The Big Three

The Big Three

After 28 years, 1664 Clients, and over $2.2 billion in gift income, we know a thing or three about “Transformational Stewardship.” We know a lot, because we have seen a lot. Experience and expertise have been part of my stewardship career since 1981. No one ever plans to fail, they just fail to plan. Here are your big three needs: Annual, Capital, and Endowment. Your success in these three funding needs in your organization will define your fiscal health, allow you to conduct business in an appropriate way and enable you to expand your ministry footprint, impacting more people. Each strategy builds upon the others. A strong annual/operational fund will help you launch a successful capital campaign. Endowments are often funded through legacy gifts from donors who have faithfully supported your ministry for years.

1. Annual

There are 7.4 billion people on Planet Earth and none of them can function without air. We all breathe it and need it to survive and thrive. Your annual/operational fund is the oxygen that fuels your organization. Without a healthy annual fund, you may not survive. If you are tuition-driven, your annual fund helps fill the gap between what your students pay and what it actually costs to provide their education. If it is your only source of income, the annual fund is even more important. We teach our clients to implement a comprehensive approach to the annual fund: five methods applied to five markets. We help our clients with mail (snail and electronic), phone calls, group events, personal solicitation visits, and wise use of media (both print and electronic). We apply those five time-tested fundraising methods to these five markets: individuals, churches, foundations, corporations, and other funding sources.

2. Capital

Most organizations have some very specific needs that could be addressed by a multi-year, multi-faceted campaign. Capital campaigns are not just for brick and mortar anymore, but can focus on 3 P’s: program advancement, personnel–the addition of new staff members, and property–more land and expanded facilities. We have conducted campaigns from $500,000 up to $1.3 billion all around the world. Just like those 7.4 billion people have unique DNA, retinas and finger prints, so does every capital campaign. Ergonomics, the study of fit, is our mantra at TTG as we customize an individual plan for each organization. All of our campaigns have a Mega and Major Donor emphasis. It’s likely that 90% of your gift income for a campaign will come from 10% of your donors.

3. Endowment

Securing your future with a protected fund will help augment your annual fund and fund specific needs. Our estate planning marketing strategy also involves 3 P’s: Print, Public meetings, and Personal stewardship. You need planned giving materials to let your ministry partners know you are prepared to receive these unique legacy gifts. Host a series of public meetings to share with your donors how wise estate planning cares for their family, and supports their favorite ministry organizations. The most effective planned giving programs include private meetings with donors. These meetings discuss a personal stewardship inventory and explain various estate planning tools such as wills, charitable remainder trusts, charitable gift annuities, life insurance, donor advised funds, and charitable endowments to name a few.

This brief overview of the big three funds that must be filled each year may help you understand how they all fit together. Addressing your annual fund first prepares you to launch a capital campaign and build your endowment. Get ready by fine-tuning your existing strategic ministry plan, which clearly defines your mission, vision, and core values.

Plan your work, then work your plan!

Pressing on,

Patrick McLaughlin

The Timothy Group


1 Comment
  • Alberto Altamiranda
    Posted at 12:48h, 26 December Reply

    Hi, I have enjoyed reading your book Major Donor Game Plan. I am in the start-up phase of my ministry, planning my work. In your experience have you found donors investing their dollars towards seed capital, money to get the ministry off the ground. The work I have put in so far has been through sweat equity (research and education).

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