During my thirty-six years in the fundraising profession, I have had the privilege of planning and directing capital campaigns for hospitals, schools, colleges, libraries, museums, symphony orchestras, various arts and cultural organizations, retirement communities, social service organizations, churches, synods, dioceses, denominations and other church related organizations. In each case, I was fortunate. We worked hard together and we raised or exceeded our goal.
During my tenure as a fundraising consultant, I have seen many, many types of campaigns. Some were well planned, and some were not. Some were well executed, and some were not. Some were well staffed, and some were not. Some were successful, and some were not. I have seen big campaigns and bigger campaigns, small campaigns and smaller campaigns, popular campaigns and unpopular campaigns and everything in between.
One thing they all had in common was that everybody started their campaign with high hopes for success. Nobody designs his or her campaign with failure in mind. Why then, do as many as 40% of capital campaigns fail? The number one reason why campaigns fail (fail to reach their goals, and fail to reach their potential) is that they simply did not make enough calls. They did not get out and ask for the money! Wow! How simple can it be?
There are two things you can do to ensure your success. First, do a comprehensive campaign study to ensure you have your finger on the pulse of your community. The means, you know from whom your leadership and leadership gifts will come. You know who will chair the campaign because you have already had discussions and you drew up an effective campaign plan. Such a plan includes goals, mileposts for accomplishments and a timeline including how many calls must be made by whom. Then secondly, you follow the plan rigorously.
I have never seen a campaign completed (success or failure) where all the potential has been exhausted. There is always something more available to the person with the intensity and industry to look for it. We may have lots of excuses about why we cannot solicit this person now, or that we need to cultivate that person before we ask him or her, but if you are going to be successful in reaching your potential, you need to go ask him or her for the money and you need to go ask now.
As you think back over time and you remember efforts that struggled, do you remember thinking about all the reasons why? We did not have the right leadership (did you ask the right leaders to consider becoming involved?). Or, we did not have the right timing, or we did not have this or that. Ultimately, you did not have the support you needed because it became more painful to ask for that support than it was to do without it.
If you really want to succeed, you have to be drop-dead convinced that people can make a life-changing difference by supporting your effort through their charitable contributions. And, then you must relentlessly go out and ask them to help you, and ask them to help you ask others. Does this sound familiar?
What can we all take from this lesson that will help us run better more successful campaigns? We can learn to budget our time and the time of our campaign leadership. If we have ten months left and we need to close out a list of 150 prospects within this ten-month timeline, then we must average closing 15 calls per month. To be assured of closing 15 calls per month, we will need to initiate about 20 calls per month and stay on this pace, monitoring our progress against our goal.
By making the calls in a timely fashion, you quickly begin to build momentum. Success begets success and, before you know it, you are over your stated or minimum goal, with months to spare on the timetable. Through proper planning and execution (making the calls), we can reach our objective!