October 22, 2018
 
Step-by-Step Guidance on How to Raise $1 Million

As more and more nonprofits recognize that their future well being depends on their ability to craft and execute capital campaigns, not just annual campaigns, Andrea Kihlstedt’s recently published How to Raise $1 Million (or More!) in 10 Bite-Sized Steps provides a timely guide.

Based on her nearly three decades of fundraising consulting experience, Kihlstedt distills the fundamentals of capital campaigns into what the cover calls a “a fail-proof guide for all board members, volunteers and staff.”

And it delivers. For example, she writes:
  • You need to view your organization not from the nuts-and-bolts perspective central to your life, but from the point of view of potential donors.
  • Rather than thinking small, your best bet is to begin by thinking big.
  • Fundraising isn’t only about raising money, it’s also about involving people in a project through their time, energy, and money.
  • One of the counter-intuitive aspects of well-executed fundraising is that the largest gifts are often the easiest to ask for.
  • Thanking people doesn’t have to big or lavish or expensive. It has to be authentic.
Whether a nonprofit is looking to raise $100,000, $1 million, or $100 million, Kihlstedt says the 10 essential steps she outlines will apply and if followed “in the right order, the chances are good you will succeed.”

Perhaps the most important message in this pithy, 104-page volume is that organizations don’t need to re-invent the capital campaign wheel. Many others have raised significant sums and they’ve done it by adhering to a well formulated, and proven, approach. It starts with a plan, requires engaging the right person to chair the campaign and build a campaign committee, and, of course, needs committee members to solicit gifts.

Throughout the book, the author stresses the importance of passionate commitment to the cause, for without it no campaign, however well organized, will succeed. Kihlstedt calls it “inspiring goosebumps.”

Equally critical is understanding that different people will contribute for different reasons. Your goal as fundraiser is to know what motivates each and then appeal to them on their terms.

While capital campaigns are usually conducted within a reasonably well defined timeframe, in reality they take place over many years. That is, many people who contribute often have a relationship with the organization that has spanned decades. Even if your organization is not currently contemplating a capital campaign, it is setting the groundwork for such a project in the way it cultivates and nurtures relationships today. Kihlstedt cites the example of a donor who gave $1 million to a campaign after working as a program volunteer for some time.

How to Raise $1 Million will be especially useful for novice capital campaigners. It explains how organizations can make a strong case, details the non-negotiable requirements for an effective campaign chair, and offers guidance on how to get organization insiders to commit to the campaign.

Obtaining funding will always be essential to the well being of any nonprofit. Going forward, knowing how to successfully raise funds may well become the most critical success factor. This book will help them along the way.

How to Raise $1 Million (or More!) in 10 Bite-Sized Steps is available from Emerson & Church, Publishers.

Reviewed by Peter Lowy
February 2010


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