By Christopher L. McGown, Divisional Director of Communications and Donor Engagement for The Salvation Army’s Kentucky/Tennessee Division


As with so many things, it started with a simple question: “What about new donors?”


I was sitting in Beaumont, Texas part of The Salvation Army’s initial disaster response team in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Beaumont was spared the eye of Harvey but more than two feet of (unexpected) rain in 36 hours and the failure of the city’s water plant brought the community to its knees.

I had just pulled together my information for an afternoon meeting with the Incident Command team when my friend, The Bridge’s, Bob Gregg sent me a text. That brief digital exchange and its two questions sent me on mission to collect and categorize years of thoughts and research.   This effort’s initial result became the first post in my new blog: http://bit.ly/TBCGeds


Long ago and early in my fundraising journey – before I even knew I was on the journey – I was told, “Never assume this is a person’s first gift; chances are, the donor doesn’t think it is.” I was probably 10 years old when I was told that, and I’ve never forgotten it. I have, however, spent the last 25+ years unintentionally proving it correct.

The questions around the impact of disaster giving have been around as long there have been disaster donors.   There are numerous studies on the topic and like most hotly debated topics, there is no solid, agreed-upon conclusion. Every study is countered with another showing the opposite, and every conclusion is accompanied by the ubiquitous asterisks.

My conclusions are far less scientific; I’ve simply talked to people and listened to their answers. I could only guess the number of donor homes and businesses I’ve sat in over the years, but 1000’s would not be an exaggeration. Through the course of the relationship, the “How did you start supporting The Salvation Army?” question would happen naturally.   And I can’t think of a single donor who started their giving with a major gift and/or an estate gift.   No, they started when their “mother gave me a nickel (and that was a good gift back then) to put in the kettle” or just as often, “I can’t remember not giving to The Salvation Army.”

“But, that is a cherry picked group,” you may rightly say.  So, now let’s go to the kettles. During my time training kettle workers (I often spent time with my mid-level ringers to get them up to the next level), I’d stand off to the side, stopping and speaking to the shoppers – those who donated and those who didn’t. During those cold days (and evenings) I learned a lot about the few seconds leading up to the gifting decision, included in that calculation is if their self-perception includes being a donor, and how current that status is.

Over the years and in a number of locations, I’ve done the same sort of thing near Angle Tree adoption tables and Family Store donation centers. I’ve talked to more direct mail donors than I could count, and even more who swore they would never give (or never give again).   I’ve talked with attendees at “fill the table” special events, where those attending were most interested in the speaker or impressing the person who invited them. All of these and dozens of others where the person I’m talking to is not directly tied to The Salvation Army.

Overwhelmingly, the lesson (correcting what I had been doing prior) is held to be true more than not; Americans generally view themselves as donors to The Salvation Army.   Again, nothing scientific about it, but experience has served me well over the years.

Bob’s questions to me started me on a path to collect my thoughts and share them. I know that they do not align with the belief of most folks out there. But, I believe that is because the numbers suggest I’m wrong. My concern is that those who focus solely on the numbers miss the greater (much, much greater) donor base and run the risk of alienating their existing, unknown, current donors.

I hope you enjoy my thoughts on why we don’t really have new disaster donors. I welcome your thoughts through comments on the original blog post, my Facebook post, or this blog post.



Statement of the Problem

The Salvation Army exists to serve humankind through a variety of spiritual and social programs.  There are direct program overhead costs associated with these efforts, such as office expenses, staff expenses, compensation for the officers and general expense. These are program costs that the organization must carry to provide support to the community.  These costs should be reflected in the program budget presentation given to donors as part of a total program budget.

These budgets are funded through a variety of means; government grants, foundation grants, corporation gifts, individual current gifts and planned gifts.

It is our view that the following problems currently exist within the budget process:

The program budget is not donor-driven.  The breakdown is not all inclusive of all costs associated to the expense of the program, including HR, office expense, officer cost, overhead and many times it is difficult to determine specific categories.

The program section of the budget is understated and not every expense is included in the budget. The net result is that the fundraiser actually uses a “non all inclusive budget”.

It is important to understand the difference between an all-inclusive program budget and a budget that does not include all approved budget items.

It is impossible for fundraisers to accurately represent The Salvation Army programs using the current process. This results in donors not being given the total and correct numbers.

It is difficult for fundraisers to raise funds for the programs because the budget is not presented in total. Thus, donors may choose to fund programs that are outside the program budget, causing internal conflicts.

The end result of the current process is running the risk of losing donor support, being underfunded and causing departmental conflicts.

As the donor population is becoming more business-minded and sophisticated, The Salvation Army will continue to face difficult financial challenges.  Donors always want and demand accountability for how their money is spent.  Gone will be the days that a donor gives a donation to The Salvation Army because “I trust them”.  Accurate verification and accountability grows trust and grows donor funding. The end result must be a win-win for all parties.

Proposed Solution

We recommend setting up Program Pricing. There are different “price points” to all categories of assistance. For instance, if the donor wants to contribute $1,000 to a project, they can identify that specific program. However, if they want to fund the total program, ALL the costs are included.

The goal is to present the donor with opportunities to provide funding for a program of their choice.  Each program for support that is in the budget should contain these critical elements:

  • Program category
  • People served
  • Location of program
  • Price point
  • Program description
  • All costs
  • Budget and budgeting process

Example of cost per individual served:

After school program annual budget is $152,000 however there are accounting, maintenance executive staff, etc. expenses that need to be added to the cost ($14,500) for a total of $166,500. This way when you go to funders you are covering all of the expense of the budget.



  • Amount of Program budget                                                                                    $152,000
  • Time allocation from other departments                                                                 $14,500
  • Divided by number served [20 per week] 1,040 = cost per individual per week     $160

A $1,000 gift would cover all the costs of 6.25 children for an entire week, or one child for 32 weeks.

Scope of Work

We will work with you to develop a full and integrated Program Pricing for each program as follows

  • The first meeting, in cooperation with the appropriate TSA personnel, will be to establish the Objectives and End Result for the work. We will also work to get “buy in” from all the interested parties and departments.
  • Obtain agreement from all key departments in the process.
  • Work with the Finance to develop the all-inclusive budget.
  • Begin data gathering.
  • Review and agree upon data gathered with Program and Finance all parties will approve and format all data gathered.

We have created a successful and thorough process that will improve the efficiency of the current program budget for The Salvation Army.

We look forward to assisting you with this opportunity.


Community Forum


  The Bridge Consulting Group, LLC


Change agents … helping you get where you want to be


Community Forum

Community – A group of people who are considered a unit

                                                      because of their shared interests.”


The concept

The community forum is designed by The Bridge Consulting Group to benefit members of the community as well as the nor-for-profit organization.  The concept is designed to elevate community awareness about the organization and ideally to increase involvement with the organization. The community forum is designed to be a win-win for all those involved. It helps both the community and organization become aware of what the organization’s mission is and what the organization can accomplish through its programs.  It will also assist with the needed support to run effective programs for the people served.

The Forum will provide a partnership between the organization and the community and help provide resources for the organization to fulfill their goals as well as the organizations goals.

What are the benefits of a “Community Forum Project?”

The community forum will benefit members of the community as well as the organization.  It is a process of getting people, businesses and leaders in the community involved in a project that is of specific interest to them.  It helps both the community and organization become aware of what the mission is and what the organization can accomplish through its programs.  It will also assist with the needed support to run effective programs for the people served.

  • Engage Board members in an activity that promotes their area of interest and involvement
  • Prepare the organization and create awareness in the community
  • Develop an effective case for support
  • Take the organization into the community, educate them and find funders for current and future projects
  • Train staff and volunteers
  • Put out media information
  • Develop the board structure with committee job descriptions and expectations
  • Have the plan in place with amount needed for all current and future projects
  • Review of donor information to see who can help with major gifts

The Process of setting up a Community Forum

First there must be careful attention paid to:

  • Careful Planning
  • Financing
  • Promotion
  • Involvement –Pre and Post

Some of that planning will include:

  • Establish participants of the planning group
  • Set date, time and facility
  • Decide on the overall goal
  • Develop a concept paper
  • Develop a timeline
  • Create a budget
  • Recruit sponsors

Establish the Planning Group

Recruit members for the planning group who:

  • Compose a cross-section of the community—more resources, broader reach and impact
  • Can generate creative ideas toward accomplishing your goal
  • Will influence ownership among key constituencies
  • Have the ability to turn ideas into concrete actions
  • Possess knowledge and skills to bring about change

Decide on the Overall Goal

  • What is the overall he goal of the community forum?
  • What do we want to change?
  • Who will benefit from the forum?
  • What do we want the forum to accomplish?
  • Is it to call public attention to an issue or program?
  • Is it to grow or improve the organizations awareness in the community?
  • Is it to learn about concrete approaches in other cities/locations?

Activity Goal – first year – Plan and implement 1 community forum

An excellent goal for the first year might be targeted at the recruitment of younger members to review the possibility of developing younger members. We are aware of a Junior Advisory Board program similar to the one in Chicago. This program could feature men and women with responsibilities as parents and those with professional careers [sometimes both]. The goal is to involve their families in volunteer activities so that their children will understand the American phenomenon of philanthropy. The benefit to the Army is increased “hands on deck” for community programs, along with an outreach to the next generations as future leaders and donors.

Set Time, Date & Facility

  • Set in place early during the planning stages
  • Consider your audience, time of day, time of year,
  • Research types of facilities to meet:
    • Convention centers
    • University campus and schools
    • Hotel banquet rooms
    • Non-profit meeting rooms
    • Places of worship
    • Special public facilities, i.e. museums, zoos

 The Nuts and Bolts of the Forum Event

  • Provide simple handouts
  • Structure group discussions
  • Use the buddy system
  • Give the opportunity for action groups
  • Obtain sponsor commitments

Methods for Evaluation after the event

  • Purpose: Did the forum achieve the established goal?
  • Use written “feedback” forms
  • Schedule follow-up interviews
  • Distribute pre and post forum surveys
  • Debrief

Next steps

There is much more involved with ensuring a successful Community Forum project.  For more information about and/or support in setting up your first Community Forum, contact Ron Waite at 888.958.0425 X102 or ron@thebridge.pro.


Social Media and major gifts … REALLY?! (Part 1)

Social Media and major gifts … REALLY?!

Written by The Bridge Blog guest writer – Christopher McGown

Does Social Media have a part to play in major gift development? It seems like such a simple question. The answer is also simple; Yes. The “How?” on the other hand, may be a bit more complex. It is likely that donors are exposed to an organization’s social media efforts without it being part of the major gift development ‘plan.’ What might be referred to as ‘passive’ cultivation happens when donors interact with a non-profit organization’s social media presence without an intentional prompting on the part of the organization or a major giving officer. This can include viewing, sharing, pinning or any other form of interaction with a social media outlet. The compounded effect of this passive cultivation shouldn’t be underestimated but at the same time, it is nearly impossible to measure its impact in any real, meaningful way. In this way, social media and mass media are very much alike in that a correlation can be found, but causation is hard to prove.

It is possible for social media to be deployed as part of a major gift development plan. Social media, in any of its platforms, has a place in identification, research, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship, but that place is specific. We will discuss, in the next three segments, the proper and improper uses of social media in a major gift campaign. Fist we will look at what social media should not be used for. After this we will analyze exactly what it is ideally suited to. Finally, we will discuss how to handle some specific logistical issues that an organization might face while using social media.

What Social Media for Major Gift Development is NOT:

Let me start by delineating the difference between a major gift and major gift development. A major gift is the desired result of major giving development. However, not every major gift is the result of a personal, relationship-centered, and deliberate process, a.k.a. Major Gift Development. Sometimes a major gift, happens without any intentional interaction on the part of the charity.

It is certainly possible that social media has some influence on major gifts. Given that YouTube is touted as the second largest search engine and Facebook has approximately 30% more weekly traffic than Google, it would be foolish to assume otherwise.

Remember that social media is not the perfect tool for every prospect or donor. Some of your potential donors might not even use social media as a primary form of communication. It is unlikely that these people would even be aware of your efforts if social media were used to the exclusion of other, more traditional methods.

Some prospects will keep up with your organization’s goings on through your social media outlets, but resist your organization’s attempt to personally interact with them through social media. In this way, there is no difference when compared to phone, email, or direct mail campaigns.

Remember that those who use social media frequently are constantly being inundated with information. This means that it is easy for someone tomiss out on information simply because it can get lost in the shuffle. Bearing this in mind, using social media to ‘blast out’ your organization’s latest major gift naming opportunities would not, in my opinion, qualify as major gift development. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t tweet: “Your Family name can live forever, talk to us about how to create your own named endowment. Lrn more @ t.co/thesub1” from time-to-time; but only the most generous would label this as part of a major gift process beyond perhaps a ‘feeder’ technique.

If you’d like a little help or some additional resources, feel free to download one of our many resources including our free e-book, A Planned Approach to Major Gifts.

In part two we will discuss What Part Social Media Does Play in Major Gift Development.


Social Media and major gifts … REALLY?! (Part 2)

Social Media and major gifts … REALLY?!

Part 2 … the part it plays.

What part does social media play in major gift development?

Social Media can play a role in cultivation!

As we dig in, it is important to remember that social media cultivation, no matter how well it is done, will not replace ‘traditional’ major gift development efforts.   Rather, it will augment the cultivation process.    Earlier, I listed the common major gift development stages; identification, research, cultivation and solicitation. To varying degrees, there is place for social media in all of them.


Those who interact most passionately with your organization’s social media presence are great candidates for giving.   Basic wealth data might then be used to further define the level of giving appropriate for the donor’s situation; and, in turn, the most appropriate cultivation method.


Social media resources can also be used to help identify areas of interest to donors.  Traditionally the gift development officer learns about a donor’s area(s) of interest over coffee or dinner, but social media can help streamline that conversation by noting areas of interest.  Observing likes, followings, or participation in niche groups/platforms can do this.

Social media, along with the great World Wide Web, is also a powerful tool when trying to identify wealth.   From antidotal information like family vacation photos from a Tahiti Resort and ‘check-ins’ at exclusive clubs; to more concrete information like home ownership and luxury item purchases.

Social media can also help find interpersonal connections.    It can help draw your connection map between the prospect and key staff, other donors, board members or volunteers.   All this represents a dynamic transition in who to cultivate as a prospect and how it can be done.


Cultivation is the Intentional relationship-building steps in which the donor and organization learn about each other to determine if and how they can work together to meet complementary needs.

Traditionally, this is the major giving officer working one-on-one with the donor to match passion with purpose.   By the very nature of this process time and access are often the greatest boundaries the major gift officer faces.   An effective use of social media allows the cultivation process to be spread around, and done in a way that may be unnoticeable to the donors and prospects.

A common part of the cultivation process is  Social media allows the sharing of data and stories of interest to the donor and prospects.  As such it can be assigned various staff, assuming they are familiar with social media etiquette.   Using a connection map you can identify others (volunteers, board members, etc.) who can also assist in the process.

Using social media in this way has the added benefit of real-time, empirical statistics on how the donor interacted with the information. This can help shape what information is shared in the future and in what way.

What might social media cultivation look like in a major gift development plan?

  • General social media actions that resonate with the donor
  • Social media actions targeted to specific groups within your general ranks through the use of SM Personas, or ‘Tribe’ identification
  • Very personal, singular references in your organization’s social media actions and/or responses by your organization to actions by your donor.


Solicitation is the least likely phase of development to utilize social media.   However, there are times when it may be possible to promote an “ask”.  Given the right prospect, an organization might be able “tag” the donor in a post, make the “ask” and explain the opportunity it would fill.  But be VERY careful in doing this! Doing so without clear indication that it would be well received would jeopardize not only the gift, but also the entire relationship.

In most major gift solicitations, there is a lapse between the time the “ask” is made and when it is accepted.   During this intervening time-gap, social media can be utilized to highlight the need that would be met by the gift.    That is, the organization’s social media platforms can strategically place/reference stories that highlight the specific need into their feed.

In part 3 we will look at some specific issues and best practices that result from using social media during your campaign.


Social Media and major gifts … REALLY?! (Part 3)

Social Media and major gifts … REALLY?!

Part 3 … the most critical elements.

Here I would like to look briefly at a most critical element in the major gift program … Stewardship. Then I will offer some logistics to help facilitate an effective use of social media during your campaign and address a common issue in how to still promote your organization despite a donor requesting to remain anonymous.


Using the philosophy that stewardship starts with the donor’s thank you, social media can play a meaningful role in this phase of the major gift development process.

Organizational “news” placed on social media platforms have far greater potential to spread the opportunities to major gift donors and
prospects than more traditional methods, like newsletter, emails, blogs, or website updates.   Thus, appropriately using all of the organization’s social media platforms to publicly thank a donor (assuming the donor’s permission) by tying them to the opportunity they are filling can
have a far-reaching and positive impact.  It is likely the donor’s friends will spread this kind of activity, whether or not they previously supported or even interacted with your organization.   The news is also likely to be shared by those who are interested in the opportunity that was filled (even if they don’t know the donor) again, likely exposing the need and your organizational mission to new audiences.

Promoting the donation along with explaining what the donation means to those served by your organization is likely to have to other advantages worth mentioning:

1) People like to get behind a winner. This gift might be the sign needed that your organization is a winner, thus garnering new, renewed, and increased giving.
2) Others who are motivated (even if only secretly) by such public accolades are far more likely to step forward in the same manner; or at the very least be motivated to learn more about your mission.

It is important to note that there is value in engaging social media to bring exposure to:

  1. a) the opportunity being met
  2. b) any remaining unmet opportunities
  3. c) the donor’s gift
  4. d) the donor and the donor’s ‘why’

The low cost of social media makes it be one of the most practical ways to provide long-term donor stewardship.  For example, an organization may take the opportunity to highlight the donor, or their family, when mission-based activity is made possible

because of the gift.  This can most easily be seen in capital campaigns. For example, a Facebook picture and post of a group of children learning in the McGown Family Classroom, tagging the donor in the entry, is a great way to recognize the donor for their contribution.   While naming opportunities of all types make it easier, you aren’t limited to them.   Let your imagination run wild and explore all the possibilities.

Record Keeping

It is a common practice to record email addresses in a donor management system. However, experience shows that donors and prospects change their email addresses far more often than they change their social media profiles, yet most organizations neglect this important data point.

An astute non-profit would reflect in my record





                   … just to name a few.

I suggest simply providing for a uniform database location and uniform naming convention to simplify later research.

One best practice is to record any specific interactions with donors/prospects through the various social media outlets—just as you would from more traditional interactions. Like any communication, it is important to also standardize the format used for recording the social media interactions to provide for data integrity and far greater research options.

Anonymous Donors

Before we wrap-up, just a quick word about “anonymous donors.”   It is presumed that the organization knows the donor, but the donor has opted to remain anonymous.   In those cases, the best practice could be for your organization to still use social media to promote and steward the gift, just without the use of the donor’s name or clearly identifiable traits.  Talk with the donor. If this is a serious concern, pass the information by them first requesting their permission to use it and reminding them of the value to the organization such sharing can have.

Social media is not a replacement for personal ‘high-touch’ activities that lead to a successful program.  Rather, social media is yet another tool used as part of an overall process of identification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of major gift donors.


Social media is an option as an active or passive part of the major gift development process.   Given the composite of most organization’s major donors, for the next couple of years an organization can take their time in developing a plan for how social media will become part of their major gift development process.

Regardless of the platform, social media is certain to have a growing place of prominence in the lives of our prospects and donors.   Social media will not replace major gift officers. But the value is growing every day. As such we should treat it as another tool, a potentially powerful tool, one that should be used as part of a strategic major gift development plan.

The Bridge is a full-service consulting firm that supports non-profits in Leadership Development, Major Gift Campaigns and Board Building. To help you get started planning your Major Gifts and Social Media Strategy, download our free Cultivation Calendar.


Goal Setting and Evaluation of a Major Gift Officer – Part 1

The question … “Should a major gift officer be evaluated on “New gifts” or should that include “Total giving from work load?”

The answer … yes!

There is a strain of comment from some in nonprofit administration that the only thing a major gift officer should be credited with is “new money.” Typically this means a focus on quantity over quality … only “new money,” gifts over and above a donors’ typical giving history, or “new donors.” And, while that is part of the measure of success, there are many areas in which to set goals and evaluate the success of a major gift officer. Quantity is a natural outcome of quality, but quality is not necessarily an outcome of quantity.

Statistics suggest that an organization loses nearly 1/3 of its donor file every year. Some of those are major gift donors and/or prospects. This can happen because of a donor’s interest being distracted to either a different charity doing similar work or a different interest.

An effective stewardship element can stem that loss. It can also cause continued and increased giving and participation in several areas [quality over quantity]:

  • Annual campaigns
  • Special events support/sponsorship
  • Volunteer leadership
  • Capital campaigns
  • Planned giving

A sample major gift crediting report might look like:

Attributed in other disciplines


Major gifts

Total credited to the major gifts officer

Annual/direct mail



Special events


Capital campaigns


Planned giving







… because, in all probability, the work of the major gifts officer was at least partially responsible for all of the giving.

Thus, it has long been my contention that every gift a donor [that is on a major gift officers’ list] makes should be credited to their effort. Let me relate a story from my time as National Director of Major Gifts and Planned giving at Boys Town.

We had a record that Ms. Hyacinth [made up name] had left Boys Town in her will. I scheduled a visit to acknowledge that gift intention. I also wanted to determine if any part of it could be brought forward to a current gift.

The visit went well. She was a charming retired teacher that had been single all of her life. She had no living relatives. She particularly liked the difference Boys Town made in the lives of the boys and girls it served and their families. She had minimal current income, a substantial part coming from some of the assets that were our part of the will. As this was a first visit I proposed to meet again when I could relate to her how a deferred gift could increase both her current income and structure her assets to accomplish even more of her desires to make a difference.

Two to three months after that visit I received communication from her attorney stating two things:

  • Hyacinth had been killed in an auto accident
  • He would be processing her estate with the majority going to Boys Town

During a follow up conversation with the attorney, he related that my visit with her had coincided with one she had scheduled with him but that she postponed. The purpose of that visit, he stated, was to change the designation of the recipients of her estate … essentially to eliminate Boys Town. She never rescheduled it.   Apparently, my visit had helped cement her original conviction that Boys Town had her trust and met her goals to make a difference in people’s lives.

Thus the question … should I have been credited with this estate intention when it came in, or not? It did not meet the prevailing wisdom of “new gifts” only. But it did meet the critically important criteria of continuing donor relationships and thus their giving.

As the Territorial Director of Fund-development [Major Gifts] for The Salvation Army, USA Western Territory, I had many conversations with quality, high producing major gift officers who related similar stories.   Many contained examples of donors that continued giving in the areas listed above where there had been thought of changing allegiances.

In part 2 we will explore the specifics of rational goal setting and evaluation.



In a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article (March 2016), an article titled: Finding a Fundraiser Who Can Find Big Gifts, addressed compensation issues, but little else. While this is a fundamental issue in the hiring process, it is not the most important.

After many years of supervising a Major Gifts program for The Salvation Army, as well as time at two other not for profit ministries, there are critically important steps needed to find and hire the right professionals. These steps are time tested and the results can be seen in a Major Gifts program raising more than $30 million annually.

The first step is to create a “selection criteria” for the position, specially stating the “criteria” or skill set and experience desired in candidates. While people involved in the search may think they know or have agreed on the criteria, often this is not so. Having it in writing, with a weighted score for each criterion focuses all interview participants to have agreed to the criteria. This compels the interview questions to focus on specific criteria and allows the candidate to clearly state their qualifications. Without an established, written selection criteria, the search and the interviews tend to wander, leaving the candidate with a sense that the organization does not really know what they are looking for in a candidate. I have attached a sample of such a selection criteria.

One of the vital elements of the hiring process is to determine the candidate’s connection and potential commitment to the “mission” of the organization. Candidates might have strong experience working with donors and asking for gifts. However, unless the candidate can clearly state their connection and commitment to the mission of the agency/ministry, their potential for long-term employment is doubtful. And, Major Gifts work is all about building long-term relationships and growing trust between the donor and the organization. We have found that if candidates do not

connect to the mission, they will not stay and their ability to build relationships in limited at best. During interviews, we clearly state our mission, and, ask the candidate to explain their connection and potential for committing to our mission. Their commitment will be readily seen and heard not only in the interviews, but also when hired and working with donors. The passion for the mission, shown and stated by Major Gift staff while working with donors is vital to securing donor’s commitments for gifts. The passion of the presenter carries significant impact with donors.

In the interviews, key insights can be gained by asking the right questions in the right way. In another posting, we will address what to do with your newly hired Major Gifts professional in their first two months with you.

Paul Curnow


Contact us for a free copy of a Sample Criteria Sheet:

The Bridge Consulting Group offers comprehensive support for the recruitment of all not-for-profit professionals.


The Nonprofit Case for Support – Part 3 – Best practices for leveraging this powerful tool

In Parts One and Two of this series, we talked about why every nonprofit needs a great Case for Support and how to create it.  In this third and final installment we’ll discuss when and how to utilize this tool for campaign success.

Once you’ve got a great Case for Support, use it!

  • Share it when interviewing community members as part of your campaign feasibility study.
  • Present it when sitting with prospective donors.
  • Embed the Case for Support into your organization’s website.
  • Share a link to it from your organization’s Facebook page.
  • Once the campaign goes public, include key elements of it in media kits to local media outlets.

A great Case for Support can serve as a highly efficient tool with the potential to catapult your team towards campaign success.  It can open doors to conversations that will ultimately lead to major gifts for your project.  With a great Case for Support, you’ve got a reason to call and get appointments with donors.  You have something worth sharing. You’ve got a document with:

  • Well-researched data on community needs.
  • Input from community leaders.
  • Project photos & client testimonies.

Even veteran major gift fundraisers would say that the most difficult part of making “The Ask” (or indeed the many asks needed for campaign success) is securing the appointments it takes to build relationships to a point where significant asks are appropriate.  Getting appointments is now as simple as calling to ask for the donors’ input on the Case for Support.

By seeking the donors’ input on your Case for Support, you are involving them at a level that allows them to feel personally invested in your campaign.  They may even begin to take ownership in helping to advocate for the project on your behalf.  While you may or may not be able to edit the Case for Support once it’s completed, donors’ input can help shape your discussions going forward as you share the document with others.

Everyone has their own unique style of donor cultivation, but unless the conversation naturally brings me to a place where referring to something in the Case for Support is fitting, my preference is to wait until the end of a visit to share the document.  The Case for Support is something that the donor will likely study at home or in their office while considering a significant gift.

Remember to always follow-up, and ask for their feedback.

Before using this tool in making “The Ask” with a prospective donor, the donor must already be very well acquainted with your project from your conversations with them in previous visits.  In building a relationship with that donor, you’ve already determined that your project is a match for the donor’s personal interests and philanthropic intent as you’ve asked the right questions along the way.  Once you’ve reached that point and have secured “The Appointment,” you can refer to the gift opportunities chart within the Case for Support when discussing which piece of the campaign you’re inviting them to invest in.

As you have seen, the Case for Support can have a major transformative effect on your organization and, by extension, your community. The potential of this tool cannot be overstated and as such should be a priority for any non-profit organization. We have shown you the power that it can have in donor relations, we have helped you to formulate your own Case for support to help promote your organization, and we have told you when it can and should be used to greatest effect.

Now that your organization has its own Case for support, your board, staff, community leaders and donors are better equipped to help make your campaign dream a reality.

Diana Turner, GPC

Principal, Smith Turner Consulting

Affiliate with The Bridge

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