Preparing for Solicitation: Beginning the Quiet Phase

Amy Schiffman
January 18, 2018

We’ve arrived at Episode 10 in a 12-part series on capital campaign development. Last week we began a conversation about the cultivation of key prospects and I promised to speak about preparation for the campaign’s quiet phase this week.

Remember - Cultivation is the process of enhancing the prospect’s relationship with the organization and its programs via personalized involvement (or moves), thereby increasing his or her interest in making the organization a philanthropic priority.

The first step in donor cultivation is to develop a “moves management” plan for your top donors and prospects.

What is Moves Management?

Moves management is a series of contacts over time that builds relationships with prospective donors and moves them from awareness to commitment. Moves management intentionally strengthens relationships with existing donors.

What is the Goal?

The goal of moves management is to create multiple touchpoints with donors throughout the year: to thank and acknowledge; strengthen the relationship; keep donors engaged; educate about your organization’s progress and be able to move donors into new giving opportunities.

Why is this Important?

Creating a moves management plan forces you to intentionally plan your contacts with a donor so that you know when to contact the donor and why. It helps to coordinate the schedules of other staff/board members whom you may want to include in the cultivation or stewardship process. Having a schedule for contacting donors helps you to organize your time and not lose track of donors who are important to your organization.

How Do I Manage this Information?

Enter planned contacts in your database and schedule reminders. After significant meetings, enter notes about the meeting in the database for future reference. 

For Whom Should I do These Plans?

Develop moves management plans for:

  • Current major donors who are strong prospects for your capital campaign
  • Current donors who have the capacity and potential interest to be major donors to the capital campaign
  • Prospective major donors to the capital campaign

By this time in your planning process you are ready to develop a gift table (sometimes referred to as a gift or giving pyramid). You may have already developed this table as part of your campaign toolbox during the feasibility phase. This table, often created as a simple excel document, allows you to represent the number of gifts you need at established giving levels in order to reach your goal.  See this week’s freebie for a sample template. These giving levels may nor may not directly align with your donor recognition levels and naming opportunities. You may have a few different versions of the table based on different lead gift, and leadership gift, scenarios, but all versions add up to the total campaign goal.

The table should now be populated, to the best of your ability, with the names of prospective donors at each level, but especially your top levels. Start with an attempt to identify and rate (assign an ask amount) the top ten to fifteen prospects for the capital campaign – they often make up about 40% of your campaign revenue. If you can identify prospective donors past this level, fantastic. It makes sense to begin developing moves management plans for each of these donors. In other words, document what it will take to achieve these gifts – how many, and what type of contacts must you have with donors before they commit at a leadership level to your campaign? These plans are based in part on your stewardship recognition plan and in part on the unique interests of the donor. They are not meant to limit your contact.

Moving on to the Quiet Phase

Once your gift table is complete and moves management plans are in place, you may be ready to solicit the top gifts for the campaign. This phase of the campaign is often referred to as the “quiet phase” or “silent phase”. The reason for this is that most capital campaigns do not go “public” until 80% or more of the campaign goal has been committed. Some experts believe it is safe to go public at the 60%+ mark, and others feel a more conservative approach is to wait until the campaign is at 90% of its goal.  Either way, most experts agree that a campaign that goes public (i.e., announces the building or renovation of a new facility or space to the rest of the world) too early might suffer serious consequences. These include a lack of interest in the project or a mistaken assumption that the organization has all the funds it needs to complete the project. Contrary to what might seem reasonable, once a campaign goes public, very few donors commit at a leadership level.

Organizations do better to wait to announce their campaigns to the general public until they enter the “community” or “public phase” of the campaign, during which they seek gifts at the lower end of the gift table, or only the final funds they need to get to the finish line. This is the time at which we typically see “brick campaigns,” or lower end opportunities to participate, emerge. It’s also important to remember that donors respond best to feeling needed, or a sense of urgency. So again, if it seems that you can complete the campaign without them, they won’t give at a leadership level. As hard as it is to wait, it’s my recommendation that you wait to go public until after the 80% mark.

As I mentioned earlier, it is typical for 40% of a capital campaign’s revenue to come from 10 or fewer donors, and it’s also true that 80% of the funds may come from 20% of the donor base, so the campaign’s quiet phase is critical to its success. Depending on the size of your campaign and your organization, it’s likely you will achieve 80% of your campaign goal with 50 or fewer gifts. Your campaign leadership, and even a small campaign committee, along with a CEO, executive director or director of development, will be involved with these asks. A good deal of time and energy should be directed toward rating (determining ask amounts) and assigning (deciding who will solicit) these prospects. This step is of critical importance in preparing for the silent phase. Then key leaders can begin scheduling appointments and soliciting gifts with the case for support, gift table and other collateral tools they have prepared.

Next week I will discuss the launch of the community phase of the campaign, and in two weeks, our final episode will focus on preparing for your ground-breaking and/or community celebration. Please join me for our final episodes and please comment with updates on your own campaign progress, in the meantime, enjoy this week’s freebie and please, contact us with any questions about your campaign.