One of the best pieces of advice that I ever received about fundraising was this: Your school has no needs. You might be tempted to stop reading right now. As someone leading an existing school, or planning to start a new school, you already (or will soon have) an Annual Fund goal and a Capital Campaign — you feel weighed down and overwhelmed with needs. How can you say that my school has no needs?
What I mean is that your school has no needs unto itself. Your school has solutions! Solutions to the most pressing and vital problems of our time. You do your school a great disservice by constantly talking about your school’s need for this and need for that. Yet, I see this principle violated on a daily basis. Yesterday I saw aPre-Campaign Feasibility Questionnaire that asked the question: Does this case statement accurately reflect the needs of ABC Academy? Whether we realize it or not, most of us think and act as if our schools have needs. And unfortunately, so do your major donors. That’s why they’re so reluctant to contribute their money to your school.
COMMUNICATE SOLUTIONS, NOT NEEDS
Major donors are on the hunt for solutions. They’re big time problem solvers. That’s how most of them became wealthy in the first place. In approaching your major donors, you should think like an entrepreneur going into “The Shark Tank.” Reflect on questions like: What’s the critical problem that your school is solving?What are you doing to solve that problem that gives you a distinctive competency making you different from everyone else? How could your donor’s investment help you to do something significant together that otherwise wouldn’t be done? And how will this project impact the future of our city?
TELL A PERSONAL STORY ILLUSTRATING YOUR SCHOOL’S SOLUTION
We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words. Nothing communicates your case for support as powerfully as a compelling personal story. Like David’s “five smooth stones,” as Head of School, you need 4 to 5 concrete, specific stories in your pocket when you go out to meet with donors. The stories don’t need to be dramatic (though that doesn’t hurt), but they do need to be authentic illustrations of why your school is so effective and so essential. Major donors may forget everything else you told them at lunch, but they won’t soon forget your story about how your school is changing a child’s life.
INVITE DONORS TO “GET IN ON THE JOY” BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE
Have you ever had someone call you to beg for the privilege of giving more generously to your school? I kid you not, but the Apostle Paul did. In II Corinthians 8, Paul writes, “I testify that the Macedonian churches gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. And entirely on their own, they urgently pleadedwith us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.”
Somehow, the new Gentile background believers in Macedonia got a vision from Paul for how they could be God’s solution to a crucial problem—relieving the suffering of Jewish background believers in Jerusalem. The prospect of this investment brought them so much joy that they fought for the privilege, and they gave above and beyond their ability to give, all to the glory of God.
Don’t forget: your new school is in the solutions business. Think and act that way and soon you too will have donors fighting to contribute to give to your next capital campaign, or launch your new God-centered school.