“They Are Wonderful People, They Just Don’t Do Anything!”

The slightly tongue-in-cheek title of my presentation at the 2015 CASE Conference for Community College Advancement was “They Are Wonderful People, They Just Don’t Do Anything: Dealing expertly with passive, uninspired, underperforming, worn-out, and sometimes fossilized boards.”

In keeping with this lighter take on a serious subject I took an informal poll of the audience, asking which of seven paradigms of dysfunction most afflicted their foundation boards. The options were:

  1. They grandstand
  2. They are asleep
  3. They have a commander-in-chief chair
  4. They have warring factions
  5. Fundraising terrifies them
  6. Change is evil
  7. They don’t do anything

And the winner was… Fundraising terrifies them! And it’s a small wonder, I think, given that community college board members often don’t really know much about what is required of a board member when they agree to serve. They mostly have a vague notion about taking on a volunteer community involvement assignment that includes some meetings and attending a gala.

And that, largely, is our fault. The role of the community college foundation board is to secure resources in support the mission of the college. Yes, they govern as a board, but advancement—securing resources—is not governance per se. They need to know the ropes. In order to avoid semi-futile attempts to cat-herd a reluctant board toward functionality, it helps to foster individual comprehension of what it takes to be an effective board member. That is, they need to know what they are in for before they ever join your board.

You can’t just throw people on the board and hope it works out. And while the board has self-determining governing functions, it is the responsibility of the chief development officer and the college president to exert influence in collaboration with the foundation board leadership to constantly improve the effectiveness of the board.

As a corollary to that notion, you cannot leave a foundation board to its own devices. They need professional direction to direct their efforts to secure resources. They need to know that their primary role will be that of ambassador. That is to say, they will be asked to represent the mission of the college directly and personally to individuals in their sphere of influence who control community and personal resources. They need to understand that they will be armed with stories of student achievement, perseverance, and success. They will know a little something about the challenges, hopes, aspirations, and goals of the college.

So, again, what is the primary role of a college foundation board member? Ambassador to the community for a cause. That’s simple enough.

In the world of advancement, ambassadors cultivate donor prospects. This is often difficult for uninitiated board members because they fear that cultivation might damage their standing with peers, business associates, and friends. The notion of ambassadorship helps to clarify the boundaries and parameters of this endeavor. Ambassadors look outward. They open doors. They bring influential people together with the president, where it is the job of the president to articulate the mission and activities of the college with passion and authority.

We need to anticipate that board members who do not receive a comprehensive orientation to the role they are being asked to fulfill will be terrified of fundraising. We need to address that fear with a coherent set of relationship and messaging “cue cards” to imbue their interactions with their own sense of comfort and ownership.

Ambassadors must look outward, that much we know. And while I am happy to have a board member who is uncomfortable with cultivation if he or she is a major donor—because such leadership by example is priceless—we need to get the right people on the bus, and in the right seats, when it comes to advancement.

So if you find your board is terrified of fundraising, consider a formal initiative to address the root causes, and begin with recruiting the right people and giving them the gift of formal orientation to the role of ambassador. That should prove to be a good start on a neverending journey.

 

When “Educating” is the Same as Propaganda

This originally appeared on Steve Klingaman’s Open Salon blog.

A 2011 report that the IRS sent letters warning of possible gift tax liabilities to big donors to 501(c)4 nonprofit social welfare organizations shines a bit of light on a much-abused segment of the nonprofit world. Social welfare organizations have become the recipients of hundreds of millions of dollars in recent election cycles, and all indications are that this is just a drop in the bucket.

The New York Times reported on May 12, 2011 that the IRS sent letters to five donors to 501(c)4s informing them that their contributions may be subject to gift taxes because the groups were political in nature. The tax rate is hefty — 35 percent.

Traditional charities, known as 501(c)3s, are eligible to receive tax-deductible gifts. In exchange, they are enjoined from substantial political participation, and the participation to which they are entitled must be reported to the IRS. Social welfare organizations on the other hand are entitled to spend money to influence legislation related to their missions. They are, however, enjoined from supporting or opposing specific candidates. It is this area that has turned increasingly cloudy in the post-Citizens United, anything-goes era.

In a time in which billionaires like David H. Koch may donate millions to Americans for Prosperity to influence political races, the issue increasingly matters. What’s more, these contributions may be made anonymously, so, for example, corporations can effectively launder their political contributions through (c)4s without risking alienating their customers.

But are (c)4s being abused in a wholesale manner? If you look at the IRS rulebook for (c)4s, the answer appears to be yes, at least if one adheres to the historically accepted definition of the term “social welfare.” Here’s how the IRS restricts the political involvement of this class of nonprofits:

Seeking legislation germane to the organization’s programs is a permissible means of attaining social welfare purposes. Thus, a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization may further its exempt purposes through lobbying as its primary activity without jeopardizing its exempt status…. In addition, a section 501(c)(4) organization that engages in lobbying may be required to either provide notice to its members regarding the percentage of dues paid that are applicable to lobbying activities or pay a proxy tax. For more information, see Lobbying Issues.

The promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. However, a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity. However, any expenditure it makes for political activities may be subject to tax under section 527(f). For further information regarding political and lobbying activities of section 501(c) organizations, see Election Year IssuesPolitical Campaign and Lobbying Activities of IRC 501(c)(4), (c)(5), and (c)(6) Organizations, and Revenue Ruling 2004-6.

Lobbying is okay, thus the lack of a tax deductibility of the gift. But things get murkier in the second paragraph: “The promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.” Political advertising that opposes candidates for public office is routinely cloaked in a thin layer of issue-related language while the primary intent of the messaging is clearly apparent — the defeat of a particular candidate, or group of candidates. This type of guerrilla messaging is very much the primary purpose of most political (c)4s. If the goal is to take back the Senate, the tactic is to defeat a number of “particular candidates.”

The IRS intent regarding the missions of (c)4s is pretty clear. IRS rules state:

To be operated exclusively to promote social welfare, an organization must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community (such as by bringing about civic betterment and social improvements).

One example of such a mission offered by IRS rules is an organization that operates for the benefit of a class of rental tenants. Nonetheless, terms like “common good” and “general welfare of the people” are pretty broad, and it’s easy to see how they form the loophole through which broad political participation has been masked by such generalities.

Here’s what it comes down to: “We promote the general good by advocating a moratorium on ever raising taxes again, and by implicitly attacking any party that would raise them. And we do it by educating the public.” That’s pretty much how political and ideological (c)4s operate.

All of their political messaging is characterized as education. I have reviewed (c)4 tax returns of politically inspired groups; this is how they tend to characterize their spending. So what is the difference between educating and advocacy or, more to the point, propaganda? That is what the IRS should determine with sufficient clarity to define actual practice in the field.

A grassroots (c)4 group that attempts to improve living conditions for a broad class of renters by occasionally participating in the legislative process, introducing model legislation and lobbying for specific bills, is a far cry from the political machines (c)4s have become. If promoting social welfare is to be synonymous with pure politics, then let’s change IRS regulations to say so.

The brouhaha over gift tax applicability to (c)4 gifts will either be settled in tax court or by legislation. It is a virtually a foregone conclusion that aggressive IRS actions toward (c)4 donors will result in Congress passing an exception to the rule that would allow big gifts to circumvent any tax liabilities. So much for the extra revenue IRS agents were apparently eying. But the larger question about political abuses of the structure of nonprofit social welfare organizations is one that should be scrutinized if this part of nonprofit law and practice is to have any ethical moorings in the political process.

[This article has been edited for brevity by the author since original publication.]

 

What Philanthropy Can Learn from Kickstarter

My daughter, actress and singer Lenne Klingaman, is on the home stretch of a $10,000 Kickstarter campaign to fund her debut album.

Lenne's Kickstarter cover image

Small fish in a very big pond: Lenne’s Kickstarter cover image

It occurred to me from the moment we discussed the campaign (full disclosure: I am a co-producer), that it is similar, and radically dissimilar from a philanthropy-based campaign—so much so that I wasn’t even sure what I had to offer Lenne in this endeavor. And that was all to the good, because this was Lenne’s baby and she took full responsibility for its success or failure. The experience, still in progress with seven exciting days to go, serves to reinforce some precepts of development, and to upend others. So what were a few of these takeaways?

http://dolesashfarm.co.uk/?komynalka=dating-christian-men-in-the-church&1b1=49 People give to people with a dream: So why do people give to fund other people’s passion projects? To be a part of a quest, I think. To identify and live, not vicariously, but in solidarity with people who dare to step out from conveyor-belt jobs and buck seemingly overwhelming economic odds to make something big happen in their professional or artistic lives. The product is the outcome, but the process, the journey, is almost the bigger draw. It’s a dream thing.

site rencontre affinitГ© culturelle Confronting the odds draws support: Kickstarter has an ingenious system of requiring a goal, and if backers do not sign on in sufficient numbers, none of the credit card pledges can be redeemed. And it’s all very public. The potential for humiliation is there. There is even a Kickstarter analytics site that minces no words in its algorithmic judgments. For artists whose networks are composed of other artists, those are daunting terms. It forces people to think long and hard about their goals. It creates a real drama with nuanced developments in the early phase, the mid-campaign “flats”, and the dramatic run-up to the end, where Lenne is right now. That drama draws interest, and interest draws support.

tristan baldridge austin tx dating site Youth is a huge draw: As I witness the age difference between some of the larger donors and Lenne, I conclude that youth draws support. It’s a way to give something back and identify with earlier dreams and dramas of one’s life. Let’s keep in mind that for people living by their art, or working in certain types of jobs to support their art, this is real money. So backers, donors, investors—a bit of all three really—are making a difference that magnifies the impact of their gifts—and that is no small thing.

Lenne makes her case on on video in Nashville.

Lenne makes her case on video in Nashville.

humorous dating tips Tell a personal story, and tell it with video: It amazing what you can do with an iPhone video camera these days. Lenne composed a narrative about going to Nashville to mix the album, and took the viewer on an adventure. The story was immediate, personal, and it was a real adventure. It was palpable. Her words, her inflections, her delight, the way she talked with her hands, were all immediate, compelling “pulls” in the narrative arc. I think we too often forget in philanthropy that the immediacy, the direct authenticity, of real people talking and being is what elicits empathetic action. Not organization-speak. And maybe, in the future, video is the only way to go. Direct mail, email—they pale in comparison. But what we say and how we do it, that is the crux of the issue. We perhaps should never again need to watch a stiff executive director bore us with the benefits of the new [Fill-in-theBlank] center.

lugares para ligar solteros Make the benefits personal: People who give a dollar maybe get a single song download, people who give more get an autographed record…vinyl! People who give even more get their name on the CD. People who more than that, for artists who tour, like Willie Porter, who raised $60,000 on a Kickstarter campaign, enter a raffle with very impressive odds to win a house concert by the artist. The Kickstarter artist thanks many, many donors in strikingly imaginative ways.

discover this People know they’re making a difference: Small, discrete projects with identifiable goals make everyone a hero in the end. It’s not like giving to an amorphous Annual Fund goal, or even a graduating class goal. In Kickstarter’s universe the project doesn’t happen if you don’t give. It’s that immediate and direct—it’s cause and effect. I think in development we sometimes pull out last year’s script, rewrite a few paragraphs, and say please give to the scholarship fund. There’s no real there there. There is no tangible cause and effect. Perhaps we need to sponsor particular educations. Thinking more directly about the real end effect of donations is a powerful tool, and bureaucratic exhortations are no substitute for a compelling mission—in this case a personal mission.

single wohnung vlotho Kickstarter cuts out the middleman—you: Many of these projects—and they are not crowdfunded, they are funded by individuals—are exactly the type that arts, technology, or innovation grants could fund—but don’t. Those grants require a brand name and mind-numbing applications for largesse that pales in comparison with what Willie Porter raises on his own and with no red tape. These dreams people come up with are mission-based in every sense of the word. And in Kickstarter’s logic, donor fatigue doesn’t exist. People give to projects—and yes, clearly, people—in which they believe. So it’s different than philanthropy—for the love of humankind—it’s personal, giving to an actual person, or band maybe. That’s different, yes. But the fundamental pitch is: if you want to see this promising project become a reality, you have to give. And it’s true, it’s not hype. And that’s not so far from the roots of philanthropy. The fact is, it’s a quiet revolution in the quest for inspiring donors to give of themselves for initiatives that matter; and I wonder, are we paying attention, not to new principles exactly, though that is to some extent true, but to direct applications of universal principles, aided by new technology, and grounded in our deepest, direct, person-to-person social impulses?

* * *

www.kickstarter.com/projects/lenneklingaman/lenne-klingaman-the-heart-is-the-hunter

The Perils of a Staff-Driven Advancement Program

The classic public higher ed advancement model is built on the triad of the college president, the foundation board, and the professional development staff. If the triad is in place and functioning well, do everything you can to maintain its effectiveness. If it is not in place, do everything to can to support the formation of the triad.

Without the president and board onboard you have a staff-driven program, and with a staff-driven program you limit your revenue to 50% of potential. You can do a lot of things right, and effectively, and still have a staff-driven program. You may have a strong Annual Fund and grants program, but you will have a weak major gifts program.

When you limit your revenue to 50% of potential you become irrelevant. That is, you cease to matter in the power dynamic of the college. You won’t receive an adequate budget or sufficient attention to get the job done. If advancement isn’t an engine, it’s a caboose. If advancement is the caboose, it will fail.

When I refer to the engine, I mean the resource engine, that term Jim Collins talks about. The major gifts program is more potent resource engine of the development program, as compared to the Annual Fund, and, it goes without saying, special events. Yet the Annual Fund must be well established for the major gifts program to launch. So there is hope for anyone running a staff-driven program raising most of the annual revenue from the Annual Fund. You just have to shift the dynamics of the advancement triad to put the president front and center and the foundation board firmly—and actively—behind you.

I wrote about engaging the president in my last blog entry. As to engaging the foundation board, you might refer to Tip #19 in my book: “Members of effective boards actively support the fundraising activities of the Annual Fund and make it a priority for personal involvement.”

After that, major gifts!

Why Should a President Worry About Fundraising?

The tenure of presidencies and upper-level management positions appeared, at least from anecdotal evidence, to be shortening. The causes were many: greater geographic mobility; a shifting in roles (for example, the increased emphasis on fundraising…)

~Nan Ottenritter “Historic Overview of the AACC Competencies,” p.2. New Directions for Community Colleges series

Really? Fundraising as an essential leadership skill and core competency?

Yes, and it’s been a long time since four-year colleges incorporated this expectation into the job descriptions for college presidents. Yet, the community college sector has been slow to uniformly adopt the notion that community college presidents must “learn” philanthropy.  I talk to community college presidents about seeing themselves as “CPOs.”  That is, Chief Philanthropy Officer: managing the process internally, by way of supporting (and funding) a professional advancement staff and using the bully pulpit of the presidency to build meaningful constituencies for advancement within the college.  Even more important is for the president to be active  cultivating  and closing major gifts and launching the campaigns to secure those gifts.

Too often, we talk to ourselves too much, rather than reaching out the to community that supports us.  In some two-year colleges, the term advancement doesn’t even entail development or philanthropy.  This is certainly a departure from the dominant usage of the term in higher education.

Legendary Yankees Manager Billy Martin once said that preparation always shows itself in the spontaneity of the moment.  The magic of college presidents encouraging prospective donors to make major gifts begins with embracing advancement and philanthropy as a core competency of the president. In the case of philanthropy, preparation means learning how these executive-level skills fit into the presidential suite. The relationship development, the actual relationships, and even friendships, that arise from active donor engagement lead to the seemingly spontaneous magic moments when a donor makes the decision to give. The ease of those interactions begins with a sea change in how presidents view their jobs and their personal relationship to the mission of their colleges.

So yes, fundraising is a core competency for every college president, and if the idea has been a long time coming to the two-year college sector, it is here to stay.

The Problem with Special Events

Opportunity Cost, Transactional Displacement, & the ROI on Staff Time

A word on the origins of our dependence on events: in terms of fundraising tradition, this dependence arises  from a grassroots board and a lack of staff. I advocate that we talk about mission instead. When I hear of a strong dependence on special events, the warning flags go up. We have to look at the opportunity cost of events–of what I call transactional displacement.

Transactional displacement is the displacement of mission-based, purposeful cultivation by event-related fundraising transactions. This includes “selling tables,” “selling sponsorships,” and rounding up auction items. It can become similar to a retail transaction, unrelated to the mission-based story of changing and transforming lives.  And when event participants are done with the event, they are sometimes done with you until next year. They think they’ve done their part.

And we have to look at the ROI on staff time. It usually is lower with events than with other forms of direct cultivation. The higher your gross, the greater your dependence, the more difficult it will be to shift your paradigm. At a certain revenue point, change becomes nearly impossible; you are locked in.

So unless you are raising a lot of money on events, you might want to rethink your reliance on them, and instead think about raising money using the collegiate development model.

The CASE Interview: Advice for Building a Strong Advancement Program

Rereading this March 2012 interview recently reminded me that the more things change, the more we talk about the same confounding paradigm shift. I wrote awhile back in a grant analysis for a consortium of national corporate foundations that community college advancement programs tended to fall into two groups: those that “get it,” and those that sort of “get it” but don’t act. In that study, I found that 50% of colleges “got it,” with performance that correlated to that comprehension. Today, as I consider the sector as a whole, I think everyone could go farther faster, but I particularly worry about the colleges that fall into the lower 50%. It turns out that the dynamics I touched on in an interview that coincided with the publication of my book remain at the center of discussion in the current moment.

 

CASE: Given the uniqueness of community colleges and the diversity of individuals they serve, why do you think they should adopt techniques used by four-year institutions?

Klingaman: My nine-year experience as campaign director at a two-year technical college proved to me that the paradigm works.  That said, two-year colleges need to adapt techniques used by four-year institutions before they adopt them. My book covers these adaptations in detail.  But when you look at academic fundraising as a whole, the techniques of the private primary and secondary education sectors share much in common with collegiate fundraising.  The core is the academic fundraising model.  One big difference between two-year and four-year experiences is the degree to which people remain loyal to their alma maters.  I advise two-year colleges to help their alumni celebrate academic beginnings as well as graduations.

CASE: You note that you’re often shocked to hear about the state of many community college fundraising programs, which you say go through the motions without achieving defensible outcomes. Why do you think community colleges should pay more attention to metrics like return on investment? And, with this shift, what else about their fundraising culture should change?

Klingaman: Metrics begin with mission and stewardship. If we are going to devote precious resources to two-year college advancement, we should adhere to standards that exist throughout the nonprofit sector.  Fundraising costs should not exceed 25 percent to 30 percent of gross fundraising revenues, and it doesn’t matter if the college is paying the foundation program expenses. It’s not what shows up on the Form 990; it’s what we know to be the real ROI on development dollars spent. That’s stewardship. What gets measured gets done, and what gets done, gets noticed. Colleges that can show significant ROI on their advancement programs will thrive for the reasons that all well-resourced philanthropic missions do.

The degree of culture change required depends on baseline advancement performance. But if you want to create a high-performing advancement program raising a million or two million dollars a year, it will have to become a top five, or better, top three priority of the leadership culture.

CASE: You suggest that a community college designing a development program should avoid holding gala events and instead focus on establishing an annual fund. Why do you think this is a better investment? Also, when are events appropriate as a fundraising tool?

Klingaman: An annual fund is a better investment from an ROI standard. You have to take personnel costs into account when you evaluate development performance. If you are tying up three or four months around an event, the real net plummets. When you look at the performance of a major gifts program, you calculate the investment of staff time against the revenues. In addition, the opportunity cost of events is exceedingly high. You displace a range of other giving opportunities when you focus on events, including employee annual giving, giving clubs and major gifts.  It’s more productive to lead with the mission, cultivate personally and close gifts where you can put 100 percent of the gift toward the mission.  Then thank people at a recognition event.

Events are appropriate as a fundraising tool when they augment mature programs, serve niche needs and can be proven not to cannibalize other, more potentially productive programs. But if you are relying on events, the more successful they are, the more dependent on them you become.

CASE: You write that, ideally, a community college should make development “a top-three institutional priority” and that its president and foundation board should lend active support to the development initiative. Why is this kind of institutional and personal commitment important for development success?

Klingaman: Development must be a top priority of the institution to overcome the inertia that surrounds nascent, or stagnant, programs.  Fundraising—development—is hard work.  I always say you don’t do it unless you have to.  Without a significant leadership commitment on the part of the president, the leadership team and the foundation board, you end up, even under the best of circumstances, with a staff-driven program that raises perhaps 50 percent of your potential. Or you revert to special events. But the involvement and active interest of the president is key, absolutely key.  Any college that wants to raise a million dollars a year—and up—must have an escalating commitment from the president. Think 15 to 20 percent of the president’s time—and that’s for starters.

For many colleges, meaningful advancement is a challenging new world. But the proven effectiveness of leading with mission, creating personalized cultivation, building a diversified program, and closing gifts to support essential programs remains viable regardless of the intrinsic challenges experienced by the sector.  It’s a new frontier, but public secondary education is joining the fray, and it will be a more competitive universe in the future. The two-year sector needs to claim its rightful place in the philanthropic world because its mission as the gateway to the middle class is so essential.

Why Reinvent the Wheel?

One scenario I encounter in my interactions with community colleges is a tendency to want to invent advancement program activities from scratch. Why do so many community college development professionals figure that need to reinvent the wheel? I think it has something to do with the fact the many community college development professionals are relatively new to their roles. They may have a history in development, but they don’t have a history in the collegiate model of development, or in community college development shops.

The second reason they seem to lean toward going it alone is that they don’t consider how similar their institutions are to other community colleges. The gap between the highest performing community college advancement programs and those that have barely begun is astonishing. And those who are new to the game could save years of start-up time by systematically benchmarking with institutions that are relatively advanced in comparison.

It doesn’t do much good to benchmark with another institution that is new to the game. If you want to learn about alumni relations, find an institution that has a robust alumni relations program. How to find one or two? Check out their foundation websites. Talk to colleagues at conferences. Check in with the community college in your state system that is raising the most money. Sign up for CASE webinars.

The easiest way to get ahead is to imitate those who are ahead. The biggest obstacle to doing that is usually that the start-up institution has yet to commit the resources to achieving desired programmatic goals. There are no magic outcomes. Getting ahead in advancement requires investment in trained personnel and systems.

Many emerging advancement shops make piecemeal investments in desired outcomes and then wonder why achieving their goals comes so slowly.

If you want to see how the pros do it, benchmark against smaller or rural state college or university advancement programs. The assumption that holds community colleges back is that they think they have nothing in common with four-year college advancement. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is not so much a difference in kind as it is a difference of degree and type.

Alumni are alumni everywhere. The same fundamental dynamics are in play. Yes, the specific applications and solutions you choose will vary from the four-college program, but only incrementally. And the manner in which you tailor your alumni engagement effort allows for a significant level of creativity to flow into the mix. And that can be fun—and easier than reinventing the wheel.

If nothing else, benchmark with a four-year college on how they track their alumni. I have seen scores of community colleges struggle with this aspect of development readiness. Four-year colleges had to wrestle with the same questions. And once upon a time they had to invest in tracking their alumni or suffer depressed outcomes for years at a time.

So when it comes to keeping the wheels rolling smoothly, consider the value of not trying to invent them from scratch!

 

“Five Ideas for Fifty Thousand”—for the Community College with the Tiniest Shop—or One That Doesn’t Even Have a Shop

como conocer parejas de otro pais Rudimentary as this is, it outperforms the net on many special events

site de rencontre msn messenger Employee Leadership Giving:  Even without a complete employee annual giving program, you can launch a giving initiative that focuses on the top leadership team of the college. Because these gifts can be in the $200 – $1,000 range, this simple effort can yield $5,000 to $10,00o.

http://highschool.isq.edu.mx/cr45/347/assets/js/7740 Board Giving:  Every board should give at a rate of 100%. The board Ask should start at $1,000 and go up or down from there. Yield: $15,000

Grants:  Most community colleges have grant programs in place, upon which we can leverage new proposals to private funders using a standard template for operating or scholarship support. Yield: $10,000

President’s Personal Asks:  Every president knows 5 to 10 community leaders who can be approached directly for gifts. When the president asks, the importance of the initiative is reinforced. Yield:  $7,500

Board Asking Peers: Every board member knows one or two people who can be approached for a gift in the $100 to $1000 range. I call this an “Each One Ask One” campaign.   In my book, I discuss a more robust version of this approach in context of a board-initiated giving program. A single prospect, a single Ask, and a single follow-up on the part of the board member is all it takes. It is a way to build a volunteer culture and reinforce the importance of the mission to the board. Yield:  $7,500

Total Yield: $50,000

These techniques will work for a college that has little in the way of a fundraising program in place. If you need help, a consultant can help tailor the initiative to the needs of a particular college via a phone conversation with the chief development officer or president of the college.

It’s Time to Focus on Individual Giving

More than 80 cents of every dollar given to charity comes from individuals. In good times and bad, that figure remains remarkably constant. Historically, the precise number has hovered around 83 cents per dollar raised.

Community college fundraising, however, has tended to rely on institutional giving, primarily from business and foundations, for as much as two-thirds of philanthropic revenue.

This means that opportunity abounds when it comes to donor cultivation of individuals. The sector would do well to refocus much of its attention and investment in advancement to target individual major gift prospects. This means that the major gift officer position needs to become the norm in two-year college advancement shops.

Many shops are too small to succeed in this regard. And these two- or three-professional shops often have several thorny issues that tend to be endemic. They are:

  • The chief development officer (CDO) is too wrapped up in administrative duties and meetings to meet with prospects.
  • The program has a special events focus that occupies most of the staff for most of the year.
  • Foundation staff is preoccupied with a portfolio of activities that are relatively ineffective from an ROI perspective.

Classic donor pyramid logic informs us that we need to expand the base and move ‘em up. That means we need to focus primarily on individuals. We need to test the commitment level of loyal Annual Fund donors by cultivating them to make special gifts—that giving category one step up from their baseline Annual Fund gift amounts. This often means gifts of $1,000 to $5,000. They are not quite major gifts. Nor are they gifts for which you just send out a personalized letter if indeed they are a stretch commitment for the donor.

We need to remember that stretch capacity and stretch commitment are two different things. It is hardly rocket science to observe that donors who have the capacity to give at a higher level but don’t simply don’t have the commitment, the donative intent. We foster the commitment by cultivating special gifts as if they were major gifts. And, with time, and attention, and properly qualified prospects, they will.

So if I was setting up a major gifts program in a college that is still testing its individual giving prospects, I would have my major gifts officer take a portfolio of some special gift prospects in addition to his or her bona fide major gifts prospects.

The takeaway? People step up to the plate when they are asked to do so, in the context of mutually informed conversations, (not necessarily pitches) where the donor’s wide world of philanthropic opportunities is acknowledged and respected. Very often, the key to a donor’s interest is not what you say, but in how you listen and respond in such a manner that shows that you really did listen.

It’s an advancement perspective that is refined by constant practice. If the advancement staff is only making, in the aggregate, two or three face-to-face donor contacts a week, it will be mighty hard to build the necessary momentum for an institutional major gifts emphasis.

But the time for such a focus has arrived throughout the sector, and you can’t argue with the reality that the real money is in the hands of individual donors.