Capital campaigns are extraordinary undertakings requiring extraordinary effort from those involved. “Those involved” include the fundraising professionals responsible for designing and implementing the campaign, professional staff of the organization, the donors and volunteers. The purpose of this article is to focus on one element in the implementation of the campaign plan that requires the active participation of all those involved: the campaign report meeting. This outline is for report meetings for a large, membership based organization such as a church, a school or an association. In this type of campaign a handful of volunteer solicitors and the top staff people solicit the first 50-100 gifts that provide the bulk of the campaign’s funding, before broadening the organization as described herein.
The report meeting serves a very important role in the life of a capital campaign. It is a part-in one form or another-of every phase of the fundraising. Besides accountability, the report meeting provides an opportunity to inform, educate, train and motivate volunteers. It serves as a tracking mechanism for what has been done and what remains to be done in the campaign (or in that particular phase of the campaign). Perhaps most importantly, it facilitates an environment that creates and nurtures a sense of commonality of purpose in volunteers.
Most capital campaigns are divided into phases of activity, typically seeking larger gifts first then sequentially lower gifts. Initially the focus is usually on a few leadership gifts. Most campaign work and gift solicitation during the early phase is conducted by a small group of top-level donors, professional staff, volunteers and fundraising counsel. This group meets regularly to report its activities and typically does not require a separate report function.
As the campaign grows, the focus is on increasingly larger prospect groups to broaden the effort. This requires increasing numbers of volunteers. These volunteers’ efforts are centered on asking for gifts rather than on other campaign activities. Therefore, the focus of meetings is on recruiting sufficient volunteers, orienting them to the campaign plan, training them to solicit gifts, making specific assignments of prospects (and tasks) and reporting on their progress.
Typically, donors from an earlier stage of the campaign are recruited as volunteers to ask others. Remember, a good volunteer is a good contributor first! They are invited to a campaign “orientation” meeting. At that meeting, the prospects will hear about the campaign “case,” the organizational structure of the campaign, the campaign plan and be asked to participate as volunteers. As part of this meeting, prospects who have yet to make a commitment are typically given a specific gift request and asked to come back to the next meeting-for training and assignment-with their gift decision.
Those that return to the next meeting are the ones that will do the bulk of the asking for the current phase of activity. We have to train them in the most effective procedures for setting appointments, asking for gifts, following up (or “closing”) on the requests and reporting their results at a series of meetings which are set up at that time to assign prospects to volunteers.
Subsequent meetings for that particular phase are the actual “report” meetings. At these meetings the volunteers report on their activities. The most successful report meetings are “statistical” reports, that is: how many appointments set, how many visits made, how many decisions received, how many gifts received, how much was pledged, and how much cash was received.
Besides the statistical function, the report meeting is an excellent vehicle to motivate volunteers and build a sense of camaraderie. Volunteers take pride in their accomplishments. There is a sense of unity as each volunteer contributes toward reaching the goal. And, there are many positive experiences to share, through stories and anecdotal information.
Report meetings are also useful for highlighting what is working especially well-and sharing it with the volunteers; as well as what is not working-and making adjustments accordingly. It is an opportunity to address issues volunteers face on their visits and to reinforce the case for support. Volunteers sometimes feel overwhelmed at the task and need to be reassured and supported.
Logistically, it is helpful to:
- Schedule the meetings as far in advance as possible-to help the volunteers
- Prepare detailed materials for each meeting including:
- Detailed agenda with time allotments
- Speakers’ notes
- Detailed prospect lists
- Training materials
- Volunteer Guides
- Review the agenda and important points with principles prior to the meeting
- Start and end the meetings on time
- Create an environment that the volunteers will want to come back to: good location, comfortable surroundings, refreshments and a warm, supportive and respectful environment.
There must be accountability in a capital campaign. Leaders must know they are being effective and volunteers must have a process that educates them in what exactly they are being asked to do, and a forum in which to report that they have done it. When done well, volunteers usually like report meetings. There is a good atmosphere and a shared sense of purpose. Those are all positives in helping you reach your fundraising goals.