7. Everyone Wants Major Gifts; Few are Willing to Invest the Time

This is article 7 of 12 on Capital Campaign strategies, click here to read Pat’s previous articles.

Somehow, we have lost sight of “high touch” in our high-tech society. The most popular method of raising funds is direct mail because it can be cost effective and easy. Direct mail can saturate a large segment of people, communicate a compelling story, and make a credible request for funding. But direct mail is impersonal and rarely builds the depth of relationship required for a six- or seven-figure gift. Imagine how challenging it would be to only communicate with your potential spouse through mail or email. The relationship can only go so far without personal contact. My point is that you will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to conduct a capital campaign by direct mail, email, or your website.

To clarify this point, here are the close ratios for the most popular methods of fundraising practiced in the US and Canada.


Close Ratio

Direct Mail



30% (often with lapsed donors)

Group Events

50%, if they know it is a fundraising event, and if the right person invites them to attend (friend raising factor)

Personal Solicitation

75-80%+, if the right person makes the request and the prospective donor has a relationship with the organization or a key player (board, staff, volunteer, CEO, etc.)


Do you want to be successful with your capital campaign? Here is a very simple 4 “C” formula. See the people. See the people. See the people. And see what God will do!

One major donor ask in a capital campaign can produce more gift income than an entire year of direct mail. One well-prepared major donor prospect can provide the momentum to either catapult a campaign from its beginning (quiet/leadership phase) or provide the final gift to create a fulfillment celebration. Getting personally acquainted with your high-capacity donors will make a significant impact on your capital campaign. If you want to be successful with your campaign, invest the time and money to personally get to know your major-donor prospects and suspects.

Cultivating major donor relationships doesn’t have to take years. Having a board member or donor introduce you to their circle of friends cuts down your relationship-building time. Ask a friend to host a small friend-raising gathering in their home. These informal events are great ways to meet new potential donors and share your ministry story.

A Remarkable Story

Jeff, a board member, invited a few friends to his home to introduce them to the great work a of a local rescue mission. The mission had launched a capital campaign to remodel an apartment building for their women’s transitional housing program. Only four couples attended—it’s not how many who come, but who comes.

Jeff welcomed everyone and shared why he and his wife were involved with the mission. He introduced the executive director who spoke briefly about the mission’s history, vision, programs, and impact. Then the director introduced the women’s shelter director who began her presentation with this stunning statement, “I spent 17 ½ years of my life behind bars.” Instantly, she had everyone’s attention. She shared her compelling conversion experience and how God had totally changed her life.

This donor briefing would have been successful, had it stopped right then—but there was more. The women’s shelter director introduced Teri, a beautiful 23-year-old woman who had made some bad choices, landed in jail, and temporarily lost custody her two young children. Upon her release from prison, Teri enrolled in the mission’s transitional shelter program where Jesus Christ miraculously transformed her life. She regained custody of her children and was ready to start over with the joy that can only be found in Christ.

At the end of her testimony, there was not a dry eye in the room. The executive director closed the program by asking guests to fill out a response card indicating when they might be available for a follow-up conversation. The hostess offered coffee and dessert, and everyone enjoyed a time of fellowship. Immediately, two couples asked if they could tour the facilities and scheduled appointments right then.

One older man named Richard made an interesting comment, “You know, the symphony visits often and asks for $25,000 for this project, and $25,000 for that project, but they aren’t changing lives like your program.” This gentleman was on the rescue mission’s prospective donor list, but the executive director had never met him because he couldn’t get past his administrative assistant. That night, Richard became a friend of the ministry—because a friend invited him.

There is no magic formula for building your donor base. The best strategy is friends sharing with friends. The rescue mission connected with four new friends at this briefing without using a PowerPoint presentation, video, or a 4-color brochure. They just simply shared a powerful story of how Jesus Christ was impacting lives through their ministry.

Take the time to cultivate relationships with your major donors, it’s worth every minute!

About the Author: Pat McLaughlin President/Founder – Pat started The Timothy Group in 1990 to serve Christian ministries as they raise money to advance their missions. TTG has assisted more 1,800 Christian organizations around the world with capital, annual, and endowment campaigns. More than 25,000 of Pat’s books, Major Donor Game Plan, The C Factor: The Common Cure for your Capital Campaign Conundrums, and Haggai & Friends have helped fundraisers understand the art and science of major donor engagement. Pat makes more than one hundred major donor visits annually and provides counsel to multiple capital campaigns.

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