that we’re living in. So that’s why we got Carlyn and Kevin here. Tons of experience. They’ve got a great agency over there. So if you’re interested in maybe getting some help, definitely check out CampaignCounsel. They have some cool resources on their website as well. Kevin’s the president over there, Carlyn’s the consultant and systems and information director. Tons of experience and they really know their stuff. And we were talking a little bit before if you joined in. They’ve even done some work in my neck of the woods. So I don’t want to take any time away because I don’t know anything about capital campaigns that’s why we got these two on here. So I’m going to pipe down and, Carlyn, I think you’re going to bring up your slides. I’ll let you do that here.

Carlyn: Oops. Perfect.

Steven: Love these transitions.

Carlyn: Making sure I’ve got everything ready to rock.

Steven: Looks like it’s working.

Carlyn: Oops. Not that person. Sorry. All right. Hi, everybody. Thanks for being here. Kevin’s going to go ahead and give us a quick intro and then I’ll take you through our process for today.

Kevin: Thanks, Carlyn. My name’s Kevin Wallace. As Steven said, I am speaking to you from lovely Tucson, albeit hot Arizona. I’ve been running since 2003. We’ve got a great team of consultants kind of spread around the country. And as Steven said, our focus is capital campaigns. So if you are in the process of getting ready for one, whether that be a needs assessment or a feasibility study and/or are managing one, that is essentially the space that we work in.

And a little fun fact about me, my wife and I have a have a bunch of kids and actually, we had three graduations in 2020, a kid from law school, a kid from college, and a kid from high school. And so my kind of COVID story is I did not have to get in a car. I didn’t have to get on a plane. I saw all of my kids’ graduations virtually and I did not have to throw a big party afterwards, celebrating all three of them because all of those were off the table. And it’s kind of humdrum of me to say, “Yay” for that, but having done that several times before, it really is kind of a big lift. So we’re pleased as punch to be here with you all today, talking about COVID and how it’s not as much impacted our kids’ graduations, but is impacting your fundraising efforts. Go ahead, Carlyn.

Carlyn: Awesome. Hi, everybody. I’m Carlyn. I’m a consultant here in Missoula, Montana, and I always use my fun fact as my cat is 20 years old and he loves to sing in my stairwell. So I use that fun fact as a kind of a warning in case you hear some interesting background sounds because he loves to wake up and participate in these kinds of webinars too. But let’s go ahead and dive into it. So before you can make a plan to know where you need to bill with your fundraising, you first need to evaluate where you are. So let’s say you’re on a road trip and you’ve got this planned route to get to your destination but there’s this huge construction project that’s disrupting your best laid plans and maybe that construction project is called COVID-19. So you can still get to your fundraising destination, but you need to reevaluate.

So we’re going to use this map today as our guide, and we’ll start down in Tucson where Kevin is. Like I said, I’m in Missoula. So we’re going to set Montana as our destination on this fundraising road trip, if you will. So like I said, in order to address how you can get to that destination, first, we need to figure out where you are and then we’re going to make alternative plans with a strong strategy to help us get there. So let’s say you’re in or considering a feasibility study, and we’ve got you down there on the map with Kevin in Tucson. So quick overview on feasibility studies. This is the step you take prior to launching your capital campaign. So during feasibility studies, you’re focusing on assessing your community’s willingness to support your nonprofit in a possible campaign. And we often say in fundraising that if you want advice, ask for money and if you want money, ask for advice.

So right now in the feasibility study, we’re working on the advice phase of that campaign planning. So whether you’re in a feasibility study or considering a feasibility study, you might be finding that many of those are on hold for the moment. That is the trajectory we’ve seen with some of our clients and heard from other nonprofits as well. And I’ll dig into that here in a second, but one of the biggest reasons that nonprofits aren’t pursuing feasibility studies right now is because of fear of the unknown. Unfortunately, none of us really know how this pandemic is going to continue to play out or what the long-term impacts might be. And it really might require you to consider some additional components for your capital campaign that weren’t previously necessary. So this gives you a great opportunity to be kind of proactive with your campaign as opposed to reactive.

So, for instance, you might want to consider installing new library shelves on casters if you’re a library campaign, that way those shelves can easily be moved if you have to create more flexibility for future events space that is limited in size and still socially distant 6 feet apart or whatever the rules may be. So just in case there’s those social distancing measures again in the future, at least having that consideration in advance could help make the difference if you’re able to stay open or maybe have to close to potential future outbreaks. So really, the fear of the unknown is certainly prevalent in a lot of the fundraising efforts right now, and it is impacting some people’s willingness to pursue a feasibility study. But like I said later, we’re going to talk about how you can overcome this.

And another factor for feasibility studies is related to the focus of your nonprofit or capital campaign. And that’s where I mentioned some of our plans are moving forward while others are on hold. And that kind of breaks down to if you’re a human service organization or if you’re more of a lifestyle organization. Of course, both matter right now and have their own pieces they’re offering to the communities, but the level of perceived importance in need is somewhat shifted in favor of those human service organizations. So Kevin’s going to talk more about that next.

Kevin: Thanks, Carlyn. So as we’re taking a look at assessing where we are right now, let’s assume that you are in beautiful Page, Arizona, which is quite a bit north of me and you’re in a capital campaign. And what we’re going to consider is what phase are you in and what you need to be looking at depending on that phase. So quite simply put, campaigns typically more or less have about four phases. You’ve got what we call the family phase where you’re just starting to get your materials ready and you’re starting to solicit your board members and your staff.

And then after that you’ve got your quiet phase where you’re going after that low-hanging fruit, you know, the people that have given you your large gifts in the past and they totally love you and they’re all bought in on your mission and your vision and they’re going to support you regardless and then after that you go into leadership, just little bit of smaller gifts. Maybe people that haven’t given to you in the past, trying to make new friends and steward them along.

And then finally your public phase, that would be the fourth one where you’re essentially opening up your capital campaign to giving from anyone out there in your universe who wants to give, you make a Donate Now button on your webpage, you send out direct marketing appeals that allow people to give directly.

So you need to assess where you are in this capital campaign. Identify your phase. If you’re early on, so if you’re in the family or quiet phase, you might want to pause for a little bit, and this would be to either address your materials, which we’re going to get into more detail a little bit later, but address your case for support, your brochure, your video, etc. to address COVID and/or social unrest, and/or b) to bridge from a lifestyle campaign into a more of a human service campaign.

And Carlyn just talked about that a little bit, and we’re going to be giving you a few examples of how that has specifically happened with some clients, but just a little bit anecdotally, we’re working on a project right now in central Washington for a cancer center. And while earlier on we were focusing on a lifestyle element of it, the convenience of having cancer care closer to home, now we’ve also integrated a safety element into it of a), if you’re staying closer to home, you’re not having to travel as far and getting additional exposure. So those are a couple of ways that you can identify where you are and then maybe reassess that position. And as I said, we’re going to start talking a little bit more in detail a little bit later on in the webinar about how to specifically address them. But for right now, let’s go back over to Carlyn who’s going to talk about the board outlook.

Carlyn: So another piece that you really need to take stock of before you move forward is evaluating your board’s outlook about your fundraising, regardless of if you’re in or even considering a feasibility study or capital campaign. So here you’re getting closer to your Montana destination but you’re in Salt Lake City, Utah. And, of course, my hope for you is that your board has a really positive outlook, meaning they’ve got the sense of urgency for both the financial and service population needs that you serve, and they’re willing to engage in fundraising. And this is ideal because it means you’ve got a strong backbone of support that you as an organization leader . . . excuse me, organization leader need during these especially challenging times.

But as I mentioned, fear and uncertainty are super prevalent right now, and it’s really possible that your board may have a more negative outlook on the current fundraising. So they may feel that leadership is either too busy providing services or that’s what they should be focusing on or more likely the situation is that they’re just too scared to engage in fundraising right now because they think it’s insensitive. Even though we’re months into this pandemic, we’re still hearing this a lot. And the reality is just that it’s time to get back on the fundraising road trip, if you will.

And I’m going to discuss some strategies to help with that shortly, but first, I want to tell you about this survey that we recently co-sponsored with a company called Campbell Rinker. It was an overall survey that talked with different donors. Either there was a one group that was the standard donors, so anybody who gave at least $20 last year, and then we sponsored a high-dollar donor segment, so anyone who gave $2,500 or more last year, really to get an understanding of their confidence in giving right now amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the social unrest happening across the country.

So the goal was to understand how these high-dollar donors saw themselves reacting in terms of their giving amidst the different things going on in the country right now. So the key part of this was understanding how their donor giving likelihood might be affected by any of the strategic solicitations that are happening out there and the changes in the way that they’re coming through. And as always, our goal as fundraisers is to have a better understanding our target audience, right? So we just want to make sure that we’re getting an understanding of how we can sensitively approach this. And this is getting a little bit in the weeds here, but it’s important for you to understand that this company that we did it with, Campbell Rinker uses this index to measure donor confidence, And it’s basically a way of defining normal as the level of 100. And they set that back in pre-recession 2008. So in having that index normal level of 100, we can compare other time periods or categories against that.

Okay. So getting into the results from the study from just a couple of weeks ago, they did it at the end of July and they found that high-dollar donor confidence is 97.9, which is really great on that index level of 100, for comparison sake. And then the more standard donors, because I know we’re not all looking at major gifts here on this webinar, standard donors, so those people that gave $20 or more last year, their donor confidence level was 91. So, again, still very high. And just for the sake of comparison so you all have some additional context here, they did the same survey back in April, so at the very start of the pandemic and the high-dollar donor confidence was 100 in April and the standard donor confidence was 91.7. So they’ve all just dropped a tiny little bit, but really, these are positive numbers. And it’s really encouraging that these donors’ philanthropy doesn’t seem to be deterred by COVID-19, or the economy, or civil unrest.

So this ties back into your board’s outlook because if you as the fundraiser are really pushing towards a fundraising strategy and your board is pushing back saying, “No. People don’t want to give right now,” these survey results really show that people do feel confident in their giving. So it all ties in together here, and now we’ll continue back on our fundraising road trip, if you will, and Kevin’s going to talk about the case for support.

Kevin: Thanks, Carlyn. And we find ourselves now in beautiful Pocatello, Idaho. And this is where, when we’re planning for our capital campaign and/or a feasibility study, we’re going to take a look at our case for support. We need to reevaluate it. And I gave you the earlier example of the cancer center in Washington State. So instead of focusing on miles traveled, we looked at exposure to the oftentimes immunosuppressed cancer patients. The case for support for those of you that haven’t ever written one before or you might even be hearing that term for the first time, it’s essentially the need of your organization and why you’re out there raising funds and the benefit that meeting those needs are going to bring to whether it be your clientele and/or your community and/or the region, etc. So the case for support is what are we trying to do, what problem are we trying to address, and how will your support fix that problem?

Now, your case for support, you’re going to need to see, has this changed since the pandemic? Your need, and let’s just keep this real simple for a moment and say you’re a food bank and your need is more space. You know, we don’t have a big enough freezer, we don’t have a big enough area to sort, we don’t have enough room to bring in volunteers and put together backpacks for the weekend programs for the kids. So perhaps your need has not changed at all. You still are short on space, but the benefit that you’re bringing to your community can now be incorporated into COVID-19.

And sticking with that food bank example, we have a client, a small food bank they’ve been working out of their church for, I don’t know, close to 10 years now and their dream is to build a standalone facility. We got into the campaign. We were probably about 2/3 of the way to meeting our goal and COVID struck and we thought, “Well, we’ve got a COVID-sensitive case. Let’s just keep pushing forward.” But the reality of what happened is the kids were now home and these kids that were bringing home backpacks for the weekend in order to be able to eat over the weekend, now their parents had lost their jobs and/or were being, you know, furloughed to some sort of the other and now the need for food had increased dramatically in this relatively small community. So we put the campaign on pause and we started to raise money for operating funds because the most immediate need was to get these kids and these families food, and that meant raising more money to get more food in there. So we needed to look at the human and financial impact of sticking with the campaign as opposed to going out there and addressing the absolute operational needs of the community and the fact that more and more people were going hungry. So in essence, we had to switch over to looking at it from a different perspective.

And we call this the COVID lens. And you may have heard this term before. Our friends at laid this out. When you want to look at your nonprofit through a COVID lens, you’ve got to do so in three simple steps. The first one is what is the center of concern? You need to demonstrate your organization’s priorities and commitment to its mission and acknowledge that while the commitment is still there, your focus might have changed and you might need to make additional moves in order to address the more immediate needs that have been brought about by COVID.

So you need to communicate the health and safety that remains paramount, but also the steps that you’re taking to protect those that you serve. So it’s, again, going back to the food bank, not only are we serving more people than before because of the need, but we’re also taking steps to make sure that both our volunteers and the people receiving the food are safe, we’re not out there spreading the disease. So that’s number one. Number two, create a call-to-action. And this is not new to any fundraiser, but you need to call up the needs of your organization based on the impact that you can make during this time. And the best way to do that is please seek unrestricted funds. Don’t just say, “Hey, I need to go out and buy 50 bags or 500 backpacks, or 5,000 backpacks, and please fund that,” make it unrestricted.

And going back to the study that Carlyn was addressing, we also found that there is still a strong desire for people to give to your organization, you know, with unrestricted funds. So don’t worry about going out there and asking for that. This also helps you maintain your flexibility because this crisis is, of course, still completely unpredictable. It’s affected everyone, so even though we are making a call to action, please, please remain sensitive to the toll that your existing and potential donors may be under during this. We’re going to talk about this much later in this webinar about how to discern the state that people are in.

So that was number two, is to create a call to action. Number three, if necessary, you might have to pivot. And what we mean by that is that, you know, coming back to that food bank example, we pivoted from a capital campaign to an operating funds. You need to demonstrate clearly to your donors that you’re shifting your campaign to respond to the crisis and that their support is still vital in order to keep things moving forward.

So in the food bank example, we typically communicate through direct marketing to our donor pool. And we just started saying, “Hey, this is the reality, we have to build this new food bank. However, we’re going to put that on the side burner for a little while and we’re going to focus on this more immediate need.” And I’ll tell you, that that food bank not only got their operating funds back up and they reached record levels, but they’ve also completed their capital campaign, and that was over the last over the last four months. So they’ve had great success and in kind of following this formula.

So now that we’ve taken a look at where we currently are, we’ve assessed our map, and we’ve taken a look at where we’re stopping and what we need to do during those stops, we’re going to look at where to go on our fundraising map.

Carlyn: That’s right. So we all know that you’d love to come visit me in Missoula, Montana, right? So this was our ideal destination, even though these times are very strange and travel is tough, we’re just going to use this as our goal here as we continue to discuss how you all strategically map your capital campaign success during this COVID-19 crisis. But, of course, nothing is ever super simple. Before we get back on the road, we might have some roadblocks that we come across along the way, and that first one is the need for capital. The second roadblock is the internal relevance of your fundraising as perceived by your staff and by your board, and then the external relevance of your campaign within your community. And the final roadblock is one we’ve already mentioned before, the fear and uncertainty of the future of fundraising. But don’t worry, we’re going [inaudible 00:23:31] these roadblocks and we’ll talk about how you can avoid them in order to have a successful campaign. So Kevin’s going to tell us about the first one.

Kevin: Yeah. Thanks, Carlyn. And the first one is, as Carlyn said, is your need for capital, and this is where you just got to be realistic with yourself and with your board. What is your priority right now? Is it operating revenue or is it capital improvements? So wrapped up in both is this huge question of how do we continue to fulfill our mission? And as every nonprofit, if you’re not mission-focused, if you’re not mission-based you’re just kind of floundering around and no one really knows what they’re supporting or why they’re supporting so. When you’re realistic, you’re saying, “How do we best meet the needs of, again, our clients, our community and nation, etc.?” In the short term, if meeting your operating needs are most important, again, let’s go back to that food bank. They had a higher calling out for food and for getting kids food, so that’s what they switched to. Or you’ve got a long term need of capital improvements, and actually, Carlyn, I haven’t had the chance to tell you this because I had this phone call right before this webinar, but . . .

Carlyn: Tell me.

Kevin: Our company has been working with a with a private school just outside of LA for a number of years now, had a complete lifestyle campaign going on and it’s been a slog for them for the last six months because they’re building a $10 million pool and all of a sudden $10 million pools became a lot less important than donor’s minds. However, they continued to lightly, and I say very lightly, keep people informed and to steward their donors. And they just got noticed today of a gift that actually puts them over the top of their campaign goals. So they are ecstatic with it. They never let up from what their focus was. Yes, they had to do some more scholarship giving, but they kept communicating about their capital campaign. They kept people in the loop and in the end, it paid off for them. So we’re thrilled to hear that they’ve hit their goal even though they’ve got a lifestyle campaign going on, but they have now officially completed it. So bravo to that group. Now, let’s go back over to Carlyn and talk about the next roadblock, which is internal reverence.

Carlyn: That was such good news. Thank you, Kevin. I love that update. So these next two roadblocks talk about the relevance of your organization and its fundraising priorities. So as I mentioned, you may encounter those internal roadblocks from your leadership team. And, of course, it’s always ideal to have their support. And oftentimes as the development people, it’s hard to move forward without it. And it’s, of course, very real right now that these feelings that fundraising is super sensitive right now and should be avoided, but think back to those survey results that I had discussed a couple of minutes ago. From the donor perspective, they’re feeling good about their giving right now. So take some time to consider you can help her board understand that moving forward with this fundraising strategy is not tone deaf, but in fact, avoiding fundraising entirely is more tone deaf than anything.

So this one-way road sign feels extra fitting as a roadblock because you may be the only one driving in the direction of continuing to fundraise right now. But as always, consider that COVID lens. Again, think about those survey results I shared and just try to do your best to move forward internally with getting a fundraising strategy set. Now, Kevin, to us about the external.

Kevin: Thanks. And the external relevance, of course, is what is your community? What is your donor community seeing out there and how are they reacting to your fundraising goals? So we need to look at this both in the pre and post-COVID outbreak, how are we able to serve our communities? And maybe our doors have been closed or maybe we’ve been able to continue to provide our services during the pandemic. You also need to look at your fundraising history within the community. Are you well-established or fairly new? And for those organizations that our team is working with right now that they don’t have a ton of fundraising experience, they don’t have a whole, you know, their biggest gift is $1,000 bequests that they got and that got them totally excited, but now they’re going to go out and try and raise a couple of million dollars.

I’ll tell you what, it is tough out there to do that, especially when you don’t have a track record in what we call your return on investment for philanthropy. So you need to really take a look at how your community is looking at you. Are you a trusted entity? Do they know much about you? Do they know your board? Do they know your staff? And if they do not, it might be wise for you to kind of reassess whether or not you jump into those things, and that’s stuff that you find out during a feasibility study and why you should absolutely take that on.

So most of you are probably familiar, I’m guessing with the Lilly School of Philanthropy over at Indiana U, and that’s just up the street from where from where Steven is. Their Dean, Dr. Gene Tempel, he wrote a helpful guide to capital campaigns during this time and reminded us to reflect on the lessons that we learned back in 9/11, the nonprofits who had established major gift programs, they were still successful in their fundraising after that tragedy. So when you think of something that was that much of a point of history and really rocked the entire nation, nonprofits that had those established relationships and were able to go out and say, “Hey, this is going to help our country, this is going to help our clientele,” they were still successful.

So looking beyond your nonprofit, we also want you to look at how has the pandemic impacted your community as a whole. So we’re going to give you three examples. Are you in New York City? Are you a Florida? Or are you in Montana? So New York City, been hit terribly hard, still tight restrictions. Florida, a little bit less so. Montana, much less so, they’ve just got a much more spread out population. Where does your nonprofit lay within that group? Have you been completely devastated by all of this such as in New York City or have things been kind of going along a little bit blip here and there but you’re more like a Montana where things that have not been drastically altered?

You also need to look at the competition for funds in your town, especially if you’re a lifestyle type of campaign and you’re competing against nonprofits that are specifically addressing COVID-related issues, it might not be a great time to go out there. So this blind corner road sign is a great fit here because you should not, you cannot go into a post-COVID fundraising strategy without assessing the situation from all sides. So as Carlyn talked about the internal, then there’s also the external and within the external, what is your history, what’s happening within your community?

I’m going to share an example with you. And we have a library client in Billings, Montana that, you know, shoot, they’re a library, and it was the weekend that COVID got really serious and the library had to close, but they’re situated right in downtown Billings and they’re kind of surrounded by several of the local hospitals. And the hospitals came to them and said, “Hey, we don’t have anywhere to put our kids, our nurses, and our doctors and we’re under enormous stress here. Can we turn the library into a daycare center for all of these kids until things come back to normal?” And thank goodness the library said, “We’re going to pivot. We’re going to stop being a library, and we’re going to start being a daycare center to get our community through this.” So it’s a great example of how a nonprofit really stood up and answered the call to the dire needs of its community. And here’s just a real quick little blurb they did to promote the success of that program.

Woman: Because of the current crisis, the Montana state government took action to prevent transmission of COVID-19 by issuing a shelter at home order, which resulted in the temporary closure of the Billings Public Library. The library took this challenge to create new, innovative ways to serve our patrons and help our city in this uncertain time. As we move forward into a new phase of normal, it will be the library’s honor to accept the challenge of serving our communities and evolve to safe ways.

Carlyn: Perfect. So just as we’re afraid of the possibility of falling rocks, you just never know when those are going to strike. Many of us also fear what the future of fundraising holds. So, of course, none of us knows. We all wish we had that crystal ball, right? But the good news is that people have really adapted to different communication methods during this time, and we’re going to talk more about that in a little bit, but the reality is that people just may be afraid to meet face to face for awhile, especially if your donors are in that more at-risk age group. So, of course, making these asks virtually maybe a challenge, but it’s of course possible. We’ve been doing capital campaign feasibility studies with a couple of different groups and have been doing it all through video calls and it’s been really effective up until this point and it’s continuing to do so.

So closing those gifts virtually, if you are in a campaign and you’re at a point where you’re asking for a donation via video, that can definitely be a little more complicated. We always have that part where you pass the paperwork across the table and you hope that they sign it and give it right back to you then. But now since it’s virtual, the donor completes that and has to send the paperwork in after your virtual meeting. And even though it’s just one more step, that pending status is always a little bit of a heartbreaker for me waiting for that paperwork to come back.

Oh, sorry, Otto, the cat is singing, if you hear him. I apologize. So rather than having that paperwork back during your in-person meeting, you’ll, of course, find new ways to make sure that you’re effectively closing your gifts. So just test a couple different strategies and see what’s working with your donors. And we’re all very aware that events, especially fundraising events may never look the same again. And so many nonprofits rely heavily on this for income. So we know that these uncertain times could continue to hit nonprofits down the road. And so this roadblock of fear is certainly a real one. But now that we’ve addressed these possible roadblocks, we’re going to make our plan and we’re going to get back on the road and make your roadmap to fundraising success. So the first step in this is being flexible, and Kevin’s going to tell us about that.

Kevin: It seems like it’s a word that we use more and more and more every day with the work that we’re doing with our clients. Your campaign goal and your campaign timeline, please don’t be afraid to push the timelines back and perhaps increase your goals. We all understand either, you know, from our company’s perspective because we live it or because we’re just intuitive and we know that it’s going to take longer to close gifts. People have so much stuff on their mind, and while we were typically maybe closing most gifts in, you know, let’s say two to two to four weeks, we’re now seeing that double just because so many things that are occupying people’s attention.

And then with regard to your campaign goals, construction costs are going up. It’s so difficult right now to find contractors because everyone has the ability to do improvements and whether they be residential or commercial, they’re doing them. You know, right now, it’s the perfect time, especially if you’re home most of the time and you can oversee these projects.

So we want you to be super flexible with your goals and your timelines. And also, as I already said, the construction costs, but your bridge loans and your rates, with regard to flexibility, you might not have been looking at these prior to the pandemic. And I’ll tell you what, there is a lot of very creative financing going on out there where nonprofits can get very low to no interest loans to keep projects moving forward. So we really encourage you, get out there, interact with not just your local banks, but also look a little bit broader. Look to foundations. They’re starting to hand out loans as well. Be very flexible, just don’t be, “I’ve always worked with Bank of Montana, and darn it. I’m going to keep working with them now.” And these relationships are important, we get it. But if you can save hundreds of thousands of dollars by going out there and getting bridge loans or construction loans in order to hit your mission and your goals, please do so.

And then lastly, we’re going to look at your study methods, and what we mean by this is how are you interacting with whether it be your special event people or your capital campaign major gift prospects. It used to be, and Carlyn and I, you know, we were on airplanes all the time, we were in meetings all the time, we were in board meetings all the time. and all of that is ended. So now we’re online and we’re on the phone and still doing a little bit in-person when it’s completely appropriate, and we can socially distance, but mostly we’ve had to be creative.

We practiced how to be better at being online. And I’ve got a closet next to me where I can throw a dress shirt on and show that I’m just not in a t-shirt all the time. And I never stand up to show that I’m in shorts. You know, these things are working and we’re able to maintain our professional demeanor and our relationships with clients. And quite frankly, there’s no choice. So it’s not as though we’re getting lazy, it’s just this is now acceptable. And you’re going to have to start making asks online and you’re going to have to start following up on the phone. And there’s just going to be a lot less impersonal, but it’s okay because it’s the best that we can do.

So we want you to emphasize gratitude as always as best you can, and particularly if you’re being good stewards, you’re focusing on saying thank you to everyone and maybe taking some extra steps to those individuals, those top 10% to 20% of the donors who are really moving the needle for you. Make sure that they know how grateful you are, but also be ready for them to say to you, “Hey, you know, we’ve had some ups and downs with the business. Can we extend our pledge a little bit? Can we postpone our gifts a little bit?” And hopefully you’re in the position to say, “Absolutely yes, please. We want you to stay with us. We want you to continue donating to this program and if you need a little bit more time, go for it.”

Also, take a look at new opportunities, especially if your case for support has changed. We’ve got several different clients who’ve had a pivot a little bit and because of that, they are now able to apply to foundations that they once were not in line with. So that’s one way. And then the other way is also a lot of foundations have minimized their giving criteria or altered their giving criteria. So even though you might’ve had a foundation grant that prior to COVID-19 was a no go for you, maybe you go back and look at it again and say, “You know what? Things have changed and maybe now we can actually ask them for a grant.”

So step one was to be flexible. Step two is to update your materials. And we’re doing this to ensure campaign success and, and let’s look at a couple of different types of materials. You’ve got your ancillaries and then your main campaign solicitation materials. They’ve got to be COVID-sensitive. And we’ve already talked about that a little bit. So is your case for support, have you updated that to ensure that your focus has shifted? You’re going to sit on the sidelines for awhile, but come back stronger than ever. Make sure that that’s in there. Also, does your video need to change? Does your brochure need to change? Is your website up-to-date? Is everything that you are doing right now to promote your nonprofit and/or your campaign COVID-sensitive and/or civil unrest sensitive? We need to embrace these things because avoiding that is tone deaf. The project, you want to stress to your community, that the project is more important now than ever. We’re going to give you a couple of quick examples on this, and believe me, I’m not going to read through these. I just want to show you what our company along with our clients have done this.

First example, this comes back to the Billings Public Library, their campaign is well over there. Their new $18 million library is a well-established downtown venue now. But we went back to them and said, “You know what? For example’s sake, let’s show how we would address a case for support with something as big a project as this. So this first one is when you’re making a case for support, you kind of got your vision, your real big, this is everything that we’re about and everything that we’re doing and the yellow highlighted area is how we help them make that vision statement a little bit more broad. And then this next slide shows kind of how we broke down the additional benefits. So when you look at here, we’ve got career assistance.

Our economies are now more gig economy-based and therefore people need to be able to get in and be able to say, “Hey, here’s how you write your resumes to all these smaller companies that you want to work for.” All of us kind of feel like a small business now because we’re at home and we’re taking on a lot more in-stranger environments and the library can be a great resource for that. It’s about space. Carlyn already addressed this. How are you going to move things around in order to have a socially-distant sensitive environment, the same thing with safety.

And as we’ve spoken about all already, flexibility is key. We always want to show that because we don’t know which way this pandemic wind is blowing, that we’re bringing models to fruition to use that are going to allow us to further adapt to on the road. So you can look at these case for support examples online on our website and dig into it a little bit. More CampaignCounsel, you see the address there. So feel free to go there and check these out and see for yourself how we’ve how we have addressed the need to change materials. Let’s go back over to Carlyn who’s going to talk about strategic solicitations.

Carlyn: That’s right. So the reality, unfortunately, is that fundraising, again, like we used to is going to feel like an impossible task. So I really want to recommend that you make your time and energy effective by taking a look at your prospects themselves and really segment and target, especially your high capacity prospects as much as you can. And one of the great ways you can do that is through wealth screening. So depending on what your database is, it may have wealth screening built into it like a Raiser’s Edge, or maybe you’ve got some alternative options that are out there too if you have a more basic database. So Zillow is my go-to. I know it’s super basic, but you can at least dig into some real estate wealth there or the government resources like FEC or, that can give you some insight on the political giving or stock values.

But then if you’re Bloomerang customer with our friends over there and you’ve got the integrations like donor search, that’s a really helpful tool as well. So regardless of your platform, there’s certainly other paid options out there too like those companies that can do one-off screenings, just based on a batch from your data that you send to them and you pay per record or other companies like iWave or Giveffect that are more membership-based, really, there’s tons of options. So I encourage you to really research the ones that are going to be the best fit for your organization’s needs and, of course, your budget. But really, by using these screening tools, you’re going to see better success and you’re going to get back on the road, so to speak, faster because it’s going to be more successful, you’re making the most of your efforts and being really strategic about who you’re asking and for how much money. So you can really create different tiers that . . . or the different priorities for your asks as they’re coming up.

And another component to really consider is your campaign phase. So if you’re in or approaching the end of your campaign or the public phase, you consider some different alternatives with your smaller capacity donors, you might want to postpone that public phase or even segment your prospects just based on their giving capacity. And, you know, it’s the word of 2020, but you may want to pivot entirely, really letting your donor prospects know that your campaign is on hold until your more immediate needs are met. And this circles back to that great example Kevin gave of the food bank that just pivoted away from its capital campaign so that they could focus on more food and more bellies. And then in the same process, they ended up getting their campaign goal because the community was really ignited with passion for the needs that were being met in their community through that food bank. So great example there.

And then as we continue on, you also are going to want to communicate creatively. So now that we’ve talked about how to target your prospects, getting on the road to communicating with them is the next big step. And we’ve heard from many donors and many nonprofits as well that they’re doing more communication than ever. People are more in the loop about what’s going on with your nonprofit than there were before and open rates are higher for emails, all very exciting things.

And we mentioned this a little bit earlier, but there’s been this great spike in the way that people are actually engaging virtually during this pandemic. People of all different ages are using that technology at a much higher level because they have to, whether it’s FaceTime or Zoom like we’re all here now, Go-To Meeting, whatever it may be, you can use this to your advantage and live stream, Facebook updates, send video thank you’s to your prospects and donors, make a short video about why your nonprofit’s awesome, post a virtual happy hour. I know I’ve been to more than I care to for those at this point, to be honest, but it’s a great free way for me to see my friends and give them a cheers through the video screen. So you could do the same thing with your top prospects.

So just because COVID might be ending soon, it doesn’t mean that people are going to stop using these technologies that they’ve relied on during these stay-at-home times. And again, I want to circle back to that survey that I had described earlier. One of the questions we asked was how people would like to be contacted these days, and it was so interesting to us because people clearly do still want to hear from nonprofits. Thirty-five percent of the people who responded to that survey said they’d like to get a phone call, 18% said they’d want a video call. And actually, this was surprisingly high to me, but 13% said they want to meet with you in safe, masked, socially-distant ways. So if you’re comfortable with that, there’s certainly a population group that’s comfortable with that as well. And the bottom line is really just to not hesitate and reach out to the people to have these kinds of interactions, whether it’s a phone or a video call, or maybe even a socially-distant meeting.

And, of course, email and mail are still the most preferred communication methods with about half and half there when they choose those different methods. So just layer on those personal touches, follow up with your emails with some phone calls and really keep your donors in the loop. But it is just all part of this creative communication and keeping the good word out there about your news. Sorry. I talked too fast and didn’t hit my bullets here. So here we go. Now, Kevin, tell us about athletics, athletic listening. Kevin, you are on mute.

Kevin: Yeah. look at me. I was muting to myself. Sorry about that, folks. Athletic listening, this is a term I wish we had come up with it. We heard some people during a webinar talking about it early on in the pandemic, and it’s essentially how we as fundraisers and whether you’re an experienced store or relatively new to it, you need to put aside your agenda and really engage with your donor prospects at a much more personal level. And Carlyn and myself and the rest of our team, you know, we make hundreds of solicitations a year and we go in and we’ve got our talking points and yeah, sure. We might small talk a little bit at the beginning of every conversation, but ultimately, our goal is to get to the ask and hopefully to the close. We’re pushing that aside now and we encourage you to do the same.

You’ve got to display great listening techniques. You’ve got to be empathetic. You’ve got to be authentic. You need to figure out where your donors are. How have they been impacted by this? Are they genuinely fearful or are they out there conducting themselves as a business as usual? Understand that the fear is real and it’s prevalent. Listen to what they have to say. Take the extra time to hear their story. Many of us have lost loved ones. Many of us have been quarantined and suffered from just that social isolation.

And what you’ve got to do after this empathetic listening and getting their story out of them and acknowledging their fears if they have them is you’ve got to decide if you’re going to make an ask or not. And sometimes your guts going to say, “You know what, this person, they’re suffering and they just need somebody to talk to.” And especially when you’re dealing with baby boomers, my wife and I have elderly parents and they’re scared and they’re in some instances alone and they miss their family and we just need to be there for them.

So athletic listening, makes sure that you know what your perspective donor is going through and be ready to back off of the ask if their situation is dire and/or if they’re just not mentally ready to go forward with it. Carlyn, why don’t you recap everything for us?

Carlyn: Yeah. Absolutely. So there we have it, the roadmap to successfully planning and managing a capital campaign during the crisis. So we talked about the importance of evaluating where you’ve been in order to know where you need to go. And then we considered the possible roadblocks and how you can overcome all of those and then laid out the plans to get you back on the road. And those plans include being flexible, assessing your internal and external relevance, strategically targeting your prospects, communicating creatively, and listening athletically. So we’re really grateful for your time. We hope this was valuable. And at this point we are happy to open it up for some questions. I think I’ve seen some come in here.

Steven: Yeah. We’ve got a bunch in here, probably more than we can get to, but first, Carlyn and Kevin, thanks for this. This is awesome advice. I love listening to you two. And Kevin, thanks, especially for normalizing wearing shorts on . . . I really appreciate that. I needed that.

Kevin: Let’s see your shorts, Steven.

Steven: We all know how it is. Yeah. We got some great questions in here. I’m just going to kind of roll through some interesting ones. There was an anonymous question here, speaking of pivot. I know we said pivot about 50 times, which I don’t mind, but question here, wondering if it’s problematic, if maybe you started with kind of one case for support and you’ve got donations for that case of support, but then in the context of the same campaign, you pivoted to a new case for support which might be different than what those original donors gave to. Is there anything you should do there, maybe communicating back to the people that have already contributed even though the campaign isn’t over? That’s kind of an interesting question.

Kevin: It is. And a lot of people, a lot of our campaigns have been looking at the same thing because they’ve gone . . . their message has changed a little bit, and the shorter answer to it, for this anonymous question is if you don’t communicate why you’ve pivoted in the fact that you have, you’re being insensitive to the situation around you. So just don’t keep your head down and keep moving forward. You’ve got to clearly, and this comes back to your case for support, adjust your case for support accordingly, turn those into talking points and communicate them thoroughly. And, you know, you should be doing this every four to six weeks with your donor prospects. Tell them why it’s changing.

Another way to look at this, Steven, is that in the capital campaign business, I’d say two out of three building projects, they change from the initial rendering. You know, we’re going to build a 20,000 square foot cathedral looking warehouse and then when things get a little bit more realistic, they’re going, “We’re going to build a 20,000 square foot steel structure.” And all of a sudden the cathedral part of it’s gone, but as long as you’re still fulfilling your mission and as long as you’re still addressing the needs of the community and communicating those clearly, you’re going to be fine.

Steven: Cool. Makes sense. Yeah. Nothing ever looks the same as in the original renderings, right?

Kevin: Yeah. Exactly.

Steven: Here’s an interesting one from Sheila. Sheila’s organization, they work with homeless families. They don’t have a shelter currently, but they’ve been talking about doing a capital campaign to help with evictions. They’re interested in what you said about taking on one of those low interest loans. I think, Kevin, it was you who mentioned that that may be a possibility. Would you mind maybe pulling on that thread a little bit about going out and getting those loans? Are there some general best practices or advice there for seeking those?

Kevin: Yeah. And we see clients taking two avenues with this. The first one is you’ve got just your traditional, whether it be a construction loan or bridge loan, because if you’re in a capital campaign, your pledges aren’t coming in quickly enough to pay your general contractors. All of those are still out there. They’re just lower interest rates and more and more companies, you know, banks are looking at this and saying, “You know what? We’ve got to keep things moving forward right now.” And I’ll tell you, I can’t believe how low the rates are right now and some of our clients are even getting, and this goes back to the second part of what you should be looking at. One of our clients is working with the foundation that is giving them a zero interest loan.

Now, the only reason they are doing that is because they have worked with this nonprofit before, they love them and they want to see them succeed. But there is that avenue out there, which is why in working with companies like Bloomerang or other folks that can provide you with information and/or software, get out there and look through your databases and see where you’ve got relationships and see if they are offering, i.e. a loan, but also just grants. I mean, there are so many organizations out there, and especially in the homeless space, our company does a lot of work with the Salvation Army and no surprise, the homeless numbers are growing and philanthropists are worried about this, and they want to give them not just the housing opportunity, but also the retraining opportunities to get back on their feet.

So go to your banks, the traditional ones, they’re going to say, “You know what? We’re going to base this loan off of the value of what you’re building. We’re going to give you a great rate.” And/or there are foundations out there that are giving no interest and/or grants. And that’s just your typical grant to get your project up and going. So there’s a couple of different avenues for you.

Carlyn: The one thing I’ll add to that though is that we do always caution against debt reduction campaigns. So to dive right into getting a loan so that you can build a project and then you start going to donors and saying, you know, “We went ahead and did this before we had the money, but now will you give to us so we can pay off this loan.” Generally speaking, that’s not terribly exciting or sexy for a case for support, but on the other hand, that is a really dire need at the moment. So I think you could certainly make the case and say, “There were people on the streets because they’re being evicted and we couldn’t wait any longer as an organization. So we went ahead and did this, and will you help us cover the costs now?”

Steven: Grab the loan. Yeah.

Carlyn: It’s an expense. Yeah. It works. But generally, we try to avoid those debt reduction camps.

Steven: Okay. We had a couple of people ask about feasibility studies. A couple of people, in fact, they had just done one in January and February. I mean, talk about tough timing. If for those folks, would it make sense to just redo the feasibility study given the complete change in sort of their climate around them because of the timing or should they maybe just kind of forge ahead with the findings they got?

Kevin: Yeah. And number one, I’m sorry.

Steven: That’s hard. I broke my heart reading that one.

Kevin: That is so tough and you’ve probably invested quite a bit of time and resource and money in that as well. If a company like ours had done your . . . and I’ll explain this in a little bit of detail without getting too much in the weeds, but feasibility studies, essentially here’s how much money you can raise and here’s why you can raise it, here’s your plan to raise it. And, of course, all of that has changed. And you’re the nonprofit, but hopefully your consultant told you who they interviewed and shared with you who your major gift donor prospects are going to be.

So when CampaignCounsel does a feasibility study, we are completely open with all of our findings. We’ve done this forever and ever, and people will argue against us, “Confidential interviews are the only way to go.” And I say, “We did that.” People want you to succeed and they’re not scared for you to know how much money they give. So if you know who your major gift prospects are in that initial feasibility study, go back to them and say, “Here’s how we’ve had to, here’s how our life has changed. Here’s how the community has changed, and here’s how we’re going to address it. Would you still be willing to support us in with this new vision, with this new campaign idea?” That’s your easiest fix and if you don’t have that information available to you because you had confidential interviews, you probably still have a very good idea of who your top donor prospects are, engage with them, and make sure that they’re still going to be on board because remember, 80% of your money, probably more like 85% of your money is going to come from 15% to 20% of your donors. So you really have a smaller base to go out there and check in with.

Steven: Makes sense. Wow. This was fun. It’s already 2:00. I don’t want to keep you two hanging much longer. You’ve already been really generous with your time, and I know we didn’t get to all the questions, but I see Kevin’s email address there. Is it okay if folks reach out to you for more questions?

Kevin: Yeah. Absolutely. And I saw one comment pop up, and Carlyn mentioned the survey that we sponsored and it’s a lot of great information, especially for those of you that are fighting with . . . I shouldn’t say fighting. In disagreement with your boards about whether or not you should be out there fundraising because of its insensitivity or because people aren’t giving and we are actually giving webinars on that right now. And, Carlyn, can you give me a heads up as to when that stuff will be posted on our website? Do you know yet?

Carlyn: Yeah. We have one in an hour, actually. So I think our big person will have it up probably within 24 hours. So we’ll share that more up-to-date version. The link that went out is the one from me, and that was different than the high-dollar one that we did. So yeah, we’ll have that and we can include with the post-presentation materials.

Steven: Yeah. We’ll send everything out. And you also put together a blog post kind of commenting on that survey, which we’ll put out on the Bloomerang blog here this month as well. So one way or the other, they’ll see all that good stuff.

Carlyn: Perfect. Well, thanks so much, Steven, and thanks everyone for your time.

Steven: Yeah. This is awesome, to have you both. And I think we had almost 300 people, so thanks to all of you for taking an hour out of your day. I know you’re super busy and got a lot on your plate, but I really appreciate you all hanging out with us.

Speaking of webinars, we got one more this week. Our buddy, Renee Rubin Ross is going to be joining us on Thursday. She’s going to be talking about organizational planning, pretty good a session to dovetail off of this one. Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. Also free, we’d love to see you there. If you can’t make it, we’ve got some great webinars coming up. Actually just scheduled one for December, which is kind of hard to believe. It will be here before you know it. That’s a little depressing, but there’s some good topics there. Just check out our webinar page. And like I said, we’ll send out the slides, the recording, all the info that was mentioned here. And we hopefully will see you again on another webinar. So we’ll call it a day there. Just look for an email from me with all those goodies and hopefully we’ll talk to you again soon. If we don’t see on Thursday, have a good rest of your week, have a safe Labor Day weekend if you’re here in the States. And we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye now.

Kevin: Thank you.

Steven: See you.

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.