By Grant Monck
In fundraising as in life, different paths may often lead to unexpected and rewarding results. I once met a couple who represented a private foundation in a very surprising way. They were driving in the countryside thousands of miles from home. They got lost and ended up at the end of a forest road which was the entrance to a remote College campus. Instead of turning around and heading back to the main road, they decided to walk around the campus on a quiet summer day. They were intrigued with the College, picked up a brochure which included my contact information, and gave me a call the next week. This initial contact lead to a multi-year major gift from the foundation. I was so glad they took that path!
I am currently reflecting on this story as I develop a presentation on identifying fundraising champions for charities. I have been asked by a number of clients and other fundraisers across Canada for my opinion on this topic. My advice is based on my experience, the paths I have taken, and where those paths have led. I also reflect on my beginnings in fundraising and how I recruited a team of staff and volunteers to be fundraising champions.
I started my fundraising career with a well-established national charity in the area of gift planning. The organization was encouraged that they now had a resource to develop a proactive program. But very few staff or volunteers had a sense of what needed to be done or how they could assist. My work with the organization was extremely rewarding in securing major and planned gifts and opening the minds of staff and volunteers to new approaches beyond their traditional fundraising. We developed an incredible team of grass-roots volunteers in over 40 local communities, supported by regional staff and leadership board members. This work with a new focus on individual major gift fundraising and gift planning lead to the first capital campaign for the organization.
But how did I to get started? What paths did I take?
One piece of advice I took to heart early in my fundraising career was to seek out and achieve early wins. This was not only important as I was new to fundraising but the organization was also in the early stages of understanding major gift fundraising and gift planning.
One of the initial gifts I secured was a charitable life insurance policy with a long-term annual donor. In addition to my personal thanks to the donor, I asked the Chair of the board if he would meet the donor to provide his thanks on behalf of the organization. Firstly, he said he had never been asked to thank a donor, and secondly, he said he would love to do it! This was the start of a new path in fundraising for the Chair and a great beginning to our working relationship.
I had many motivations for the Chair to meet this donor. In addition to donor recognition, I wanted the Chair to understand why the donor had established this gift and how the gift would benefit both the donor and the charity. The meeting with the donor went very well for all concerned. The Chair now had a good understanding of the motivations of the donor and how this gift worked, the donor was thrilled to meet the Chair, and I was off to a great start in building a relationship with the Chair and the donor.
I now had my first champion for gift planning in the organization and he was ready to do more! Here was my opening to recruit a team of champions. What path to take now? I suggested to the Chair that we look at the concept of a group life insurance policy to involve the entire board. He thought this was a great idea. This future gift to support the organization was terrific but my prime motivation was to have a board who were all gift planning donors with personal knowledge of this area of fundraising. Our team of champions grew from there.
How can you engage your staff and volunteer colleagues to become champions for the important work you do?
My career in fundraising has demonstrated that there are many paths to success. I have also learned that sometimes paths less traveled may yield the best results. Also remember to take others along for the journey to make the trip more enjoyable and the destination a shared success.
Grant will be presenting on the topic of recruiting gift planning champions at the Vancouver Chapter of the Canadian Association of Gift Planners on October 15, 2015 at the Terminal City Club.
Grant Monck has over twenty years of fundraising experience working for national and international organizations in the areas of conservation, education and health. He opened his own consulting firm in 2014 based in Vancouver and is currently working with clients across Canada in the areas of gift planning, government relations and major gift fundraising.