A Pleasant Million Dollar Surprise

A Pleasant Million Dollar Surprise

Recently, I was privileged to conduct Pre-Campaign Study interviews on behalf of a client. Essentially, these interviews are one-on-one meetings with their key stakeholders. This capital campaign would be the single largest fundraising effort ever entered into by this organization – the total needs exceeding $5 million. When we conduct these interviews, we ask the stakeholders several questions to gather their perception of the need. These are confidential conversations. We end each interview by asking if they would consider supporting the campaign as described and to estimate what their three-year giving level might look like. These are not pledge commitments, but they do help us to evaluate what the total dollars might project to.

For this particular organization, we knew going in that a high six-figure gift or even a seven-figure “lead” gift would need to be identified early on if the campaign had any chance of succeeding. The client set up the interviews for me, meaning they chose who we would talk to and when.

As the week’s schedule rolled out, we were finding a lot of support but not a lot of dollars. Then things changed. On the very last day and my very last interview of the week, I was to meet with the CEO of a local company. This CEO was a past donor and had indicated at a prior juncture that he would be interested in taking part in a future capital campaign when the time came. As our meeting began, I could tell he was anxious to “get to the point.” He knew why I was there and knew what questions were coming. You’ve probably guessed by now – he estimated a gift that would be “a minimum of a million dollars.” What a pleasant surprise! However, it was the way he introduced this lead gift that surprised me even more. He said, “I’ve been waiting more than two years for someone from (the organization) to come ask me for my support. It’s about time.”

Do you think this is what our Lord meant when He said, “you have not because you ask not”? This CEO’s heart had been prepped and ready. He was ready for the message; he only needed the messenger to show up and provide the opportunity. This wonderful encounter was 6 months ago. The $1 million has since been given to the organization as a matching gift to launch their capital campaign. I have the feeling that based on how these resources are used, there may be a second gift coming. We will just need to ask!


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