A Church Pastor and I were sitting in the immaculately decorated living room of a church member who we were hoping would be a seven-figure campaign donor. She was passionate about future plans and comfortable with his campaign pitch. He walked her through the renovation plans and renderings, pausing to highlight the more interesting aspects. The woman smiled and nodded, but I was slowly beginning to question how she would respond to the ask. And then her eyes lit up and a big smile crossed her face as she laughed. “Finally! We have needed more restrooms in that Church for AGES!” I knew we had her.
It was not the refurbished pews where once sat historical figures, or the expansion that would enhance the Church’s programming for children. It was the restrooms that compelled her to eagerly commit to being the lead donor to this campaign.
I think I have told this story 10 times in the past year because it never ceases to amaze me what strikes a chord with donors and what simply falls flat. So often, the leadership of an organization compiles a list of needs – or wants – and sets out to launch a campaign in order to fund them, but sometimes that simply does not resonate with donors.
How do we make sure that our plans as an organization are not created in a vacuum, without taking into consideration the interests and priorities of our key stakeholders and greatest prospects?
How do we test the appeal of projects before we launch a campaign? We have some good options:
- Facilitate a Campaign Planning Study
- “Road test” the case for support
- Create a task force
A Campaign Planning Study equips your organization with the necessary data and recommendations and also communicates to your donors that their opinions matter.
In the absence of a more comprehensive study, some organizations choose to “road test” the case for support by previewing it with key stakeholders prior to finalizing the Quiet Phase version.
Alternatively, convene a task force to draft, test, and refine the case for support based on the needs identified. Invite five to seven people, including donors, Board members, and staff, to solicit feedback about the case for support and refine the case based on the feedback.
I like to jokingly call it “finding the restrooms” like in the story above: finding the element of the plan that speaks to the donor before you kick off a campaign.
-Allison White, Vice President