Written by Alex Comfort, CFRE
I’ve been consulting on a capital campaign for a domestic violence program, and it’s going well. The Quiet Phase is ending and the Campaign Kickoff approaches. The question now becomes who will speak at the kickoff?
For more than a year, starting with the Feasibility Study, I have told the client they need to identify a compelling victim to speak during big events. They agreed. In several events this year, they have found a victim willing to share her story. But they have decided they don’t want to follow suit for the official campaign launch.
The kickoff event will be the largest gathering this charity will have for several years, and yet they don’t want to have a live speaker. Yes, they have a short video featuring a victim that can be shown. And, yes, they must take great care to find someone who can withstand the emotional vulnerability of the task. I know it’s not as easy as simply asking a service recipient to say a few remarks. Finding the right woman to speak will take some effort.
But having a compelling speaker at this event will go a long way towards a successful campaign. Think about national events of the last couple of months. Live testimony is what people will remember. It’s what counts when telling your organization’s story.
Because of the nature of confidentiality, I am not going to war with my client over their decision, but I do believe they are missing a golden opportunity. Even so, the campaign will continue and will do pretty well, I believe. But it is frustrating.
Remember, your donors give with their hearts much more than with their heads. And larger gifts will always come because of how your donors feel about your charity. Appealing to logic is useful but touching their heartstrings usually results in bigger donations.
Staff members can move audiences by telling third-person stories about service recipients. Even if the clients remain anonymous, there’s a lot to be gained in doing so. But three minutes from a person who has “lived the life” of your mission will always be the most effective way to connect to potential donors. Allowing a service recipient to share their story in their own words puts a face on your mission and humanizes your work.
Too often, those of us who do the professional work for non-profits fall in love with our own ability to present to donors. Quite frankly, our donors expect that we can and will do it. To be most effective, we need to be willing to put real people in front of our donors, especially on major gift calls.
Gift it a shot. It works!