When a nonprofit organization decides to undertake a capital campaign, it has most likely identified a need and developed a project to address that need. Usually, the campaign is designed to resource the project. For many organizations, information about the project is first shared with key supporters during a feasibility study. A feasibility study when a third party gathers feedback to evaluate the viability of the fundraising goal and then recommends a path forward. But waiting until a feasibility interview to engage with prospective donors may be missing a critical opportunity to build donor engagement. Here are some ways you can build donor engagement before you start a campaign.
Prior to the feasibility study, you should be talking with key donors and close stakeholders about your project. Talk about the need you see and your plans for addressing it. These conversations are an opportunity to ask for something often overlooked in donor relationship building—advice.
A key part of our relationships with donors is building trust. When we ask donors for their feedback and advice, we are signaling that we trust them and value their opinion. Certainly, donors can have relevant business knowledge or other nonprofit experience that can help you strengthen your project or development strategy. When donors are invited to participate in the early stages of the process, they feel a sense of ownership and are invested in seeing the project fulfilled.
To maximize your pre-feasibility engagement, consider these two key ideas:
Pre-feasibility conversations are a great way to begin building a pipeline of campaign volunteers. These are the people who will help you identify and cultivate prospective donors. Donors and stakeholders who show strong enthusiasm and support for the project should be considered as future campaign volunteers. You should be working to ensure diversity among campaign volunteers by intentionally engaging with a broad representation of community members early on. Building relationships with people in the community served will not only confirm you have the right project but will also increase buy-in and help ensure you will have a wider reach.
It’s not possible or wise to act on every piece of feedback shared in pre-feasibility conversations. You should pay attention to widely held concerns or misconceptions about the proposed project. Questions raised in these early discussions can also be helpful in developing talking points and FAQs. This will ensure staff and campaign volunteers are consistently answering questions when the project moves forward. Significant concerns may also indicate the need for a messaging campaign or changes to the project before you move forward.
As an organization based in a community and asking community members to support your campaign efforts, don’t underestimate the importance of engagement early in the process. Sharing your vision, asking for feedback, and valuing the input of community leaders, donors, and stakeholders are important aspects of the strong project and campaign development.
If you would like more information on how to boost donor retention, check out this blog.
This blog was written by Sandi Frost Steensma from Kennari Consulting. Sandi is the founder of Kennari Consulting, and believes in raising expectations and building connections to create more successful fundraising in a changing landscape. For more information on their consulting services, you can visit www.kennariconsulting.com.
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