Effective Campaign Team Member Training Guide

A critical challenge in accomplishing a successful fundraising campaign is overcoming the fear of volunteers, athletic program supporters, coaches and staff about asking others for money. Everyone involved must be convinced that the real task is "friend raising" rather than "fund raising".  People give to people they know and trust.  Key is training Campaign Team members in the art of relationship building.  Team members must able to tell their respective personal stories of why they are involved in the Campaign and why the athletic department needs support.  Instructions for campaign team members can be developed for this purpose and consideration should be given to hiring an expert trainer to work with the Campaign Team during their first meeting. Contents of the Guide should include the following:


  1. ENGAGE YOUR CONTACT LIST WITH IN-PERSON MEETINGS.  Remember that people give to people. A person is more likely to give to a person they know who is genuine, passionate about the cause, and who takes that extra step of taking the time to make a personal meeting happen.  Every committee member should be willing to solicit their contacts via personal meetings as well as telephone calls.  Key to Campaign success is remembering that everyone on your list has significant connections and the personal financial capacity to support the campaign with a substantial contribution.  This type of high wealth donor fundraising is the opposite of a “phonathon” or “mail” annual fund solicitation.  The willingness of Campaign Committee members to engage prospective donors in personal meetings is a predicate to success.
  2. SUGGESTIONS FOR WHO ATTENDS PROSPECT MEETINGS.  For most of the people on your prospect list, your first meeting will most likely be a one-on-one with you and the prospect to build a relationship, provide general information about the Campaign and assess his or her interest in being involved.  Based on what you learn from the prospect, a subsequent meeting with the President or other University representative may be a next step.  However, there are some prospects with whom you have a close relationship who you might wish to initially pitch a possible meeting with the President.    For instance, you might wish to say, “The President of the University will be in your town in the next few weeks.  I’d love for you to meet [him/her] and help me provide advice about additional people you know who might help with the Campaign.”  Or, you might be going to a football game or other athletic event in another city and you know your prospect is going or might like to attend.  You might want to suggest breakfast or lunch before the game with the President.  This decision is up to you or you might suggest another strategy.
    initial prospect meeting is to engage the prospect to produce one or
    more of the following results:  (a)  Have the person tell you whether your
    story about the campaign is clear and compelling and if not, how you can
    make it better, (b) To share the names of friends or other
    connections or a contact list of individuals who might be interested in
    supporting the Campaign, (c) To offer to help by hosting a small
    event in his or her home – a cocktail gathering or other social event –
    to enable you or the President of University to tell the story of the
    Campaign to a small group and ask for their help and advice, (d) To
    discover the prospect’s most important connection to the University, (e) To
    find out if there are specific academic programs, sports, scholarship
    programs or specific people that inspire the prospect to invest his or
    her time or resources and/or (f) If the relationship is strong enough, if
    the prospect indicates they want to help, and you think the timing is
    right, to say they will consider making a personal, corporate or
    foundation contribution to the Campaign.
  4. BE PREPARED TO COMMUNICATE A COMPELLING STORY.  Communicating a compelling story of need is the main purpose of any meeting with a prospect.   Campaign committee members must not only be able to express why it is so important to help the athletic department but how a specific gift to your program will make a difference.  For the purpose of this Campaign – your compelling story should be about the need for student scholarships or support of coaching excellence, or the need for facility improvements – all of which are a part of the Campaign.  You will be provided with the facts and information you need to craft a compelling story that matches your passion and beliefs about the institution and this Campaign. 
  5. BRING FORTH A STRONG VOLUNTEER ETHIC.  People invest in volunteer leaders who they see are passionate and unselfish and are working for the success of others.  When they can see your persistence and authentic belief in what the athletic department is doing -- specifically your desire to advance the well-being and educational success of our students -- they are more likely to trust you and identify with your motives.  People engage with and give to people they trust.  The next section contains specific ideas about how to communicate your personal passion and commitment to the institution and the athletic department’s success.  
  6. ASK FOR ADVICE, NOT MONEY!  Remember a key donor solicitation rule: “Ask for money and you will get advice; ask for advice and you will get money”.  When you schedule the meeting and are asked “What is the purpose of the meeting?” your answer should be: “To ask for advice about a project I’m involved in.”  Asking for input and advice about a project about which you are passionate is key to establishing a relationship with the prospective donor. After you (a) tell your personal story about why you want to help the institution and (b) why the athletic program deserves support, it is time to ask for advice.  Consider how you might be most comfortable in phrasing the following questions:
  •  “I want to be good at explaining the athletic department’s need and why people should want to help this institutions and the students following in my footsteps.  Do you think that my explanation of the purpose of the Campaign is compelling?  Did I explain it well?  Would you explain the Campaign or its importance in a different way to make my story more compelling?”
  • “Would you be willing to help by hosting a small event in your home – a cocktail gathering or other social event – so we can tell the story to a small group and ask for their help and advice?  I could arrange for the President, a Vice President, a Dean or a prominent coach or faculty member to attend to make a presentation.”
  • “We are trying to build a list of donor prospects who might be willing to help.  I am willing to meet with anyone.   Do you know others who might have the capacity to make a significant gift who I should be meeting with?  Would you be willing to share their names or to help me get a meeting with them?” 
  • “Are there other projects or specific people at the University that inspire you – that made a difference in your life or the lives of other students – that contributed to your success?   Would you be willing to share this story with others?  Have you ever thought of becoming involved in our alumni mentoring, internship or guest speaker programs?  Would you have an interest?"
  • “Do you think it is important to offer prospective donors the opportunity to personalize their gift by naming a scholarship, building or facility in honor of a member of their family or in recognition of their gift?”   [Note:  the prospect’s response to this question will indicate whether such an opportunity is important to him or her.]

By listening, listening, and listening to the responses to these questions -- what is said and not said, you can determine whether the prospect is willing to help or needs more time or information in order to make this decision.  The true measure of successful relationship building is getting the prospect to talk about what is important to them and why.   Ideally, if you listen and are able to tell a compelling story and if the prospect trusts your motivation to be involved in the campaign, at some point the prospect will then ask, “How can I help?”

7.    BE READY WITH THE ANSWER TO "HOW MUCH ARE YOU TRYING TO RAISE?" When the donor has an interest in giving or helping with the Campaign, the first indicator is usually the question, “How much do you need?” or “How much are you trying to raise?”  Remember, the focus of the Campaign Team during this first phase of the Campaign will be to engage prospective donors who have the capacity to give between $50,000 and $1 million.  Your prospect donor list only contains a number of these prospects.  Your answer to this question could include the following two points:

  • We’re in the quiet phase of a $60 million campaign, speaking with key individuals to get pledges for the first $30 million before going public with the announcement of the Campaign.  (Note:  This “quiet period” is standard fundraising practice to insure that a campaign will be successful before it is publicly announced). 
  • We are seeking individuals who might donate $100,000 or more and help us connect with nine others who have the capacity to do the same.  I would really appreciate your suggestions, or even better, you providing an introduction to folks who might have the capacity to give in this range and who might have an interest in helping the University. 

Note:  In the above two responses, you have not directly asked the person you are meeting with for money.  But he or she knows what you need.  If they wish to support the Campaign, it is at this point they will tell you how they want to be involved.  The prospect may say something like, “I think I can make that kind of a donation” or “I think I or my family can help.  Let me think about the amount and who else we can try to get involved” or “I think I can help you connect to others” or “I don’t know if I am able to give this kind of a contribution right now, but let me think of who else I might help you connect to.”  Even these last two answers leave the door open for an eventual contribution or one smaller than initially suggested.  These answers are ways for the donor to indicate he or she will help but wants to think further about a personal gift.   All of these responses indicate you have successfully conveyed a compelling story and established a good relationship with the prospect.

Again, listen to the prospect to determine your next step which might be to provide more information or bring in the President or other University representative for a personal meeting with the prospect.  An appropriate response to any of these statements might be, “I’d love for you to meet President XXXX (or other person the prospect has indicated has been inspiring or influential).  Would you let me try to arrange this at your convenience?”

8.        NEXT STEPS.  Often, the donor you are meeting with will say that they want to help but they want time to think about an amount.  The prospect might even think of a next step like needing more information or written information about the campaign like a campaign brochure that he or she can share with others.   At the end every prospect meeting, try to ask the following questions:

  •  “Is there anything that I can do to help you with any project you are working on?” [People are more likely to assist you when you have offered support and interest for their own projects.  ‘Doing good’ is not just about the University’s needs!]
  •  “Is there is any other information that I can provide to you?”
  • “Thank you for all you have done for the athletic department (or University)” [Before you go into the meeting, we will provide you with the prospect’s donation history and anything we know about the prospect that would be good conversation starters.  For instance, establishing rapport with a prospect is so much easier if you can start a conversation with something like, “Is it true that you played basketball for the Pirates?  What was that like?  Do you still keep in touch with your teammates or coaches?]
  • “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me and for your kind advice.”
  • [Only if the prospect has committed to making a gift]  “Please think about whether you would allow the athletic department (or University) to tell your story about why you are making a gift.  These stories compel others to think about why they should give, especially when they are voiced by a person of your stature or even if your name is not attached to the story.” 

9.        FOLLOW UP EVERY MEETING WITH A PERSONALIZED NOTE. Without fail and within the same week that you complete the meeting, follow-up with a personalized note, providing any additional information the donor requested.  Call your contact at the Advancement Office to help you obtain any information requested.

                              DEVELOPING THE STORY YOU WANT TO TELL

There are two important parts to your effort to tell a compelling story:  (1) the personal value-based reason why you are involved in the Campaign and (2) why the athletic department needs and deserves the prospect’s support. 

People give to people they know and trust and people who share their values about what are the most important things in life.  Your personal story will hopefully establish this “value” connection.  Following are some ideas that those who give back commonly express.  The one you choose or create on your own has to be authentic and heartfelt.

  •  “I believe in helping others who aren’t as fortunate as I have been.”
  • “I believe in investing in young people with promise who will be our next generation of community leaders.  We must mentor and care for this group to make sure they are well educated and prepared to make a difference.”
  • “I passionately believe in ‘paying it forward.   The University and my coaches did great things for me and I want to make the same experience possible for my children and theirs.  This is one way for me to help”
  • “I was the first generation of my family who was able to go to college.  I remember how afraid and insecure I was when I entered as a freshman and who I had become by the time I graduated.  If it weren’t for [mention specific people] who took the time to mentor and inspire me, I wouldn’t be who I am today.  I want them to have the same experience I did.”
  • “My family couldn’t afford college.  Without a financial aid, I never would have been able to get a degree.”
  • “I played [Pirate baseball, a sport, the Debate team, etc.] when I attended the university.  My team was my family.  The experience was extraordinary and where I learned the importance of discipline, hard work, and the pursuit of excellence.  Better yet, athletics kept me out of trouble and made me keep up my grades to stay eligible.”

Telling the story behind the need for this Capital and Scholarship Campaign is critical.  Again, the words must fit your communication style and beliefs.  But there must also be factual information that answers the questions, “Why now?” and “How does the Campaign fill a critical need?"  Following are some ideas about how you can craft a compelling story:
Our goal is $60 million for the Pirate Capital and Scholarship Campaign.

  • 50% or $30 million will be dedicated to student scholarship support
  • $5 million will provide enhanced support to help us attract great coaches
  • $25 million will provide for capital construction needs at Sampson Stadium

$30 million of the Campaign’s $60 million goal will provide student-athlete scholarship support.  These scholarships help the University attract the best and brightest athletes.

  • Reduced state funding and increased tuition has made it harder for families to afford college.  We try to do the best we can to provide our athletes who are also excellent students with full scholarships.   
  • 80% of our students receive some form of financial aid.  Over 50% qualify for need-based Pell grants, federal “basic educational opportunity grants” that help but do not fund the full cost of attendance.   State budget reductions have significant reduced our ability to contribute to the budget gap between what federal aid will provide to a student and what it will actually cost to attend the University.  We must help students and their families cope with the escalating cost of tuition. 
  • Because of the time it takes to play on a team, most of our athletes cannot work and fulfill their academic responsibilities.  A majority must take out student loans to close the cost of education/ financial aid gap.  Average debt levels for all USA college graduating seniors with student loans rose to close to $30,000.
  • The attainment of a college degree is often considered paramount to achieving gainful employment, and earning much more over a lifetime than one otherwise would. Ninety-five percent of our athletes enter careers that are not related to professional sports.

 Our Campaign includes a $5 million fund for coaching excellence.  Our athletic program is no better than the quality of our coaches.  We must attract and retain top notch coaches which means providing marketplace salaries.

  • We are without resources to support our assistant coaches, all of whom are currently part-time employees.

Our Campaign includes $25 million to renovate and provide needed repairs to Sampson Stadium. 

  • Athletics is the philanthropic “front porch” of the institution, central to University relationship-building and donor initiatives.  The athletic program has been instrumental in contributing to the excellence of the university’s brand and is a consistent purveyor of more than 100 events that bring alumni and friends to campus annually.  Every academic department as well as the University Advancement office and athletics leverages this asset for the betterment of the institution, entertaining prospective students and families at athletic events.
  • Sampson Stadium which has not had a facelift since 1949 is in an embarrassing state of disrepair.  We must address this need.
  • Historically, our football program in particular, has been the center of community life on our campus – the glue that brings faculty, students and alumni together to celebrate university life and an important source of pride. 
  • Our stadium rest rooms and concession facilities are woefully inadequate.  Many parts of the stadium are inaccessible to our older alumni and fans who cannot climb the steep stadium steps. 
  • The rewards and excitement of campus life outside the classroom is an important driver of student recruitment and enrollment as well as alumnae pride.  Thus, we must purposefully enhance a centerpiece of our campus.  
  • We need to install a new scoreboard and donor cultivation areas that will allow for the annual generation of advertising and sponsorship revenues and donations to support the athletic program over the long term thereby reducing general fund and student fee subsidization of athletics, freeing up more resources for academic use.