Securing the Lead Gift

Praying HandsBy Wayne Spaulding

Getting a Capital Campaign off to a strong start is essential to success. Securing lead gifts are part of a strong start because of the substantial impact they have. Lead gifts set the standard for all gifts by establishing a benchmark for inspired generosity. They propel campaigns towards successful kick-offs, boost volunteer morale and inspire the congregations’ confidence.

Yet, campaign leadership sometimes haltingly transitions from Feasibility Study to Campaign. The hesitation often relates to securing lead gifts. Leaders are reluctant to pursue potential lead gift donors. They are apprehensive about asking for a substantial commitment and uncertain of the response they’ll receive. It’s a natural reaction, if you’re not prepared for the task.

Securing a lead gift is really no different from securing a pledge from any member of the congregation. The donor must:

  • Be Inspired by the proposed project/plan,
  • Believe the project/plan can be accomplished, and
  • Be Motivated to do their part to make it happen

Prayer plays an important part in this process of Inspiration, Belief and Motivation. Leaders of the campaign must pray daily for guidance and support, but they must also encourage others to include the campaign’s project/plan in their prayers. It’s no secret, members of the congregation who give prayerful consideration to the project/plan are more likely to give prayerful consideration to pledging.

As leaders of a capital campaign, opportunities to make our congregation aware of our proposed plans and projects are available. As we use our various communication channels to alert our members to the possibility of a capital campaign, we must make praying for guidance their obligation. This produces a firm spiritual foundation for a campaign while advancing our strategic approach to securing member pledges.

Simply getting our membership to pray is a start, but not enough. The better informed the congregation is, the more likely they are to pledge. This is demonstrated by the strong correlation between focus group attendance and pledging. As leadership focuses on potential lead gift donors, it is critical to secure their attendance at one or multiple focus group gatherings. General promotion of focus group attendance that runs throughout the Feasibility Study is a first line of attendance generation.

This needs to be supplemented by targeted outreach to key members of the congregation. Those who have substantial influence as opinion shapers and the means to make a lead gift must be roused through direct contact to attend. This effort can also include follow-up where selected attendees are contacted for their personal critique and additional input. Getting a better handle on where opinion shapers and donors of means actually stand on the Inspiration, Belief and Motivation spectrum allows development of tailored pledge visits.

The true gateway to generous giving is through participation. Again, it’s no secret, the more involved a person is the more likely they will give generously. As we reach out to potential volunteers, it is important to first formulate a “tactical” approach. Initial requests for volunteer time should be for activities that are beyond the potential volunteers “comfort zone.” By stretching their “abilities” into new areas they will experience personal and spiritual growth. The growth is directly attributed to the campaign and will be rewarded. Often by a supplemental pledge to the original.

When the “reach” associated with an “outside the comfort zone” task is too great, there must be a fall back task in the tactical approach. There may come a moment in the conversation when the recruiter realizes the candidate is not on board. Before the recruit can completely decline participation, offer an alternative. An alternative is often grabbed by the recruit as a graceful escape and the campaign has a key donor actively involved in the fund raising process.

To summarize, it is essential that congregants of means be identified early in the process. They must be encouraged, along with the entire congregation, to seek through prayer guidance on the path their church should take and what role they should play. Their participation in the Feasibility Study should be monitored and supplemented with additional outreach. And finally, critical members should be actively recruited to participate as a volunteer. Remember, never separate the spiritual foundation of a campaign from the strategies for it’s conduct.

If these simple steps are followed, members will demonstrate extravagant generosity when you ask them to join you in support of the capital campaign.

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