The Four C’s: Pillars of high-performance fundraising

Sustained Performance Improvement Can Double or Triple the Money You Raise Annually

Just focusing a process improvement effort on major gifts will enable a significant increase in the amount of money raised — if done right. But sustained performance improvement that doubles or triples the amount raised annually does require a more comprehensive four-part approach.

The beauty of performance improvement is, done right, it focuses simultaneously on top-line performance and bottom-line efficiency. A well-planned performance improvement initiative will address opportunities in all aspects of the fundraising operation. But to yield significant ROI, the performance improvement effort must focus on Tthe Four C’s that are the pillars of high-performance fundraising.

Capacity: Process-based, metric-measured operations that multiply the effectiveness of the people involved

Constituency: An effective structure that brings the right composition of board members, campaign volunteers and institutional and community partners to the fundraising process

Case: A compelling, attention-getting, donor-centric reason to give that is oriented to today’s investor philanthropists

Culture: An organizational culture for philanthropy that recognizes the unique opportunities for, and requirements of, successful fundraising operations.

The Power of Process Builds Capacity

The Core Process, together with the Tipping Point and the power of process, builds fundraising capacity by leveraging the work of fundraising staff members and volunteers in a new approach to major gifts that enables exponential increases in fundraising performance. The Core Process was originally conceived as a structure against which a training program could be applied. Today, the Core Process has evolved into a well-defined, four-stage development process.

The Core Process is designed to qualify potential prospects, focus on those potential areas of support of most interest to the potential donor, build a relationship between the prospect and the beneficiary organization and finally close the gift. It is named the “Core Process” because it is at the heart or core of the organization’s fundraising effort — responsible for 80 percent or more of the total amount raised annually, if deployed correctly.

A key element is the application of stage-gate theory from the world of commercial product development. Stage gates in product development are a way of limiting investment risk by focusing on a progressively smaller number of the most promising new products as they move through development stages.

Reaching Your Constituencies

The structure and composition of the healthcare fundraising board are critical. Often boards focus on overseeing fundraising rather than helping to raise funds themselves. And if the board doesn’t lead the way, expecting others to volunteer to be part of the fundraising team is wishful thinking.

Professional fundraising staff members rarely spend time in the same social or business circles as wealthy potential donors, but the members of a strong fundraising board do. Such board members, themselves committed leadership donors, can connect the development staff with high-potential prospects. But getting board members to assume such a role can be difficult. What’s missing is a specific role in a well-defined process that comfortably integrates board members and campaign volunteers into the fundraising team.

That role is one that Malcolm Gladwell, author of the best-seller “The Tipping Point,” terms the Connector. Board members, physicians and others use their personal, grateful patient and business connections to identify potential donors and facilitate introductions to them.

Making this powerful approach work depends on assigning roles as Connectors, Mavens and Closers, loosely based on roles identified by Gladwell in his book. The responsibilities of each team member are aligned with the strengths of each participating in the team-based fundraising effort.

Creating a Breakthrough Case

The typical healthcare fundraising case for support, based on the ongoing good works of the organization, is sufficient for annual fund solicitations and special events. But this approach does not inspire the excitement needed to attract sizeable major gifts. The same is true at a different level in the case of the typical healthcare capital campaign for something like a new cancer center or new tower, which will attract major gifts, but only from the beneficiary’s own constituency.

A breakthrough case for support is one that dramatically differentiates the beneficiary institution in the marketplace. The case does so in a way that can attract new, big donors and lead to significantly more money raised.

Getting big gifts requires a “big” case for giving — something really exciting that can be tailored individually to the interests of large donors. The best way to develop a major gift case is as part of a process that includes input from the potential large donors. The beauty of such an approach is that for the same nickel, it provides support to the case development process while cultivating potential donors.

Create a Culture FOR Philanthropy

Much has been written about creating a culture of philanthropy. Unfortunately, the term appears often to be misunderstood, leading to initiatives focused on employee giving, elevating appreciation for the virtues of philanthropy and recognizing the good things done in the community with charitable dollars—all of which are laudable but miss the point.

A major constraint affecting the performance of some healthcare fundraising organizations is the Rodney Dangerfield status of the function within the healthcare system. (Dangerfield was a comedian known for the catchphrase “I can’t get no respect!”) Often the opportunity cost associated with lower levels of performance isn’t recognized as such, because expectations are low and there’s no appetite on management’s part to go out of its way to promote successful fundraising.

An organizational culture that recognizes the unique opportunities for successful fundraising is more likely also to recognize the requirements for successful fundraising. The ability to purposefully create a culture for philanthropy is a major factor in the success of high-performing fundraising. This is reflected in the results of a recent AHP study that found “consistent increases in bottom line returns are closely correlated with the addition of more professional staff, sustained emphasis on major giving activities, higher salary budgets, and longer tenure in support of its mission.”

You might best define a culture for philanthropy (or its absence) in terms of the ways we do things relative to philanthropy. These ways range from where the function reports and the rank of its senior full-time leader, to the degree the organization’s leadership team’s personal involvement, regard for, and real understanding of the function. A related factor is the willingness of physicians, administration and employees to be involved.

The structure and composition of the healthcare fundraising board are critical. Often boards focus on overseeing fundraising rather than helping to raise funds themselves. And if the board doesn’t lead the way, expecting others to volunteer to be part of the fundraising team is wishful thinking.

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