Conducting Simultaneous Campaigns

Dear Kim:

We are currently conducting an Endowment Campaign. We also raise our own operating dollars and much of this is raised through our Annual Fund campaign.

For some reason the Board understood having these two campaigns more when we were conducting a Capital Campaign as well as our Annual Fund campaign. But now that we are raising endowment funds, they are having a problem understanding running two different campaigns and they continue to ask if we can’t just run one campaign, and give donors the option to check annual fund or endowment on the return card.

I’m not doing a good job explaining this—can you help me?

~Trying to Avoid Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Dear Peter, Paul and Robbing:

I am wondering if your board’s “confusion” is more a sign that they are tired of running two campaigns at once? If the capital campaign is only over recently, and the same board members are now expected to gear up and be enthusiastic about an endowment campaign, they may express confusion but in fact, feel exhaustion. If that is the case, you may want to create a separate endowment campaign committee of people not on the board who would approach donors for endowment gifts, and who would take charge of this part of your fundraising.

However, that is not what you asked, so let’s suppose they are confused. Here is the explanation of why we don’t run endowment and annual as one campaign:

Every organization has three needs: 1) Annual, 2) Capital, and 3) some kind of financial security which is often an endowment.

Donors can help in three ways:

  1. With a gift from their own annual income,
  2. With a gift of some of their own “capital”—their stocks, bonds, property, art, or other assets, and,
  3. With a gift of all or part of their estate.

Traditionally, an organization’s annual income comes from gifts out of the donor’s annual income. Capital and endowment gifts are donations of assets from the donor’s savings or investments. Endowment is also often from estate gifts. What we don’t want is for a donor to make their endowment gift from their annual income, especially if they might have given that to the Annual Fund. Diverting annual gifts to endowment invades your annual campaign, and also those gifts are not big enough. $100, $250, $500 are very nice annual gifts, but they are not particularly useful as endowment gifts. We want someone who can give $500 annually to consider making a pledge of $5,000 or more to the endowment, perhaps paying it off over two or three years.

Having an option on your return card for endowment is not how endowment funds are raised. Endowment gifts are huge gifts, often given once or at most a few times, during the life of the donor. They need to be solicited personally, with a chance for the donor to ask questions and feel assured that their gift will be well used and handled appropriately.

An endowment campaign is a great excuse to go visit donors—to thank them, and to include them in a very exciting process: the process of making sure your organization is around forever. Don’t try to shortchange that.

Good luck!

~Kim Klein