I recently spoke to Ellen, an Executive Director who has been working on a campaign for the last few years and reached out because she’s stuck mid-campaign.
The Importance of Having a Roadmap for Your Capital Campaign
Ellen and her team had successfully raised the first few million dollars toward their goal from a small handful of donors and now they have hit a wall, unable to make any real progress over the last twelve months.
To learn more, I asked Ellen about their feasibility study. To conduct an effective feasibility study, an organization needs to go through a process to identify the best potential donors to interview. If they neglect this process, the study results will be disappointing.
In other words, if you interview people who don’t have potential to make the biggest gifts to your campaign, you will discover you probably can’t raise your goal.
No surprise — Ellen’s feasibility study had disappointing results. But they went ahead with the campaign anyway.
I asked Ellen if she had a list of 30 people who had the potential to give $250K or more. Based on their gift range chart and campaign goal, they would need at least 30 prospects of $250K or more to be successful. Unfortunately, Ellen had no such list.
It’s no wonder their solicitations had come to a virtual halt. They had no roadmap to success and no real path forward.
They weren’t sure who to solicit next. And soliciting gifts of $10,000 was not getting toward their goal in any meaningful way.
The Depth Chart: What It Is and Why It Works
At Capital Campaign Pro, we call the list of prospective donors organized by giving level the depth chart. It’s a simple way to see how deep is your donor bench is.
We ask our clients to have at least two, but ideally three realistic, potential donors for each gift they need on the gift range chart. These top prospects get interviewed in the feasibility study process to deepen their engagement and determine who is the most interested in supporting the project.
Without a depth chart, your campaign has no roadmap to success. The gift range chart paired with the depth chart tells you exactly who to solicit next. These important tools serve as the primary planning documents for your campaign.
The question for most fundraisers is this:
How do we identify the best potential donors, and realistic potential donors, for this chart?
That’s where the hard work of donor identification comes in.
You will use a combination of tools, resources, lists, conversations, and research to identify those donors over a series of meetings and months.
8 Questions … Depth Chart … ?
Start with your own donor list. Look at the largest and most loyal donors (those who have given over many years) and ask yourself these eight questions:
- What do you know about them?
- What do your board members or other committee members know about them?
- Do they make large gifts to other organizations?
- Do they have their names on other campaign donor walls?
- Do they serve on other campaign committees?
- What does wealth screening and prospect research reveal?
- Have they recently sold a business or come into an inheritance?
- Do they want to have a big impact on your mission?
In order to answer these questions, we evaluate and qualify potential donors using an A, B, C acronym:
- A – Do they have the financial ability to make a large gift? You may not know exactly, but there will be clues.
- B – Do they believe strongly in the cause, mission, and goals of the campaign?
- C – Do you have contact with them? Will they say “yes” to a meeting because they know someone at your organization or are an active part of the community?
Creating Your Campaign’s Depth Chart is Always Worth It
This is not a simple or easy process, but it is necessary to identify the best potential donors for your campaign. These are the people with whom you will populate your depth chart.
And if you can identify two to three realistic prospects for each gift you need on your gift range chart, you will have the roadmap to a successful campaign.
Get All the Tools You Need for a Successful Campaign
You’ll find a template for a depth chart — in addition to all the tools you’ll need — inside the Capital Campaign Pro Online Toolkit.