I recently traveled to California - a 3-hour time difference from North Carolina. Each morning my inbox was full from people on the east coast who had been up working for three hours before me. My usual 9 and 10 a.m. weekly conference calls took place at 6 and 7 a.m. I realize we live in a global economy and some of my friends who work for companies with offices in India or Australia work at all hours to connect with clients and coworkers. The timing of each of our daily tasks needs to take place at the right moment for all people involved. This made me think about the timing of campaigns and solicitations. Whether you are asking an audience to listen to your message of need, asking for money, asking someone to lead a campaign or join your board – the timing needs to be right for all parties involved.
Many organizations launch into a capital campaign and have not sifted through all aspects of the campaign that will make it successful. Below are a few questions that need to be answered prior:
* When was your last capital campaign and have all donors paid off their pledges?
* Who else in the community is contemplating or running a capital campaign?
* Have you hired campaign counsel?
* Have you conducted a feasibility study to make sure the money is out there?
* Is your leadership trained and ready?
* Is your message clear, defined, and portrays the need, impact and a sense of urgency?
* Have prospects been identified and researched (rule of thumb is usually 4 prospects = 1 gift)
* Has campaign leadership been identified and trained?
* Is your finance department ready to receive and acknowledge pledges?
Making an Individual Ask
When soliciting an individual prospect for funding, it’s important that the timing be right for him or her. Below are a few questions that need to be answered prior:
* Has the prospect been researched?
* Who else does the donor give to?
* What are the prospect’s passions and interests?
* Has the individual been cultivated and feels involved?
* Who is the correct volunteer and/or staff person to make the solicitation?
* What amount are you going to ask for?
* Is the prospect going through a divorce, job change, about to be a grandparent, in good health?
When training boards or groups to fundraise, I tell clients that "no" means not right now. I really believe timing is a huge part of the decision making process and an individual who is asked for support today and declines may be open to making a donation later in the year, for another need within the organization or with an incentive such as a challenge gift. When meeting with a potential donor for the first time, take the opportunity to ask about their day, family, work before digging into the ask. If they say no, ask them to think about it and tell them that you'll follow up in a week to see if they have made a final decision. If you are comfortable, ask candidly “What would make you say yes to support the campaign?” One actually learns a lot by asking that question. Whatever the situation – timing is key and one needs to determine if it’s the right time.