3 Tried-and-True Practices to Cut Through the Capital Campaign Logjam
Are you stuck in the mud, tired of looking at spreadsheets, organizing committees and writing your case for support? Does it feel like there’s never enough time to actually contact your donors?
Do you feel like you’re not ready enough? Like you don’t have enough time? Like you’re not even sure who to contact?
It’s time to cut through the fog and ramp up your direct donor activity. The more donor contacts you have, the stronger your relationships will be and the more successful your campaign!
Try These Action-Oriented Ways to Propel Your Campaign Forward
Don’t wait another day—try these three simple but effective practices. They’ll propel your capital campaign forward with an eye on what drives your campaign—your donors.
1. Prioritize donor activity with ‘Stand-Up Meetings’
Schedule a regular 20-minute meeting every week to review the top 20 donors you want to get in touch with. Don’t sit down for these meetings—stand up!
Standing creates a sense of urgency. No one gets comfortable. And most people aren’t happy to stand for very long, so the people at these meetings will be happy to get the work done quickly and efficiently.
Invite the three or four people who have roles with your donor relationships. Perhaps your executive director, campaign chair, development director, campaign director and campaign assistant. Someone should be responsible for bringing a simple list of donors to the table for assigning action.
Go through the list. No more than two minutes per donor—less if possible. Focus on next steps and who is responsible. If you can’t figure it out in two minutes, just let that name go for the moment.
Follow up with a to do list for each person. Start your next Stand-Up Meeting by reviewing the to do list and checking off actions.
These meetings really work. They set up action and accountability while creating energy and excitement.
2. Schedule ‘Get-Work-Done Meetings’ to do just that.
Though most meetings are full of talk about what to do after the meeting, you can (and should) organize meetings for actually getting the work done. Follow these simple steps:
Schedule a two-hour meeting with your executive director to get in touch with donors.
The staff members (often the development director and campaign manager) prepare a list of donors with salient and useful information and a note about the suggested action.
The staff members sit in the executive director’s office while they get the work done.
The staff members prep them for each phone call and sits with them while they make the call.
The staff members also suggest text for emails and sit while they send them out.
In addition, the staff members strategize with the executive director about next steps for each donor.
When the list of donors is done, the meeting is over.
While most meetings don’t tend to be action-oriented, these Get-Work-Done meetings can accomplish a whole lot in a short period of time. Give them a try.
3. Have brown bag donor lunches with your executive director.
To go along with the action-oriented meetings in (1) and (2), you should set up an easy and powerful cultivation opportunity to invite donors.
Get your executive director to agree to host brown bag lunch meetings for potential donors in their office on a regular schedule. They might, for example, set aside the second Tuesday of every month from 12 to 1:30 p.m. Knowing that they're always available at that time, you can invite donors to come to one or another of those lunches.
In some cases, they'll have three or four people meet with them. At other times, no one will show. But having a regular schedule of times gives you and other people working on the campaign a simple and predictable way to invite donors to get to know them and learn about the plans.
These brown bag lunches are easy to do. They don’t take any of the onerous work of official donor events. All you have to provide is water, coffee and cookies. Tell the people attending to bring their own lunch. Or, if you’d rather, you can order in.
The executive director should be prepped to use these meetings well, taking time to learn about the donors as well as sharing the organization’s plans. They should, of course, follow up with a quick email of thanks that highlights ways the person might become more involved.
Set Your Capital Campaign in Motion
So if you feel stuck in the mud with your campaign, try one or another (or all three) of these strategies to get the ball rolling. You’re likely to find that going to work every day has just gotten more exciting. Much more exciting!
In addition, since (1) and (2) on this list are meetings, be sure that those meetings are successful. Take a look at these posts to improve the quality and effectiveness of your campaign-oriented meetings:
- Capital Campaign Meetings are Complex: 5 Tips to Make them Work
- How to Set Up and Run Campaign Meetings that Matter
- 5 Tips for Making Virtual Meetings Work for Your Capital Campaign
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Andrea Kihlstedt is an innovative leader and expert in capital campaign fundraising. She wrote "Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work (4th ed)," often referred to as the “bible” of capital campaign fundraising. She founded Capital Campaign Masters and co-founded Capital Campaign Toolkit, an online capital campaign resource and platform.