How a Camp Experience Improved My Focus for Solicitation
I am currently engaged in a silent phase campaign to raise dollars for several Salvation Army priorities in Indiana. One such priority is through solicitation by acquiring funds to build new cottages for a camp in Southern Indiana. These cottages would provide bedrooms for adults and enable the camp to expand services on a year-round basis.
Currently, there are plenty of facilities for children to experience a wonderful time at this camp. In 2019 alone, Hidden Falls Camp will invite hundreds of children in need to enjoy time away from the harsh reality of normal life. Camps offerings include art, music, sports—just to name a few. In addition, children of those deployed in the military will spend a week at this camp. The goal is to relieve stress and provide a memorable experience.
Prospects will have a greater appreciation for this camp if they experience it firsthand. Recently, prospects took a two-hour van ride to camp. They had lunch with campers, toured a chapel, visited a ropes course, walked through a lodge, participated in an archery demonstration and viewed campers fishing in a lake. These prospects watched campers at play and witnessed the beauty of this country 700-acre facility.
These prospects also received testimony from individuals as to how this camp experience changed their lives. The potential donors understood firsthand how The Salvation Army attempts to improve an individual’s body, mind and spirit. Last year, after a camp tour, several donors made gifts to the camp, because they felt the passion of the campers.
On a personal ironic note, I just finished coaching girls’ softball at Hidden Falls Sports Camp. The weather was hot, cold, dry and raining. We did not mind the weather. I quickly bonded with these young girls who came to the camp with various softball skill levels. Besides the sports focus, campers swam, fished, rode on a zip line, play games and just had fun. I was blessed to work with another individual coach who was a girls’ softball high school coach.
You need to understand that I have coached children of all ages for over 35 years. You also must realize, if you talk to my wife, I typically cannot stand any form of camping. I do not know why that is the case. My son loves camping and could live in a tent. My experience at this sports camp taught me to accept the camp experience. Once I saw my softball girls, I was all in. I have a weakness for children and passion to teach children how to play sports and be respectful of others.
As I previously mentioned, I am trying to raise capital dollars for cottages at camp. I asked a couple recently if they would consider a gift/pledge of $208,000 to make one camp cottage reality; they are considering my request as we speak. I decided to use my phone to narrate a video of the camp and show them where their cottage would be located.
I used passion, emotion and storytelling of the importance of the cottage to add the total camp experience. I also told the couple we would name the cottage after them. Because I texted them the narrated video, they now want to meet and learn more about their potential gift. I will certainly bring a pledge card to this coffee, which has not been scheduled. I will bring a photo of my softball team, camp brochure, camp schedule for the summer and other materials to the meeting.
Because I experienced a week of camp, I can now better describe details of the camp and the impact it has on children. When these children in need are laughing, crying, bonding and do not want to leave the camp, you feel joy in your heart.
The point of this blog post is having passion for every cause. Don’t just talk about a priority for funding. Experience it firsthand in various ways before talking to prospects. I can now close my eyes and visualize the exact location of each potential cottage. I can also see the girls in my mind playing softball. I now view a fundraising solicitation request from a different perspective.
Make sure you have a “priority experience” before you solicit others. You will be glad you did!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.