by Meg Gammage-Tucker
One of the most frequent questions I have heard from clients this year is, “Why can’t we go public? We will raise so much more money by getting more people involved!” As a consultant and guide, my response has to be, “no.” We have to do it the right way: “Top-down, inside-out.
Hank Rosso, the founder of the Fund Raising School at the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy, provides the best justification in Achieving Excellence in Fundraising, with his treatise on sequential fundraising. To paraphrase and quote:
Sequential fundraising is the process whereby prospects are classified by their giving potential and then solicited from the top down. Why is sequential fundraising important?
The ten largest gifts set the standard for the entire campaign.
A failure to adhere to the top-down pattern reduces giving sights across the board.
Extended solicitation and participation at lower levels will not offset major gaps in the upper ranges.
Once the big-gift-first sequence has been seriously violated, the entire program is in jeopardy (p. 128).
There are times when this message has been difficult to give, but we must continue to give it. Why? It is tried and true. And, to be honest, the vast majority of the best answers in our business are based on experience.
In this case, however, it is based both on experience and new data. Billions of dollars are given every year by individuals who are personally involved (inside-out) and who have the greatest capacity (top-down). The most substantial support consistently comes from those individuals are “insiders”. And, in this time of financial challenges and competition for philanthropic dollars, the research clearly shows that individuals invest in those organizations with which they are deeply involved and are letting some of those that they are less close to go (at least for the near term).
While it is always important to build your base and engage larger audiences, your focus, in this case, needs to be on those closest to you. Slow and steady will win this race.