Two Minute Warning: A Late Game Offense That Worked!

It’s football season and we all love exciting finishes. You know the scenario: two minutes left on the clock…deep in your own territory… down by a couple of touchdowns, and somehow out of nowhere your team makes a series of spectacular offensive plays and the crowd goes wild in a victory celebration!!! The final minutes of close games bring a sense of urgency. It’s now or never. Each play is critical. All the details of your last-minute plan must come together, or you lose. 

We ran a two-minute offense recently with one of our Christian College clients. I received this e-mail from the president. “Pat, your plan looks great. My only modification is on the amount needed to close out our fiscal year. The actual need is $2.4-$2.8 million dollars, which includes money for scholarships already budgeted. Our fiscal year end is June 30th, therefore we have approximately 120 days.”

“OK, Mr. President, let me get this straight? Your board wants you to finish your fiscal year in the black or they may not let you open next semester. Did I hear you right?”  “YES!”  “So, we must meet or exceed this God-sized goal or you’re out of business?” Once again, “YES!”

We often say at TTG, “Pray like it’s all up to God… work like it’s all up to us.” James teaches, “Faith without works is dead.” The only way our “two-minute” plan would work was with lots of prayer and lots of hard work. This fundraising effort was for the annual operating fund, not a capital campaign. It wasn’t for shiny new stuff; it was for survival. Donors are motivated by urgency, and we certainly had that working in our favor.

I laid out the game plan and said to the president, “You will need to own this. You will need to be in the field with me making donor visits, making asks!” He said, “YES!” I outlined everything it would take to accomplish this goal and he said “yes” to every point. We agreed on a plan and began executing our two-minute drill. 

Here was our plan:

  • Identify the “Top 10/Next 20” key donor visits, and the next 50 donor prospects and suspects.
  • Create a personalized Gift Proposal for each donor and request a specific amount.
  • Prioritize time in your daily schedule to make phone calls and insist on seeing the donor prospects and suspects in person. We could not allow the prospect to say, “Come on, ‘Doc.’ I love the college; just send me the proposal.” Mail has a 1-5% close ratio, personal contact closing jumps up to 80%-85%. Remember, we very likely had only one opportunity with each of these ministry partners. 
  • Build a Team. It was all hands on deck. I asked the question, “Mr. President who on the board, faculty, and staff could help us as ‘friend raisers’ and ‘fundraisers?’”
  • Recruit and hire a full-time, top notch, productive Chief Development Officer. A producer who raises new and renewed gift income. 

YES, I said we could do it. We created a plan, timeline, training manual, and materials. This became a campus wide event. The president even installed digital clocks all over campus to count down the last thirty days. We wanted faculty, staff, and campus visitors to be reminded to pray and help open new doors of opportunity.  

Guess what? They Won!!! We exceeded the gift goal of $2.4-2.8 million. God opened the floodgates of heaven and blessed us with $3.2 million. We found not one, but two stewardship officers, a chief development officer and a major gift officer. YES, it was a miracle, a miracle I have experienced with clients around the world since I stepped into this fundraising arena in 1981. 

What do you need to replicate this opportunity? A clear vision, specific dollar needs, a committed board, staff, faculty, a willing president who is committed or soon will be committed, and a sense of urgency. If you are down this fourth quarter of 2020, let us help you with your two-minute drill!

Author: Pat McLaughlin, President and Founding Partner

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