[Previously posted on May 30, 2018 on dickerson-bakker.com and repurposed for advocace.com]
Last summer I conducted a pre-campaign readiness study for a grassroots, faith-based, social service organization located in a quaint southern town where everybody knows everybody.
Because we were testing whether a $2 million campaign would be feasible, the top gift needed for the campaign was $200,000.
After conducting 40+ interviews in three days, Mr. & Mrs. John Rawlins were the only ones that indicated they had the ability to consider a gift at this level. And Mr. Rawlins specified he would only consider a six-figure investment if we provided these criteria:
- Market analysis with a distinctive value proposition
- A plan demonstrating profitability and sustainability
I began working with our Campaign Leadership Team to craft a compelling Leadership Proposal that met Mr. Rawlins’s criteria. However, soon after the launch, we learned that he had contracted a severe pulmonary disease and was sent home on hospice.
You may think that setting up a solicitation visit was now a lost cause. (So often I hear that a person struggling with their health shouldn’t be approached about giving until after the ailment or sickness subsides. This sentiment normally implies generosity as a burden and not a blessing.)
Thankfully, one of our Board member’s wives was very good friends with Mrs. Rawlins who discreetly and compassionately kept the communication lines open.
Asking the Donor for the Gift
The following January our Board member, his wife and I were invited to the Rawlins’ home to share about our capital campaign. Because I’ve never conducted a solicitation at someone’s bedside, I was cautious, and sought counsel from our firm’s owner and my personal fundraising mentor Derric Bakker. I also prayed more than usual concerning this meeting.
We arrived at the couple’s home at 10am with our easel display renderings. Mr. Rawlins was certainly physically ill and even had trouble sitting up in bed. However, his mind was just as sharp as five months prior during the pre-campaign study.
He had read over his Leadership Proposal prior to the meeting and I shared with him about a tour that the Board Member took of a local competitor’s facility. The Board member shared about some benchmarks and core business strategies from the tour. We were also able to strengthen our case for Mr. Rawlins by describing the differences between this competitor and our organization.
Then, I asked the same question I always do prior to making a financial ask. “Mr. Rawlins, do you have any further questions?” Here’s what he said:
Mr. Rawlins:“So what’s the ask?”
Me:“Thanks for making it easy on me! Because our financial goal is $2,000,000, we need a lead investment of at least 10% of this amount. This will give us the momentum we need to leverage and inspire others to join the effort. Mr. Rawlins, would it be within the realm of possibility for you to invest $250,000 over three years?”
Mr. Rawlins: “I’ve been thinking about it and I would actually like to invest $300,000 over two years. I’ll give you $100,000 this year and the remaining $200,000 next year.”
Me: “Wow, God bless you for your generosity and willingness to help us really get this campaign off the ground!”
Mr. Rawlins: turns his face toward his wife and asks, “Honey, this is ultimately your decision because this is your hometown…what do you think?”
Mrs. Rawlins: “I was thinking $200,000 over two years but $300,000 is fine by me. However, I’d like for us to give $200,000 this year and $100,000 next year.”
Mr. Rawlins: turns his face back to me and asks, “So, what does $300,000 buy me?”
Me: “Whatever you’d like. We’ve included some naming opportunities and you have first rights to them.”
Mr. Rawlins: “Well, I don’t want my name on the building because no one knows me there. However, I would like to name the garden area out by the front and would like a monument installed so that my name can be one of many listed with others who have also contributed.”
How Giving Blessed the Donor
At this point, Mrs. Rawlins filled out the gift agreement and gave it back to us. You could really tell just how blessed Mr. Rawlins was to provide the lead gift for the campaign. A peaceful and joyful look came over his face that touched all of us.
After some last comments from Mr. Rawlins, we left his bedside and went out into the dining room to have lunch Mrs. Rawlins had prepared. We left the Rawlin’s home around 1:00pm.
In the driveway, the Board member said to me, “Shawn, you mentioned to the Board and me that people are blessed when they give to a worthy cause and that we’re actually ministering to people by presenting them with the opportunity to generously invest. I saw that first-hand today with Mr. Rawlins.”
About three weeks after, Mr. Rawlins went home to be with His Lord. However, he left a Kingdom legacy before he departed his physical body and took His King by the hand.
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