Compression Planning, Donor Focused Fundraising, Prospecting

15 Minute Prospecting at Every Board Meeting

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

Post 8_photo example

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.

Another Bonus

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.

Have fun!

Case for Support, Donor Focused Fundraising, Needs Statements

Telling Your Story: Lessons from Aristotle

Sometimes it seems like there is nothing new under the sun. Over 2300 years ago, the great Greek philosopher, Aristotle, proposed that a persuasive – or rhetorical – appeal contained three elements: logospathos, and ethos. These ideas still prevail, and if you analyze any great story or compelling essay, or unforgettable advertisement, you’ll find these same elements.

Everyone knows that in fundraising and grant development, you need a good story. So when you develop you Case for Support or you Need Statement, be sure that you use logospathos and ethos to make your case.

Greek for “word”, logos are facts, data, and verifiable information. They appeal to a reasoned conclusion of needs in your fundraising story: How many students will benefit from this scholarship? How many students will participate in the apprenticeship? How will the unemployment rate be reduced by the new program? Be sure to cite the sources of your data and be sure those sources are credible in themselves. (See how Central Carolina Community College Foundation uses facts in its Case for expansion of the Veterinary Technology Program.)

The root of words like “empathy” and “sympathy,” pathos reflect the emotional impact your story bears upon the listener or reader. It is the human element that grabs the heart; it zooms into the facts until they are crystallized in the real story of a real person. What happened when Angel, single mother of three, graduated from the Nursing Program? Why are dad, son and daughter all enrolled at your community college at the same time? Why does that student walk 4 miles to and from the college every day? (Here’s a good example using video from Grand Rapids Community College Foundation’s website.)

What keeps logos from being dull and pathos from becoming treacly? Ethos – your credibility. These statements will establish why your college is THE community organization that can solve the stated problem. Longevity, past successes, quality of faculty, speed of programmatic development and delivery – these are all ways that express your credibility. Another way of thinking about ethos: what right do you have to claim you can solve the stated problem? Most of the time (and most effectively), your credibility is woven into your logos and pathos, not necessarily a separate statement. However you establish your ethos, though, be sure it’s present in your Need Statement or Case for Support (check out Bucks County Community College’s Case for Support. Click on the links to the PDFs). Without it, you are unconnected to the data (logos) and/or manipulative (pathos).

Test your Case for all the Elements
When I taught freshman English at Cecil College, I often used “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to help students recognize logos, pathos, and ethos in persuasive argument. I asked them to highlight facts and data in blue, phrases that elicited an emotional response in pink, and phrases or statements that established Dr. King’s credibility in yellow. (Often yellow underlined blue and pink highlights.) When you do this exercise with your Case or Need Statement, look for balance, rhythms, crescendos, and coda (I’m trying to keep to musical terms here – in fact, Aristotle’s rhetoric was designed for oration!)

Be Bold. Be Persistent
Remember, writing is hard work. Don’t take my word for it:

“There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.” — Louis Brandeis

“I don’t write; I rewrite”. – Mark Twain


“Language is an improbably powerful thing. It’s just words, after all, in a world full of noise. But certain combinations of words can move mountains and change lives.” – Ron Suskind

Your mission is critical – not just to your community as a whole, but to each individual you touch. You are worthy of philanthropic support. Move YOUR mountain.