Working with An Anxious Board

Dear Kim:

I am advising (in a volunteer capacity) a small organization’s board about launching a $250,000 scholarship campaign. They have never conducted such a fundraising drive and are very nervous. They have asked me how much money they will be expected to give (amount or percentage) to the campaign and how much time they should be prepared to commit for fundraising. Can you advise?

~Jumping into the Deep End

Dear Deep End:

Although your questions seem reasonable and straightforward, there are many variables. The question I would ask is “How can I help the group be less nervous?” And the answer is to have a clearer sense of what size gifts you will need, what strategies you may want to pursue, what kind of prospects you have already identified, and so on. Once you have a plan, everything will become clearer, including the plan.

To answer your questions, though, traditionally, the board gives 10% of the goal of a campaign. Without knowing your organization, I can’t say whether that works for them, but it might be a place to start. What is important is that each member of the board gives a gift that is “significant” to them. A friend of mine says, “Give until you feel it, and it feels good.” The board should give first, and the total amount they give should seem to people around them to be generous. Whether that is 10% or 50% or 2% will depend on who this board is. As to how much time they each to need to commit, this again depends on how many gifts you will need to make up whatever is left after the board makes their financial commitments. A small campaign like this can be done with two or three months of steady personal solicitation, but it could also take much longer if you don’t have enough prospects who can give gifts of $10,000 – $25,000. Each member of your fundraising team (which should include people who aren’t on the board in addition to board members) should plan on spending 4-6 hours a month during that time. You will spend a lot more time if you try to raise much of this using events, and it will take a lot longer and lot more front money if you try to raise this amount using direct mail. If you are able to get five people to give $50,000 each by asking them directly, the whole campaign could be over in a week.

For more information about short, intensive fundraising campaigns, please see my article, “How to Raise $50,000 in Six Weeks” in the current issue of the Grassroots Fundraising Journal and sign up for my webinar on the same topic on Nov 9, 2007.

Best wishes to you.

~Kim Klein