by Ernie Vargo
Many of my clients are in the early stages of capital campaigns. They have planned, completed a feasibility study and recruited volunteers. Then the economy went south. This led to many discussions about the campaign. Should we defer it? Should we cancel it? How should we move forward?
During the fourth quarter of 2008, I traveled across the country and back conducting interviews for feasibility studies. Nearly all interviewees said, “do not ask me for a gift today.” That is certainly no surprise. However, those individuals were bullish about the economy in the long term (next three years). They were willing to think expansively about philanthropic support in the future. And they all wanted organizations that they supported in the past to continue to contact them.
These results were a bit surprising. It was anticipated that interviewees would have said, “I cannot make a gift, leave me alone!” Instead they opened the door for on-going cultivation. Some donors even talked about how organizations have not communicated with them at all during the recession. They assume all the organization cares about is their money. “If I cannot make a gift I must not be important to them.”
JGA has encouraged our clients to enter in a period of active cultivation. In many ways, this may very well benefit them in the long term. They are developing deep relations with their donors. This has enabled them to learn more about the donor’s interest. Many times in campaigns, there isn’t time to properly cultivate prospects. These times have created those opportunities.
These campaigns will be successful. They are developing deeper relationships. And as the economy improves, organizations that have continued the cultivation will be the first to receive gifts. In fact, several clients are either beginning to solicit prospects or are in the process of soliciting them. Gifts are slowly happening.
Now is the time to have patience. Move forward with campaign planning. Cultivate as many prospects as possible. It will pay dividends in the near future.