A $10,000 Donor Gets Excited!

In every pre-campaign study, we ask the client to provide a profile for each of the donors they want us to visit in the personal interview process. I saved this typewritten donor prospect introduction that a school’s director of development attached to my interview form. I think you will find it interesting.

What I know of (name of donor) is that he just sold a local theme park (name of park) and netted $20 million. That apparently is a portion of his money. He seems very private and hard to reach. Our CEO told me he would take me to lunch if I even got him to answer the phone. After scheduling the appointment, I think my CEO should buy me dinner. He has grandchildren at our institution and is hopeful we will accept another special needs grandchild for the coming year. His family has offered to pay all costs associated with this special needs program. He gives $10,000 annually to our institution and I would not know (name of donor) if he walked in my office right now.

In the very cordial, one-hour interview I subsequently had with this donor, he shared a passion for both an annual operating/program-driven funding need as well as interest in seeing a major capital campaign launched. When we got to the range of giving/money section of the questionnaire, he would not indicate a specific amount. But he did make this statement:

“As a family we would like to see this educational program added to the school, and we are excited about the potential three-phased capital campaign.” (A pre-campaign study should position campaigns in phases.) He went on to say, “If those two projects have the potential of becoming a reality, we have the capacity to contribute several million dollars.” When I thanked him for his keen interest and then asked him what “several million dollars” meant, he told me in the $3-$5 million range.

This donor shared how busy and profitable their various companies were, and I became convinced this was a really high-capacity donor. I went back to the school and asked the CEO and director of development how fast they could get out and introduce themselves to this donor. Remember, the director of development said he would not know this donor if he walked into his office!

They got to know this donor and his family, who have since generously invested their time, talent, and treasure in the school. They have helped access their contacts in a variety of businesses and corporations to help in the capital project in particular. And, oh, by the way, to date the family has contributed $4,500,000 toward the school’s academic and capital projects.

How will you lay a solid foundation for a conundrum-free capital campaign if you do not ask questions and invite people to step up as never before to invest in your organization? How will you know who will serve on your campaign committees/teams and open new doors to foundations, corporations, philanthropists, and new giving sources? You need donor research, and certainly some of it can come from scientific, hard-asset research by one of the search organizations (Donor Search, Wealth Engine, Blackbaud, etc.). But you will never find the “millionaire next door” unless you sit down and have a discussion over a case statement and a questionnaire. As high tech as we have become in our society, organizations still need to be high touch with their donor base.

John Humphrey, a partner at the high-tech software company Pariveda Solutions in Dallas, told me that 67 percent of all business communication in the world is non-verbal. High-tech communication will not achieve the goal you desire in your donor research. A pre-campaign study allows you to be high touch in defining your current services and the need to move forward with a capital campaign to fund new programs, purchase new property, and add new personnel (the 3 P’s of capital campaigns).

Please understand, I firmly believe Psalm 127:1 (NLT): “Unless the Lord builds a house,
the work of the builders is wasted.” But I also firmly believe conundrum-free campaigns begin with good research.

The success stories I just shared with you may have become a reality without a study, but I don’t think so. I ask you to carefully and prayerfully consider all options before launching a campaign to give your organization a fair opportunity for a conundrum-free campaign. Plan your work, then work your plan. Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” A study gives you that additional opportunity with donors to test your organizational/campaign vision. It allows you to raise the flag and see who salutes. As good as you think your plan may be, if your donor base does not show your plan favor in a study you cannot and will not be successful.

Will you discover surprises in your pre-campaign study? Absolutely!

To learn more about planning and implementing a conundrum-free campaign, order your copy of Pat’s book, The C Factor: The Common Cure for Your Capital Campaign Conundrums. 


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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