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Giving is personal: Cookie-cutter approaches to fundraising don’t work

By February 29, 2016July 6th, 2022Steier Tips

It typically starts something like this:

Campaign leaders are talking strategy with their campaign manager about how to raise the necessary funds to meet their goal, when someone asks:

“How many – take your pick: parishioners, members, donors – do we have?”

Followed by: “How much money do we need to meet our goal?”

Next comes a moment of silence as the person who started the conversation does some quick division. “That means if we asked everyone to give – fill in the amount – we would reach our goal.”

If only it was that simple. For the past 19 years, the Steier Group has carried a common, consistent message while inspiring support for its clients: “Giving is personal.” That means cookie-cutter approaches don’t work and should be avoided. We know, based on those 19 years of experience, that:

  • People give to people.
  • People give when asked.
  • People prefer to be asked to consider giving at a specific level.

We know that asking people to give sacrificially means asking them to consider giving at different levels. A request for a sacrificial gift means knowing your donors and asking them to consider a gift that is a bit higher than they might have expected. Finally, remember that $50 is a sacrificial gift for some while $50,000 is sacrificial for others. The lesson of the widow’s mite, found in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, conveys this approach.

Here’s a more practical example that a one-size-fits-all approach to a capital campaign can have its downside. A campaign manager, when faced with the question about asking for equal gifts, pointed out that a supporter had just made a $100,000 gift.

If you ask everyone for the same amount, the percentage of prospects who respond will equal the percentage of goal you will achieve. Oftentimes, this methodology raises 30 – 60 percent of the goal and approaching donors who already contributed to ask for an increased gift is a daunting and challenging task.

So when someone suggests that asking everyone to give the same amount is the best way to conduct a capital campaign, remember that the math doesn’t always add up.

I encourage you to contact me if you have any questions regarding best practices and the professional services of the Steier Group.