Many of you already know that the crew at Binns Drennon LLC make ubiquitous use of Compression Planning®, a marvelous tool for planning everything from a case for support to a grant. Yes, it’s a magic bullet when planning the big stuff (strategic direction, campaigns, DACUMs). Often, we break the process into pieces to create short, quick sessions that resolve smaller and more immediate challenges.
One of our favorite “15 Minute CP” sessions is donor prospecting at foundation board meetings. It’s a fabulous way to engage your board members in meaningful discussions, and helps those who are reluctant to “ask” for support contribute to the foundation’s overall development plan.
You can use this process to prepare potential donors for a capital or major gifts campaign. Or, to introduce new or emerging businesses and other newcomers in the community to your institution, programs and services. Or, incorporate the process in your “planned giving” planning. Or, or, or… you’ll find a dozen ways to incorporate this process in all of your fundraising.
The First Step – Takes WAY Longer than 15 Minutes
The 15 Minute CP Prospecting Session works if you’ve already created your development plan, which includes a cultivation plan. Ideally, your cultivation plan includes opportunities throughout the year that showcases faculty lectures and/or labs, student success and achievements, and specialty labs or classrooms, as well as cultural and athletic activities that reflect the goals in your development plan. Don’t forget to look deeply into your college’s non-credit/workforce development offerings for opportunities to showcase college expertise and innovation.
Then prepare a calendar of cultivation opportunities that you can distribute at your next foundation board meeting.
The Second Step – Really, Truly – Keep it to 15 Minutes or Less
We have found that doing this exercise right at the beginning of your foundation board meeting creates all kinds of energy, setting a positive tone for the rest of the meeting.
Remember, keep the session simple to keep it short. Only work on 2 or 3 cultivation opportunities at each meeting.
Title a board or flip chart with each of the cultivation opportunities you identified in your calendar.
- Cultivation opportunity that would entice donors to meet on campus
(remember… this opportunity ties into the development plan goal)
Each opportunity will then have the following headers:
- Name of Donor
- Board Member Here Who Will Bring Donor to Campus (No nomination of board members who aren’t present!)
- Other Organizations Donor is Known to Support (this helps you match cultivation activities that might align with the donor’s philanthropic interests)
- Potential Range of Gift
This process should happen quickly. You don’t have to set dates or make the schedule there (unless the cultivation event is already a set date). You might have 0-4 donors for each of your cultivation events. It’s ok if you don’t have any takers for a specific cultivation event. All the planning for the on-campus visits take place later. This is just a quick way to link board members to donors that lead to cultivation opportunities.
The Third Step – Again Longer than 15 Minutes, but FUN FUN FUN
Planning a visit obviously takes some time. Ideally, you’ve arranged everything so that your board member can simply offer the invitation and accompany the donor. Where you have a set cultivation activity and the date is not flexible, it’s great to turn it into a “mini special event” with no more than 6 prospective donors and 2 or 3 board members.
These intimate cultivation events are where your board members can really get “on board.” Don’t make “an ask” on the tour. Let your prospect become fully engaged and let your board member be the “host.” If you can, walk your donor across campus during a busy time when classes let out, or through the student union or library.
Afterwards both you and your board member should write notes thanking the prospective donor for taking time to come to campus and to ask if they have any questions. Further follow-up should continue to reflect your foundation’s development plan.
Over time, your board members become mini-experts on particular programs or services that they introduce to prospective donors. And that pays off in the community as they “talk up” the college and programs naturally in conversations.
After a while, as success builds and funding starts impacting programs and services, faculty and program directors actually begin to come to you with ideas for engaging prospective donors.