May 5, 2015
Since faith-based schools rely heavily on fundraising to support their mission, I want to write briefly this month about the keys to successful development.
This blog post will be brief because there are only 5 core requisites for a successful development program. The good news is that if you focus on these five, your development program will be successful. The bad news is that you have to focus on all five. They are like links in a chain and weakness in any one will prevent the development program from reaching its potential.
The five core requisites of development are:
CASE, PROSPECTS, ASKS, ASKERS and RESOURCES.
Let’s look at each one.
CASE refers to the reason for supporting our school. It is what motivates a donor to give. We might think that the CASE simply means “what the school needs,” or maybe its “vision.” While the CASE is built on the school’s needs and vision, if we really want to motivate people, we have to go a step further. We have to build the case around their needs, their passions, their vision. A compelling CASE will always match the school’s aspirations to the aspirations of the prospective donor.
That brings us to the second requisite: PROSPECTS. Clearly, to accomplish our development objectives, we need enough potential donors who have the capacity to give. But to make the PROSPECTS link in the chain strong enough to support our development effort, we can’t just have a list of names. We not only need to know how to contact them, but also what their giving capacity and interests are. Why is that? Because we will approach people differently depending on how and how much they are able to help. We owe it to our donors and stakeholders to spend our development RESOURCES wisely. So to be successful, we need to have enough PROSPECTS and to know enough about them to ASK in the proper way.
The 3rd requisite is ASKS. We need a way to present our CASE to our prospective donors and invite them to join us in our work. And the ASKS will be different for different PROSPECTS. One size does not fit all. We need efficient ways to ask large groups of donors who can only give small gifts, and we need hand-crafted approaches for those capable of a substantial investment in our mission. We know that to reach our potential we need to attract those major gifts, but if we over-rely on auctions, or mailings or a phonathon, that just isn’t going to happen—at least not very often.
Which brings us to our 4th requisite, ASKERS. This is often the bottleneck. We can have a great CASE, plenty of qualified PROSPECTS, and ways of making ASKS, but it comes down to people actually doing it. Is our staff making asks or are they too pre-occupied with other activities and just can’t get around to it? If so, our development potential will continue to lie beyond our reach. We can enlist help from volunteers, but remember that volunteers need to be recruited, trained and supported properly. This requires an investment of time, but it will pay back if it generates enough people to do the asking
And this finally brings us to RESOURCES. It costs money to raise money, and another bottleneck will form if we underestimate the investment that will be required. Spending $2,500 on research, travel and renderings to ask one person for a gift can feel extravagant, but if the ASK is for $250,000 we’d be foolish not to spend the money to do that ASK right.
So don’t get distracted by all the background noise. Focus on 5 core requisites—CASE, PROSPECTS, ASKS, ASKERS and RESOURCES. If they are strong, your school will move toward its full development potential, securing its ability to accomplish the mission God has entrusted to it.