Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Practice makes perfect

This week Toni Goodale returns to the NYSD Philanthropy with her Consultant’s Corner. Mrs. Goodale is a veteran-pro fundraiser, having cut her teeth as an alumna of Smith College raising funds for alma mater. One thing led to another, interest led to progress; and more than three decades later Mrs. Goodale is one of the pre-eminent advisers in her field. In these columns which should run about twice a month, she shares the knowledge that experience has provided.

Toni Goodale's Consultant's Corner
Practice makes perfect

During my many years in the fund-raising profession, I have taught hundreds of volunteers how to ask for money by conducting training workshops which use hypothetical scenarios to demonstrate how to prepare for and what to do during the solicitation visit. I have found this to be an effective approach, particularly if you are using volunteers to ask for major gifts in a campaign. Practice will greatly help them overcome fears about soliciting and will reinforce use of the process you advocate.

The workshop, which generally takes approximately three hours, begins with my presentation on why people give and how to solicit; then, groups of volunteers are given descriptions of hypothetical solicitation situations and asked to develop a strategy and presentation. Finally, two representatives of each group “solicit” a staff member, consultant or very experienced volunteer who plays the prospect. After each solicitation, I make some observations and suggestions and then ask the audience for their comments.

Several years ago, I wrote an article for this column that included a couple of examples of these hypothetical scenarios. For those of you who have not been able to participate in or observe any of my workshops since then, I thought it might be helpful to present a few new hypothetical scenarios that have been designed to reflect some of the issues that frequently arise during solicitation visits today. Here are three examples (I have included hypothetical examples of non-profit organizations, so that each scenario is presented in context):

1. The Unfinished World Symphony Orchestra

The Unfinished World Symphony Orchestra has just enjoyed an extremely successful season with standing room only for the exciting new Visiting Conductors Program. A fairly young performing arts organization (started in 1996), the Orchestra appeals to a young crowd of successful people mainly from the world of investment banking. Not yet ready for a capital campaign, the Orchestra is expanding its Annual Fund program to include giving levels of $1,000 and over.

Your prospects are: Mr. and Mrs. Ipaytaxes – “An Upwardly Mobile New York Duo.” Mr. and Mrs. Ipaytaxes, both graduates of The Harvard Business School, are in their early fifties and have an only child who is a musical (piano) prodigy. A mutual friend has informed you that Mr. Ipaytaxes has a passion for sports cars and owns several. After a productive period of time at Morgan Stanhope, he started his own computer software business which has been highly successful.

The Ipaytaxes purchased tickets for this year’s 10th Anniversary Gala, including a note with their reply card expressing excitement over the new general manager. Mrs. Ipaytaxes stated in the note that she wanted to be a concert pianist until she decided to pursue more lucrative professional opportunities at Goldperson Saks. Your mutual friend also believes that they are not involved in a philanthropic way with any other organizations, except the schools they attended.

Although they both agree to meet with you, they decline an interview at their home, opting instead for a fashionable restaurant where they can have a quick 6:00 pm Perrier and get back to their respective offices. You intend to solicit them for a $2,500 contribution to the Annual Fund.

2. The No Settlement Home

The No Settlement Home serves a large population on the lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City. Programs focus on everything from juvenile delinquency to the sick elderly population of this area. The Home has a budget of $5 million a year and an Annual Fund approaching $1 million. Other funds come from fees and government grants. It is now seeking to expand its endowment by $10 million.

Your prospect is: J.C. Golden – “An Impatient Expert." After several rescheduled appointments, J.C. warmly welcomes you into his plush office overlooking New York. He is an extremely successful shipping executive and the son-in-law of the company’s founder, who was still on the Board of the No Settlement Home at the time of his death. With one eye on a row of whirring computers, he apologizes for his busy schedule and chuckles about his hectic life. He travels a great deal and, as a matter of fact, is rushing to catch an evening flight to the Far East.

J.C. has agreed to give you 15 minutes of his time. You are aware that he has been a generous donor to the Annual Fund in the past (his last gift was $5,000) and that he could easily give $50,000 to the endowment over 5 years. However, he has not made a contribution for the past two years. He has been asked to join the Board, but he begged off citing his travel schedule.

As a consolation for your prior inconvenience, he has made certain to prepare for your visit. Reaching across his desk with a flourish, he presents you with his contribution, a check for $5,000 from his personal account. J.C. notes that you will make your “quota” if everybody does his or her share. Commending you for your efforts on behalf of The No Settlement Home, he walks briskly toward the door.

3. The Pleze-Fill-Us Academy

The Pleze-Fill-Us Academy in Boston has a liberal educational philosophy and enjoys a reputation as a pioneer in offering students of both sexes an open learning environment.

Established 90 years ago, the Academy places heavy emphasis on independent study. Its program ranges from nursery though high school, and the enrollment now stands at 600 students. The Academy draws students from all economic levels due to the large number of scholarships available.

The Academy has embarked on a capital campaign of $5 million to support a new early childhood center and renovate and enlarge the central library of the current high school.

Your prospect is: Mr. Izzy Worthmore – “On A Fixed Income.” Mr. Isaiah Worthmore, known to his very few friends as “Izzy,” is the last of a very distinguished Boston family. His great-grandfather, the Rev. I. M. Worthmore, was a pillar of the Boston community. His grandfather, Izaak Worthmore, founded a uniform manufacturing company and for many years controlled the sale of uniforms to the United States Armed Services. Izzy’s father sold the business for $30 million in 1931 and became Chairman of the Board of Harvard University.

Izzy Worthmore’s inheritance, received upon his father’s early death in 1940, was reputed to be in the neighborhood of $40 million. Now Izzy, who never married, lives modestly just outside of Boston, in Lincoln. In the summers, he moves out to the tiny, Spartan bungalow he keeps on Cape Cod, where he paints seascapes. At 79, he is the last of the Worthmores and is in excellent health, although he points out to you that both he and his lawyer think it is prudent to save his money in case he gets ill in his older age. He is very concerned about rising medical costs.

Despite his wealth and the fact that he has given faithfully to the Annual Fund every year since his graduation in 1933 (his last gift was $10,000), Izzy is not known as a philanthropist. He agrees, however, to meet you at his club for lunch. You are seeking a $250,000 gift for your capital campaign.

Training volunteers to solicit is a demanding job, requiring a considerable commitment of staff time. As we all know, however, most large gifts and many small ones are the direct result of formalizing the process and teaching volunteers to ask for the gift in the right way. Workshops can be fun, too; volunteers can get to know each other in a relaxed, and often humorous, setting and walk away more inspired to support your cause. These hypothetical scenarios, and others you may think of, should be versatile enough so that they can be used over and over again to help your volunteer solicitors turn daunting assignments into success stories.