The importance of prospect review when asking for a perennial gift

publication date: Apr 8, 2013
author/source: George Stanois

Experience conclusively demonstrates that no capital campaign can be successful with cash and out-of-pocket gifts alone. Multi-year pledges (perennial gifts) commensurate with a donor’s interest in the campaign and ability to give are necessary to reach your campaign goal.

Win on paper first

Without careful advance planning and a comprehensive review and evaluation of all potential major donors, there is no road map to guide the volunteer organization upon which the campaign depends. The campaign must be won on paper before extensive solicitation begins. Otherwise, the risk is that volunteers will work diligently, devote countless hours to the campaign and still fall short of success. Prospect review directs each volunteer to prospective donors and to specific levels of potential support that maximize the likelihood of success.

Raise sights above previous giving levels

One of the most serious dangers in a capital campaign is the tendency of interested donors to give at a level similar to their support of the United Way, by donating annual gifts to their favourite causes, or past campaigns with substantially lower goals. Because of the sheer size of capital campaign goals, it is clear that potential donors will have to consider participating on a scale much higher than previous giving levels, and to commit to a multi-year pledge or perennial gift. An effective strategy is to conduct a prospect review that will raise the sights of all who participate and will guard against giving that is disproportionate to the goal.

Experience further demonstrates that the vast majority of those who will provide major support seek guidance from the volunteer who calls on them, regarding a level of support that is proportionate to that which others are being asked to consider. The question “How much are you asking me to consider?” is frequently asked of volunteers. A prospect review helps provide the volunteer with an appropriate response.

Prospect review also brings to light those potential donors for whom further research is needed, those who must be cultivated or informed and those who could be available for leadership roles in the campaign.

Make sure amount is based on reason

The basic approach to prospect review should be consistent; consideration at all times should be directed to the amount given prospects could invest over five years as a perennial gift, provided they are asked by the right person and are sufficiently interested in the capital campaign. It is the further responsibility of the organization to ensure an element of practicality or reason in the process – there must be a reason for each prospect to consider an investment of such an amount for the process to work effectively, and the volunteer must be committed to asking for that amount. 

This article first appeared in 12 Step Fundraising and is republished with permission.

As Managing Director of The Goldie Company, George Stanois has conducted numerous studies and led scores of successful campaigns for a wide range of municipal, health care, education, religious, community service and heritage organizations from coast to coast. He is frequently asked to speak about his 12 Step Fundraising and Communications Plan.

George is also the author of Dodging Tough Times: How Stewardship Programs Can Make All the Difference, which contains the results and conclusions of a 2010 survey of the major donor cultivation and recognition practices of charities in Canada. In partnership with Collis Reed Research, George published The Current State of Non-Profit Charitable Organization in Western Canada, a comprehensive summary of survey results conducted with nonprofits in 2009.

For more information, email him or visit

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