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Spaghetti Again?. How to build a fundraising program that will keep you out of the kitchen! Lisa Court Sr. Director of Principal Gifts Binghamton University. Special Events Have Their Place. Profile and PR Expand the audience Broadcast the mission Engage and Mobilize Volunteers

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spaghetti again

Spaghetti Again?

How to build a fundraising

program that will keep

you out of the kitchen!

Lisa Court

Sr. Director of Principal Gifts

Binghamton University

special events have their place
Special Events Have Their Place
  • Profile and PR
  • Expand the audience
  • Broadcast the mission
  • Engage and Mobilize Volunteers
  • Friend-raise - build a committed constituency (not just a mailing list)
  • Steward and acknowledge your donors
  • Celebrate success

Does your event provide a good return on your investment of your time, energy and finances?

  • Is it part of a balanced fundraising strategy?
  • What’s the impact on volunteers?

At your last Special Event…

Did you get a good return on your investment?

special events
Special Events

Are one tool in your tool belt.

Use them sparingly. Combine them with a balance of in person solicitations, direct mail and phone calls. Your highest ROI will result from a face to face ask.


a balanced fund raising plan
A Balanced Fund Raising Plan
  • Annual Fund
    • Mail Appeals, Phonathons, Leadership Giving
  • Major Gifts
  • Estate Gifts
  • Gifts in Kind
  • Endowments
  • Capital Campaigns
  • Special Events
case for support
Case for Support

Typically communicates

  • mission and values
  • importance and urgency
  • specific objectives
  • history and credibility
  • illustrates how the donor can help
who are your donors
Who are your donors?

Who is your audience?

Are they informed?

Are they ready?

What is your history with them?

fundraising success and the economy

You can be successful in fundraising in any economic climate…

    • Your case must be compelling
    • It must warrant support
    • It must well articulated and capable of being thoroughly understood by all a nonprofit’s donors
Fundraising Success and the Economy
bold brilliant binghamton

Raised $101.2 Million

  • Original Goal $95 Million
  • Considered suspending the campaign because of the economic downturn
  • Successful during a time of great institutional transition.
  • “It was a risk, but it the right risk.”
  • It was a good investment and everyone was ask to invest.
why did these campaigns succeed
Why did these campaigns succeed?
  • Leadership and organization
    • Committed Executive and board support
  • Volunteers
  • Research and readiness through feasibility study
  • Strong programs
  • Informed and engaged community that valued their service
  • Professional counsel
  • And they asked, and asked and asked for the big gifts
an inconvenient truth an inconvenient truth an inconvenient truth
An inconvenient truth…An inconvenient truth…An inconvenient truth…

To get people to give you money, you usually have to ask for it.

before you ask anyone for their gift
Before you ask anyone for their gift…

Make your own “stretch gift.” Your own sacrificial gift create momentum and energizes you to ask others for their support. The most successful fund raising efforts are achieved when you’ve already made your own commitment.

your case for support
Your Case for Support

Begin with your mission statement

"A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out.“

We seek to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action.

  • Express the need in human terms
  • Convey a sense of importance and urgency
  • Be bold and inspirational
  • Create opportunities for collaboration

Your Blueprint - The Gift Cycle







Prospects are:

Donors, friends, community members, businesses, and foundations who have the capacityto make a major gift (as defined by your institution) and the inclination to do so. They are interested in your mission and institution and are philanthropic in nature.

where can i find prospects
Where can I find prospects?
  • Proactive research – prospects who come to your attention as a result of giving activity.
  • Networking– names that surface in conversation, referrals from current donors or volunteers and those who attend your events
  • Observation – individuals who you become aware of because of media coverage, their careers or lifestyle successes
  • Previous giving, regular and increasing annual gifts or a particularly large jump in giving
you should go see
“You should go see…”
  • A prospect has been identified but your challenge is how to approach them.
  • Who is in their sphere of influence? Who are their business partners, church members, friends, club members etc… who can share information or advocate for your organization?
prepare to qualify make setting appointments your priority
Prepare to Qualify: Make Setting Appointments Your Priority
  • Get excited about the visit.
  • Block out your appointment or travel time each month.
  • Set aside time during the week, usually several hours to devote your attention to setting up appointments.
  • If you are not having success - stop, walk away and come back another day.
allow me to introduce myself
Allow me to introduce myself…
  • Prepare a letter or e-letter of introduction stating the purpose of your visit. Or, have a brief script prepared to explain the purpose of your visit over the phone.
  • If you are new to the position attach at short biography and photo.
  • If this is the first visit with a prospect, explain your visit in broad terms, “I am meeting with donors and past donors to identify individuals who are interested in helping us promote our program through….
a word about gatekeepers
A Word About Gatekeepers
  • These are the people your prospects trust.
  • Take note of who answers the phone, call them by name the next time you call.
  • Respect their position and treat them with the same importance and cheerfulness as your prospect.
  • The process begins when you identify the individual
  • The plan evolves over time
  • As you engage and involve, there should be donor-centered reasoning in the process
  • A varied team is important
  • Take time to reflect, think and check your strategy throughout the process
  • Its about the donor – tailor your plans accordingly
  • The objective is to bring the goals of your organization and prospect into alignment
qualification meeting
Qualification Meeting
  • Establish Inclination and Capacity
  • Ask Strategic Questions
  • Exercise Athletic Listening
  • Analyze – What did I hear – what does it mean?
  • Build a Strategy
what do i qualify
What Do I Qualify?
  • Capacity – know the types of assets that indicate wealth – it is unlikely that a donor will sell their house to make a gift
  • Interest and Inclination – are they involved/ connected?
  • Passion – sources of pride that can be reinforced, revitalized or revisited
  • Timeframe – is there a compelling reason to move quickly/slowly – when is a gift likely?
asking strategic questions
Asking Strategic Questions
  • Tell me more
    • How do you like to be involved with organizations you support?
    • What organizations do you make your philanthropic priorities?
    • What do you like to accomplish with your philanthropy?
    • Do you like to entertain in your home?
    • How’s business? How does the economy effect your philanthropic decisions?
    • How did you get interested in HFH?
    • Have you ever given to a capital campaign?
    • About your relationship with HFH?
    • How do you make your gifts?
    • Have you ever made a planned or estate gift?
    • Is HFH in your will?
if i had a million dollars
If I had a million dollars…
  • How would you spend it?
  • What charities would you give it to?
  • How would you like HFH to use it?
when you meet what are you trying to achieve
When you meet, what are you trying to achieve?
  • Remind them about their experience with HFH.
  • Renew their emotional connection.
  • Update them on HFH activities.
  • Determine where their passions connect with your vision.
  • Identify ongoing organizational contacts.
  • Gather info to update their personal profile.

Be prepared for questions about all aspects of the organization.

cultivation building rapport and trust
Cultivation: Building Rapport and Trust
  • Its about the prospect, not about you.
  • Watch, listen and read
  • Stay alert
  • Entertain their interests
  • Involve in the organization
  • Engage meaningfully
  • Make introductions to leadership
  • Ask their advice and follow up on that advice
special events as effective cultivation
Special events as effective cultivation
  • Go small - some of the most productive means of cultivation are in small groups over a meal. Invite a speaker or the leadership to share their vision.
  • Be judicious with special events – make them meaningful and a way to collect names and information
  • Don’t let special events consume your fundraising time. Face to face gift solicitation is one of the most effective tools in your fundraising arsenal.
  • Soft ask or full on solicitation?
  • Who is going on the call?
  • Who will make the ask?
  • Anticipate likely outcomes
  • Review, research, coordinate and rehearse
  • Prepare a script
  • Acknowledge the reason for the visit
  • Ask for what you want
    • I would like to talk to you about the HFH’s needs for…
    • I’m here to ask for your help
  • Be simple and direct… and then stop talking!
the soft ask
The Soft Ask
  • Permission to solicit – it’s a reality check – and a little tricky.
  • Solicitation as cultivation – teaches donors about types of giving, develops solicitation rapport and helps to reinforce the importance of your organization and the ask on the table.
athletic listening
Athletic Listening
  • Give the donor time to talk
  • Don’t think too loudly
  • Go with the conversation – don’t force your script
  • Is the donor raising issues you can address?
  • If the conversation gets off track..Gently guide the conversation back to the topic at hand
  • Ask for questions and feedback
  • And stay on your toes and adapt your strategy as you go. Also listen to your co-solicitor and watch body language
ask for the gift

Can I take your pledge today?

  • Could I send you a formal proposal
  • May I call on you next week to see what you are thinking?
Ask for the Gift
what if the prospect says no or i ll think about it
What if the prospect says “No or I’ll think about it?”
  • This is the most important time to listen actively to their rationale
  • Restate concerns expressed
  • What are their objections – Question and probe.
  • Affirm and interpret
  • Is the answer really no, not now, not that amount or not for this project?
what if they say yes
What if they say Yes?
  • Thank the donor
  • Confirm the details
  • Leave
  • Follow-up immediately
  • Widen the circle of appreciation
  • Thank with a phone call from senior leadership
  • Receipt appropriately
  • Send acknowledgements from the appropriate source preferably the most senior officer or volunteer in the organization.
  • Media coverage and print where


now that you can ask for a gift in person
Now, that you can ask for a gift in person
  • Direct mail is a mechanism to reach out and fortify your base of support
  • Decide how often you will mail – 1-2-3 times a year?
  • Will your response rate dictate your budget?
  • Can you launch a phonathon? Depending on the size of your list could you divide it up amongst your board?
  • What can you realistically manage with the size of your board or volunteers?
a word about plaques and thank you gifts

Most donors want verbal or written acknowledgements and little more. Continued contact with organizational leadership and volunteers is always welcome. Showing regular written and verbal appreciation after the gift is better than a tchotchke or swag. They want as much of their gifts to support your mission.

  • Think carefully about donor recognition trees and the like.
  • Most of all, know what your donor wants and ask them.
A word about plaques and thank you gifts
what s my strategy
What’s My Strategy?

From your prospect research you learn that Mr. and Mrs. Corey have been the construction business for three generations. They have been interested in HFH from the sidelines but have made small consistent annual gifts. Your references say they have significant wealth and have no children. They gave a gift of $100,000 to the United Way. They have two homes and are recently retired.

Discuss a strategy on how to move them from the Annual Fund to a Major Gift.

final words and questions


There are no magic words to help secure a gift, the real magic is the relationship with those who can change the world with their generous spirit