On a recent feasibility interview I met with a long-time community philanthropist who has been involved in more campaigns than maybe any other leader in my community. In the middle of a lovely question and answer session he leaned back in his seat to share a personal story that I am sharing with you here…

“I was board president of a local art museum back in the 1960s. The board and staff had decided we were ready for a capital campaign. After the consultant finished the local interviews, she came in to meet with us and promptly summed up her many days of work with one sentence: ‘I’m afraid you just don’t have enough friends.’

Well, she was right! Those of us directly involved on the board loved the museum and attendance was good. We were excited about opportunities, but we did not have a culture of giving. So, we decided to get busy making friends.

We hosted small parties, invited potential donors in to meet artists whose work was going on display, meet our executive director, hear our vision for the future. We asked people to get involved by giving; at first with smaller gifts, but in time, with more significant ones. We had lots of ACTIVITY; and all the board was involved. Yes, the staff did the organizing, but we invited our friends and showed up to share our personal support and passion.

And, a little more than two years later, we decided to check in again on our ability to raise those capital dollars. And, not surprisingly, our earlier plans for $2 million had grown to over $5 million and we were now ready. But guess what, we actually raised closer to $9 million!”

He continues:

“I’m not sharing that story to show you what a good job we did, but to challenge you. Do you really have enough friends who care like you do? Does your organization have a culture of giving to support its work? Do you have a continual array of activity that helps spread the message of your good work and get people interested in helping you expand the results event further? Is your vision one that will excite them to boldly follow you with their gifts?”

And there it was: the step that too many organizations want to skip. The success of a capital effort is directly linked to the energy and success of your annual campaign. That is the place where you are linking people to your vision, asking them to come along side you with their giving, and then when the time is right, providing them with a capital project that will generate those larger gifts that you need to succeed.

Don’t be afraid to pause if you aren’t ready. Take a hard look at your annual campaign in 2017. Are you approaching it with an understanding that you are building relationships today that will generate larger and more significant gifts for your organizations’ future?

Do you really have enough friends?

Posted by Jan Brogdon
Jan Brogdon

Written by Jan Brogdon

Jan Brogdon, CFRE, is an experienced member of the DBD Team focused on working with a diverse group of nonprofit leaders who are looking to connect their work in communities with donors who are seeking to make a difference. With more than 30 years of professional experience, Jan has a strong track record in supporting annual giving strategies including the use of direct response, peer-to-peer fundraising, radical stewardship, and year-round major gift programs in support of signature programs.

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