Rethinking Development: Videos for Clients
The Feasibility Study
The Traditional Feasibility Study: Overview
Overview of the "traditional" feasibility study - the method used by many consulting firms nationwide.
Ready for a feasibility study?
To have a valid feasibility study, you must first create a major gift prospect list. Here's why...
Limitations of the traditional feasibility study
The Feasibility Study method used by other firms has serious limitations. Find out what they are--and how NOT to make the same mistakes.
Feasibility Studies: A Better Way
These aren’t just donors, they’re friends who want to help us do great things. With our radically new method of conducting a feasibility study, you’ll raise more money--a lot more!
Goal Setting
Setting the Campaign Goal: A Critical Decision
Setting an attainable goal is a decision with lasting consequences. Consider carefully what’s at stake.
Campaign Preparations: Two Estimates-Income vs. Expense
Feeling a little apprehensive? Launch a campaign, confident that you can reach goal. Here’s how.
Campaign Considerations
The Capital Campaign: Is there any value in beginning with a Silent Phase?
Go ahead. Tell the world you're doing something big! The right preparation makes the 'Silent Phase' unnecessary.
Choosing Which Projects to Fund
Advice on choosing the campaign projects earmarked for funding. Spoiler alert: Projects don’t need to be 'sexy.'
A Better Way to Fund Endowments
A line item in your capital campaign is not enough to grow your endowment to where it should be! Here’s a better way to fund endowments.
The Capital Campaign: Choosing Leadership
The right leadership opens doors. Be humble and fearless in asking for help.
Prospecting For Major Gifts
Introduction to Major Gift Prospecting
As much as 2/3 of a multi-million dollar campaign typically comes from just 10 – 20 donors. Understanding ‘the math’ is central to the entire campaign strategy.
Prioritizing Major Gift Prospects: Standard Target Codes
Five reasons why you need to create major gift target codes—the single most important piece of information in any database.
Prospecting for Major Gifts, Part 1: Analyzing Current Donors
Learn to 'mine' your existing data—three criteria to identify major gift prospects 'sleeping' in your database.
Prospecting for Major Gifts, Part 2: Other Major Gift Indicators
In your efforts to find major gift prospects, think like an investigative journalist. Here’s how we put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Prospecting for Major Gifts, Part 3: Using Wealth Screening Services
Wealth screening services help you identify major gift prospects in your database. Is it a good investment? Before investing thousands, understand what it can and can’t do.
Final Campaign Preparations
Estimating and Setting the Campaign Goal
The #1 campaign mistake? Basing the campaign goal solely upon an architect’s estimate. Experienced development pros know goal setting is the result of a back-and-forth process between ‘what you need’ vs. ‘what the prospect list will likely yield.’ Our planning method virtually ensures you set the right goal—and hit it!
How do you prepare top prospects for a major gift?
Learn the single biggest factor influencing major gifts, and the attitudes and processes that separate the truly great development directors from the rest! Hint: it takes more than a glossy brochure.
Lead Gifts from the Donor's Perspective
The Competition for Major Gifts
Every development director worth their salt targets the same small, precious group of people capable of making a lead gift. This video examines the ratio of lead-gift-capable donors to the number of charities in a given market. It’s sobering—but sets the context for “why we do what we do.”
From Involvement to Investment
Nearly all lead gifts have one thing in common. Learn how to get on the 'short list' of charities that get the donor's best gift.
From Relationship to Friendship
Do you have a mere relationship with donors, or do you treat them as friends? How you think about donors radically changes the way you interact—and the odds of getting the seven-figure gift.
Lead Gifts Take Time
An overwhelming number of charities compete for lead gifts from a small number of households. So most donors are already committed to other campaigns. Here’s how to earn your place in the queue.
Three Concerns of Lead Gift Donors
Nearly all lead donors have three concerns. Knowing them will help you create a better proposal—and avoid inadvertent deal-killers.
Campaign Execution
Asking for the Appointment: Warm Calls
What’s the #1 bottleneck to campaign progress? Getting the appointment! Here are three tips to keep your calendar booked.
Asking for the Appointment: Cold Calls
Get the appointment even though you only 'kind of' know the person. How you word the opening 20 seconds makes a world of difference.
Determining an Asking Amount
Some consultants simplistically tell clients "Ask for twice what you hope for." Let us show you a better way to arrive at an intelligent asking amount.
Step-by-step: How to ask for the gift.
Close, Close, Close
What do the best development directors have in common? They take people’s well-intentioned comments and gracefully turn them into action items.
Work Top Down and Left to Right
To execute a campaign, you need a system that constantly focuses on ‘what matters
Matters of the Heart
What we might learn from the Mississippi pastor on cable channel 574.
Love Conquers Fear
So you’re uncomfortable asking? Dig deep. Why do you do what you do?
Overcoming the Discomfort of Asking
Some people are okay asking others for money, others not. What’s the fundamental difference between the two camps?
Learning to Tithe
The virtue of generosity brings special graces desperately needed in the life of the Church and contemporary society. A true story.
Instruction Guides
The Parish Survey: Instructions
Instructions on how to conduct the parish survey.
Six Questions to Ask When Choosing a Fundraising Consultant

The number of fundraising consulting firms has exploded in the last decade.  Here are six questions you should ask when choosing a fundraising consultant for your capital campaign.

1. How many face-to-face major gift solicitations has this person completed in their career?

The size of the firm is irrelevant to your success; it’s the individual consultant that matters.  You need someone with experience soliciting major gifts. 

Here’s why: In a multimillion dollar capital campaign, as much as 90% of the money will come from the top 30 – 40 individuals. So major gift solicitation skills are critical to success.  The consultant leading your effort must have actual experience in face-to-face solicitation. If they have done at 500 to 1,000 major gift solicitations, they probably have the experience necessary to advise you.  

Surprisingly, few meet this qualification. This is one of the ‘little secrets' of the fundraising consulting industry: many of the larger firms hire people with minimal or no solicitation experience. 

If you are impressed with a larger firm and their sales team, it’s necessary to ask specific questions: Who would you send me?  How many capital campaigns have they managed in their career--not just been a part of, but led

Bottom Line:  Ask “How many face-to-face major gift solicitations has this person completed in their career?” This, above all else, will ensure that the person has the nuanced experience to advise you on day-to-day tactical decisions.

2. Prior to conducting a Fundraising Feasibility Study, will your Fundraising Consultant help you identify your most promising major gift prospects?  If so, how?

In most cases, a fundraising feasibility study is used to help set the financial goal for a capital campaign.

Be aware that many fundraising feasibility studies are, from the outset, destined to be invalid. Why? Lack of proper preparation. As much as 90% of total dollars raised in a capital campaign will come from the top 30 to 40 individuals. Therefore, you must first identify who these people might be, so that you can include them in the study. Only then will you have a valid fundraising feasibility study. 

Sadly, in an effort to minimize their investment of time—and improve their profitability—most fundraising consulting firms sidestep this critical first step.  There is little if any effort to identify top campaign prospects.  Instead, they rely on the client to indicate who these people might be.  Consequently, clients often provide a list of ‘top prospects’ who have expressed great appreciation and fondness for the ministry, but not necessarily those who have the financial capacity to make a significant gift.  In many cases, this renders the study invalid and useless. 

In stark terms, if the people interviewed for the study do not have the capacity to make a big gift, it matters little if they express love for your mission and the project.  To have a valid fundraising feasibility study, you must first identify your wealthiest 30-40 constituents—those who will ultimately be responsible for 90% of total dollars raised.  Those are the individuals that must be part of personal interviews for the study.

Bottom Line: If the firm’s proposal for a Fundraising Feasibility Study does not include provision to first identify your wealthiest prospects, you may be headed for an invalid study.

3. After the Fundraising Feasibility Study is completed, will the fundraising consultant share name-level data with the organization?

Most fundraising consulting firms will tell you they must be the ones to confidentially interview your top prospects as part of the feasibility study, in order to ensure truthful answers and objectivity.  Further, you will be told that in order to protect the confidentiality of the respondents, they only report consolidated data to the client.  They will not share “who said what.”

Let’s see how that plays out.  Suppose you want to launch a $5M capital campaign for a new building.  You hire a fundraising consultant who says the first step is a Fundraising Feasibility Study. 

As part of the study, they meet with 40 of your most loyal supporters.  Thirty-six respondents (90%) are thrilled with the project, and indicate they would be willing to support it should you move forward with a campaign.  Only four (10%) have deep reservations.  Sounds like a green light, right?  Not necessarily.

What if those thirty-six are individuals who, at best, are capable of a $10,000 gift?  If everyone in this group made their ‘best’ gift, you would have $360,000.  That’s a far cry from the $5M needed.

Meanwhile, the four multi-million dollar prospects admitted to the consultant that they were very negative on the project.  Wouldn’t you want to know that?  Wouldn’t you need to know, on a name-by-name basis, whether those individuals with the capacity to make-or-break the campaign were among the supporters or naysayers?  Before meeting with them to ask their support, wouldn’t you want to know on a name-by-name basis any reservations they might have?

Of course you would.

But under the guise of ‘respecting confidentiality,’ many development consulting firms withhold this information.  In reality, they are reserving leverage, indicating with a wink that if you extend the contract—if they are the fundraising firm chosen to manage the subsequent capital campaign—this information will be quietly shared with the client.

Bottom Line: Is this a firm you want to do business with?

4. Does the fundraising consulting firm insist they must be the ones to conduct the Feasibility Study interviews?

Again, under the guise of ensuring objectivity, most consulting firms will tell you they must be the ones to confidentially interview your top prospects as part of the fundraising feasibility study.

It’s OK to question that logic. 

Asking for a major campaign gift is like asking for your beloved’s hand in marriage. You’ve dated for a while and now it’s time to pop the big question. In this situation, would you want to hire somebody to ask on your behalf?
Of course not.

The analogy holds for capital campaigns and major gift fundraising.  The Feasibility Study interview should be a personal heart-to-heart conversation between the organization’s top administrators and top donors who care deeply about your ministry.  These are the supporters who have been with you for many years.  They have recognized the difficult work you do and helped you grow.  Having nurtured the relationship, trust that they will be honest with you.

Bottom Line: ask the fundraising consultant whether he or she will allow administrators to accompany them on the feasibility study visits.  If the answer is “no,” it’s OK to question their rationale. 

5. Once the campaign is underway, will the fundraising consultant accompany administration on solicitation calls?

Presumably, organizations hire fundraising consultants because they need help with major gift solicitation.  The only way to learn the art is by accompanying someone who does it well. 

Bottom Line: Granted, you may not want the consultant to accompany you on every visit, but if a firm refuses to accompany you on at least 20 – 40 visits, chances are they either lack this expertise, or have a process that sidesteps hands-on involvement in order to minimize their time investment.

6. Will the firm agree to use the organization’s existing development database to identify major gift prospects and track solicitations?  Will they teach you how to use your system for an efficient campaign?

Nearly all charitable organizations now use professional development software for donor relations and gifts, software such as Raiser’s Edge, DonorPerfect, eTapestry, DonorSnap, etc.  To execute an efficient campaign, it is always best to use the non-profit’s existing system by simply adding the needed fields and codes to identify major gift prospects, pair solicitors and prospects, and track solicitations.

Because this requires extra time and expertise on the part of the firm, most sidestep this critical part of campaign preparation and execution.  In its place, they rely on multiple spreadsheets and Word documents to run the campaign. 

This is inefficient, an incredible drag on the productivity of the organization’s development and support staff.  More critically, when the campaign is finished, the non-profit’s main database will be devoid of any solicitation notes beneficial for ongoing cultivation and the next capital campaign.  For example, wouldn’t you want to see in a donor’s permanent record who solicited them? What they said? What excited them about the project? What plans they expressed for their estate?

Unfortunately, many fundraising consultants do not concern themselves with helping the organization develop a long-term knowledgebase of their constituents.  With this attitude, the only data that makes its way into the permanent database is the amount of the pledge and subsequent payments.  Any ‘soft data’ that tells you what motivated the gift, who solicited it, etc. is lost to history.

Bottom Line:  Your development database is more than a record of gifts.  Think of it as the institutional diary, documenting the relationships between your representatives and the people who support you.  Ask if the firm has experience with your software and is willing to run every facet of the campaign using the existing database.  With few exceptions, if they refuse, chances are good they are a ‘get in, and get out’ firm more concerned about their profitability than your long term success.

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