“For Want Of A Kit A Campaign Was Lost?”

A little neglect may breed mischief:
“For want of a nail, the shoe was lost;
for want of a shoe, the horse was lost;
for want of a horse, the rider was lost;
for want of a rider, the battle was lost.”
B. Franklin: Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1733

A little “neglect” of the packet of information we produce to support our fund-raising campaigns “may breed mischief” as solicitation kits are the support mechanism for solicitors in the field. When solicitors sit alone at the phone, preparing to call prospects for an appointment, all they have to fall back on for inspiration and guidance is the packet of materials they received at the campaign kickoff meeting. For this reason the solicitation kit must:

  1. Instill confidence
  2. Provide needed information
  3. Be easy to use

The kit instills confidence by looking thoroughly professional and by providing data on other successful campaigns—reporting, for example, how much the annual campaign raised the previous year and explaining how the goal was achieved. It helps solicitors answer questions by supplying comprehensive background information on the organization and the current campaign. A solicitation kit is easy to use when it is well organized, contains support materials and tools designed for the current campaign, and eschews extraneous materials. There is a temptation to put every printed piece available into a solicitation kit.

“Do you think they can use this, Mary?”
“I’m not sure, Joe.”
“Well, lets go ahead and put it in just in case.”

Resist that temptation. A packed solicitation kit is not a useful tool. It requires solicitors to expend too much effort sorting the wheat from the chaff, and its sheer size can be intimidating.

The first step in organizing a solicitation kit is to understand that it has two parts: support materials and information needed by the solicitors and materials and information to be given to the prospects. At a bare minimum a solicitation kit should include the following:

  1. Case for support of the campaign.
  2. Most recent annual report of the organization or an executive summary of it.
  3. Campaign organization chart and list of volunteers.
  4. Solicitor job description.
  5. Campaign calendar.
  6. Profile and report form for each prospect, with contribution record and suggested giving level.
  7. One-page description of the organization, its value to the community, and its past successes.
  8. Additional support materials such as newspaper clippings, press releases, and awards achieved.
  9. Suggested proposal letter.
  10. Organization or campaign stationery.
  11. Pledge cards or gift envelopes.

The first six of these items fall into the category of support materials and information that solicitors use to do their job. Items seven through eleven are materials and information that solicitors can put into the hands of prospects. Let’s review each document separately.

The case for support stresses the purpose of the specific campaign, explaining why the program, service, endowment or the expenditure is necessary, delineating who will benefit from it and how, and calling attention to the immediacy of the fund-raising effort.

The most recent annual report contains information on recent accomplishments, a copy of the mission statement, and financial data.

A campaign committee organization chart should contain both position titles and the name of the person in each position and an alphabetical list of all participants in the campaign. Volunteers like to know who else is taking part, as such information can be useful to them during the campaign and later in social and business situations.

A solicitor job description advises that the solicitor’s primary responsibilities are to contact chosen or assigned prospects, present the case for support, answer questions, and request a suggested donation. Ideally, a solicitor will be assigned five prospects. While there are exceptions to this rule, keep in mind that solicitors are volunteers. The fund-raising campaign is not their only responsibility. Never saddle a volunteer with an excessive amount of work. The solicitor reports to the person he/she is accountable to and keeps him or her informed of progress.

The campaign calendar delineates the timing of meetings, kickoffs, events, press releases, money-raised milestones, celebrations, and just about anything else that it is anticipated will happen during a campaign. It is the time line of a campaign and another yardstick used to measure progress. It is a schedule of deadlines. (Examples available — see end of article.)

The prospect profile and report form is a one-page document which performs two functions. It first provides information about a prospect to the solicitor, and then becomes the solicitor’s outcome report to campaign leadership. Solicitors should receive a profile of every prospect assigned to them that includes the following information:

  1. Prospect’s name and name of spouse when applicable.
  2. Prospect’s address and day and evening phone numbers.
  3. Prospect’s relationship to the organization (user of services, member, season ticket holder, former trustee, associate of a present trustee, etc.) when applicable.
  4. Prospect’s employer and title.
  5. Prospect’s past contributions to the organization.
  6. Prospect’s suggested gift to the current campaign.
  7. Name of anyone who is available to assist in the solicitation and the form of their possible assistance.
  8. Suggested solicitation strategy or advice.

The form should leave blanks for reporting the results of the solicitation, including the following information:

  1. Solicitor’s name and phone number.
  2. Dates of contacts and result of each contact.
  3. Checklist of documents presented to prospect (types of memberships and other giving opportunities, brochure, pledge card, etc.).
  4. Final results of solicitation, including amount given or pledged or reason for refusal.
  5. Next step (send thank-you, redeem pledge, etc.).
  6. Additional comments which could be helpful for future solicitation efforts.

The prospect profiles and report forms are the most important documents in a solicitation kit. On a single sheet of paper are the facts needed to prep solicitors for each contact and a place to record and report results. The more complete the data a solicitor is given, the greater will be the confidence level of the solicitor and the greater the likelihood of a successful solicitation. The more complete the solicitor’s report, the stronger the organization’s understanding will be of what happened during the solicitation and the better its data for future solicitations.

While prospect profile and report forms will vary somewhat in the information they contain and their appearance according to the dictates of the campaign, the concept of the form will remain the same. (Example available — see end of article)

The one-page description of the organization should be developed out of standing public relations material tailored to stress aspects which advance the current fund-raising campaign.

Additional support materials can consist of pamphlets, newspaper clippings, letters of praise, documentation of awards, and so forth. Just about anything which shows the organization in a good light can be included.

A suggested proposal letter should also be included in the solicitation kit. It should:

  1. State the case for support of the fund-raising campaign.
  2. Cite the prospect’s history of generosity, if there is one, to the organization.
  3. Mention the amount of the gift the organization is suggesting, if that tactic has been deemed appropriate for this prospect.
  4. Explain that the solicitor will be contacting the prospect to set up an appointment.

Including the amount of the suggested gift in the proposal letter accomplishes two things. It prompts prospects to begin thinking about the size of their gift early in the process, and it eliminates any potential discomfort a solicitor may feel about having to introduce the suggested gift in person.

Often the proposal letter is sent out over the signature of the chair of the campaign or that of a division chair. In those instances the proposal letter is included in the solicitation kit for informational purposes only. When the proposal letter is to be sent out by the solicitor, the sample serves as a model outlining the case for support, which will be augmented by information found in each prospect’s profile. (Example available —see end of article)

The key is getting the case for support up front, including specifics showing that you value the prospect’s past efforts, letting the prospect know how much he/she is being counted on for, and relating who will be making the contact to ask for the contribution.

Campaign stationery or the chair’s own professional stationery should be used for the proposal letter—whichever is more likely to impress the prospect. Campaign stationery is a useful tool for a solicitor to have, and a small supply should be included in the solicitation kit. If stationery hasn’t been designed for the campaign, the organization’s regular stationery can be used. Solicitors can then make the decision to use their own stationery or that of the organization when writing to prospects.

The pledge card (or envelope)— the means by which the donor’s written promise to pay is obtained—is the final item in the solicitation kit. Include one for every prospect the solicitor is to contact. It is the solicitor’s responsibility to pick up the pledge card and then forward it to campaign headquarters. Sometimes the pledge card will be accompanied by payment, but space should be provided for donors to indicate a date by which they will pay. A typical pledge card should obtain the following information regarding a donor’s gift:

Amount of donation $ ________ to be paid by:

__ Cash
__ Check
__ Securities
__ Charge card (type, card number, expiration date)
__ Payment enclosed: Amount $ _________
__ Pledge Date(s) to be paid _____________

__ My employer will match this gift __ Form enclosed __ Form pending __

Name ________________________________
Address/phone ________________________________________________

Date ________________

With a volunteer force recruited and a solicitation kit ready to be distributed, you are now ready to begin the actual campaign.

“For want of a nail” a battle of a campaign could be lost. For want of a solicitation kit you might not actually lose a fund-raising campaign, but you could surely weaken its effectiveness.

Note: Additional resources are available on my website relating to solicitation kit materials: