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Insights from Karen Climer about fundraising and nonprofit organizations

Volunteer Participation Makes A HUGE Difference In A Capital Campaign (Or Any Campaign)

May 1st, 2014 by Karen Climer
I managed the capital campaign for the Central Florida Veterans Memorial Park at Lake Nona.  It was successful because of board participation.

The capital campaign for the Central Florida Veterans Memorial Park at Lake Nona was successful because of board participation.

For the past few years, I’ve been one of the fundraising consultants working with the Central Florida Veterans Memorial Park Foundation.  This is an all-volunteer organization that has raised nearly $3 million and built a beautiful Memorial Park near the new VA Hospital at Lake Nona.  It’s amazing what this group has accomplished.  The board is comprised primarily of retired veterans.  They have no paid staff.  It was a brand new organization.  They did not have a list of past annual donors to solicit for the capital campaign.  They were starting from scratch.

There are several reasons this organization has been successful.  Here are a few of them:

  1. Every single board member was passionate about the cause.  We didn’t have a single board member who was there in name only.  There were plenty of board members who had clout, but they were not on the board because they had clout.  They were on the board because they wanted the project to succeed.
  2. They weren’t afraid to spend money when they needed to.  When they realized they needed fundraising advice, they hired fundraising counsel to lead the campaign.  Yes, that is a large expense.  For a while, it was their only expense.  They didn’t worry about spending money if they knew they would see it returned.  This organization sought out in-kind donations for everything, but they would not spend $500 worth of time trying to get a $100 print job donated.  They focused on return on investment (ROI), not on costs.
  3. The focus was on major gifts.  Yes, they received small donations, but the board only solicited large donations.  This was a campaign based on face-to-face meetings.  There was no direct mail, no special events, no brick paver campaign.  It was a major gifts campaign.
  4. The board raised the money.  This is the biggest reason they succeeded.  The volunteer board made one-on-one asks.  If they wanted to meet Mr. Prospect and no one on the board knew him, they went through their contacts until they found someone who could orchestrate a meeting.

The Memorial Park has been built and dedicated, but we are not finished.  We are now raising money for an endowment to maintain the Memorial.  It’s more difficult to raise endowment money, but I have no doubt this volunteer organization will succeed.

Posted in Board of Directors, Capital Campaign, Volunteers

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