Lead Donors Are Crucial for Campaign Success

Lead Donors Are Crucial for Campaign Success

August 06, 2013 by jga_admin

by Andy Canada

Preparing for a campaign should be exciting, but it can often also be a bit overwhelming. The time you put into to prepare for a campaign today, can prepare you for success in the future. We cover steps you should take to prepare internally for a campaign in our tip sheet on Campaign Prep. But, you also need to spend time and make the effort to prepare your external audiences, such as lead gift donors, for a campaign.

Your campaign can get off to a very slow start if you aren’t keeping your lead gift prospects informed and updated on what is taking place. Remember, lead gifts play an important role in a campaign:

  • Lead gifts build momentum and instill confidence in your donor base and within your organization
  • Lead gifts demonstrate that the campaign is feasible and the participation of these donors will influence others to give and support the campaign
  • There is evidence that the 80-20 rule (80% of your campaign will be contributed by 20% of your donors) has actually become the 90-10 rule

So what steps can you be taking to keep your lead gift prospects engaged and interested in what is taking place at your organization?


Identify Priorities - It is important that everyone at your organization is on the same page about the future direction of the organization and what levels of funding will be required to get there. Do you have key philanthropic priorities that have been agreed upon by your leadership? Have you begun sharing these priorities with your closest donors?


Plan Donor Strategies - Before you begin to engage your lead gift prospects, sit down as a team and map out a strategy for moving forward with your key prospects. Here are some key tasks:

  • Determine who has the best relationship with the donor and who is the right team to cultivate and eventually solicit. Are their key volunteers that can be engaged?
  • Identify what priorities do you think will be of interest.
  • Research what level of gift could the donor potentially make and work with your team to develop a gift capacity range by conducting a wealth screening on your key prospects.
  • Engage board members and other volunteers to conduct peer screenings of prospects to help qualify donors.


Listen to Your Donors – This is the most important step of all – sit down and have a discussion with your donors. You will learn more from listening to your donors and engaging them in a thoughtful conversation then you will in all of the work that you do to prepare – but the prep work is still a critical and necessary step.

  • Engage your donor in reviewing the key philanthropic priorities and discussing what impact they will have on the organization.
  • If a strategic plan has recently been completed, engage the donor in providing an update on the plan or have a board member or the president meet and discuss the plan with the donor.


Your lead gift donors need to have buy-in for your plan from the start. Engage them as early as possible in the campaign planning process and allow them to provide you with feedback and their thoughts. Lead gifts can make or break a campaign – so put the time in up front to ensure you have the best strategy possible and then sit down and listen to your donors.