Nothing is impossible! Gerd Altman@Pixabay
We have two grown children. Back in the day when they were still impressionable, we made sure they were exposed to fine entertainment. And by “fine” I mean “Saturday Night Live.” We still have DVDs of our faves: Chris Farley, Will Ferrell, and Phil Hartman. But there’s one skit, “Girlfriends Talk Show,” that gets quoted often in our household. It must be said in a Valley Girl dialect, “Am I right, guys? Awesome.” So, in that spirit…
Every organization or church needs money. Am I right, guys? Awesome. Mostly, you need money to keep the doors open to accomplish the fabulous work that you do. Those are called operating expenses. But sometimes, you need money for something tangible (known as “brick and mortar”) that’s not included in the budget – those are called capital expenses.
This was my recent experience with a relatively small capital campaign.
The Pentacle Theatre has been around for 65 years. Times change and so does the equipment that’s required for local community theater. Several decades old, the sound equipment needed replacing. We determined that the budget for the new equipment and installation was $65,000.
We had one fabulous donor who said he’d put up $10,000 for a challenge match (meaning if we raised $10,000, he’d give $10,000). He also agreed to write a letter to our donors about the need for new sound equipment. When I met with our Development Committee to talk about the appeal letter, I was dubious about asking for $65,000. Common practice says that you should have at least 50% of your money raised for a capital campaign before going public.
“Maybe we should be asking for $30,000 and not $65,000. I don’t want people to think the goal is too big to meet.” “Nope,” was the reply. “Go ask for the full amount.” I was, to say the least, nervous.
The appeal letter went to our donors in early July (you can read it here), generating about $30,000 (we wrote some special letters to our high-end donors too).
At our 65th Anniversary Celebration on July 13th, there was an ask and another donor challenge: raise $3,000 and I’ll give $3,000. That brought in nearly $7,000.
Then another long-time donor wanted to help finish up the project. Their Family Foundation pledged to release $20,000 once $45,000 was raised. We were so close! We let donors know via emails and social media. We even sent another email to previous donors and some of them generously donated again (one person donated three times).
Last week, we were still $1,400 short of our $65,000 goal. Surprise! There was one last challenge – an anonymous donor pledged $700 if we could raise the final $700. A group text was sent to the Pentacle Board to let them know. A board member responded: “I’ll do it myself! Put it on my card!!”
I was crying tears of joy.
$65,000 (now $66,335) from 165 donors and 180 gifts in two months. That’s awesome. Am I right, guys?
Five things I learned:
1. Never underestimate donors and their generosity.
2. Challenge gifts work.
3. You can ask for a second donation.
4. Donors need to trust who’s running the show. (Shout out to Lisa, the Pentacle E.D.)
5. Don’t let yourself get in the way of a worthy goal.
O me of little faith. How lucky to have braver people than me to say “yes” to what seemed like a huge goal. Here’s to setting your sights high and believing in your donors and congregants and their generosity. Am I right guys?
Originally posted September 4, 2019.