Outwardly owning your organization’s vulnerabilities can be a powerful asset in fundraising. Counterintuitive, right?

As organizations still manage their way through the lingering effects of the Covid pandemic their most devoted constituents are expressing their loyalty through remarkably generous gifts. Five- and six-figure gifts, in fact.

It can happen to your organization too.

This is how two K2 Consulting Group clients achieved their successes in the performing arts and independent school sectors.

An LA presenting theatre achieves a creative revival — onstage and off

When K2 began our engagement with a popular presenting theater in the Los Angeles area, live performances had yet to reopen after the Covid pandemic closure. At that time, no one was predicting how slowly devoted patrons and audiences nationwide would return to performing arts centers. Low audience attendance led to a drop off in philanthropic support.

But this theater reversed its donor downturn with strategies that increased support from loyal major donors. There may have been fewer donors, but many increased their gifts significantly.

Three strategies produced outstanding results, increasing the support of loyal major donors:

  1. Introduced seated “Jeffersonian” dinners at board members’ homes, bringing together donors with a shared passion for the arts. How successful are these dinners? Ask the $2,500 donors who increased their gift to $25,000, the $1,000 donor who increased to $15,000, and many others. Read More: The dinner party is not dead
  2. Recruited new board members through a robust database mining project that surfaced exceptional board prospects. Upon joining the board, some of these patrons increased their gifts to the $25,000 and $30,000+ levels.
  3. Raised $200,000 in seven weeks through a board-driven year-end challenge that matched increases in gifts from others.

While earned revenue has not yet bounced back for performing arts organizations, the pandemic setback raised the loyalty of many higher-level donors. There may be fewer donors, but many are increasing their gifts to the mid-range and major gift levels.

There’s a lesson in this: Embracing vulnerability + good stewardship = donors who want you to succeed.

Parents shower a beloved K-6 school with an outpouring of support – increasing annual support more than 163% in one year with 100% participation.

Like so many others, this small and beloved K-6 school experienced a pandemic-related enrollment downturn. The school looked to its $250,000 annual fund to fill its gap in operations.

With the school initially aiming for a $400,000 stretch goal, increased gifts from a couple of board members made it possible to stretch the goal even farther, to $500,000 — double any previous campaign.

And how did this doubling of their previous annual goal work out? They raised nearly $650,000 – a 163% increase over their previous top annual productivity.

How did they surpass their stretch-stretch goal?

  1. An all-in board. Personal gifts from board members represented 42.5% of the funds raised.
  2. A serious call to action. A persuasive letter authored by a parent couple announced the parent participation challenge; the letter played a crucial role in motivating the final 40% of families to participate within a few weeks.
  3. Volunteers who led by example. Annual fund ambassadors increased their own giving by 385% — demonstrating how volunteer involvement generates more support.
  4. Tenacity and persistence. Ultimately, the 100% participation challenge was met the way every campaign achieves success – through hard work and perseverance.

So what really happened in these examples?

Did the emergency of the moment motivate the board and parent body to step up with a huge increase in giving? Or did the emergency of the moment cause each organization to enact best practices that might have doubled their philanthropy long before this?

Mining the database, committing to creative cultivation strategies, deepening the board’s culture of giving, setting stretch goals – these are all best practices that shouldn’t be reserved for a crisis.

At K2 we relish the disruptive-yet-supportive role that outside counsel can play in transforming existing cultures and calling boards to new levels of participation. Let K2 Consulting Group help you turn setbacks into comebacks and maintain strong forward momentum.