Insights for Successful Campaigns from Barrett Carson

December 18th, 2014

BarrettBarrett Carson, now Vice President of Development at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), was the speaker at this week’s Atlanta AFP Breakfast meeting . Having led many campaigns in his tenure at higher education institutions, he has had particular success at Georgia Tech (GT). He was asked to share some insights with those gathered there.

I took notes and they follow here. I present them here as he did, as “food for thought”. His experience is palpable so he just shared the keys he seemed to think would be most helpful to the rest of us. Am sure everyone took away pieces and parts they found useful and so I share my notes here.

Since joining GT in 1997, his first campaign was set for $300 million but ended with $715 million. Currently having exceeded $1.5 billion for this state university, he expressed his dismay that their fundraising organization is now ranked 53 in the world!

  • Define the campaign’s scope: Comprehensive or just Capital needs. For him, Comprehensive refers to wall-to-wall needs. It’s the type of effort he has focused on while at Georgia Tech.
  • Establish metrics that make sense for the organization from the outset to track progress
  • Diligence, discipline and reporting are easy words to list but key to achieving success
  • A campaign, by definition, elevates the sights of an institution. To that end he urged the audience to make the commitment never to revert to the staff or energy levels found during  pre-campaign status
  • Specifically, don’t gear up just to lay-off.
  • He is careful annually throughout the life of a campaign to add staff positions, which had been taken on for campaign purposes,  to become part of his annual budget. The idea is that by end of campaign those extra dollars allotted to new staff are by then part of his annual budget, allowing all new hires to be permanent members of the team. He never wants to step back to pre-campaign thinking or performance
  • When choosing staff choose who can be self-sustaining. Pay more to get better folks and then expect more of them. And demand that they do so without close supervision
  • Hire for collegiality not for rainmaking. Think long-term relationships with staff as well as donors. Their average tenure of staff at GT Development is 15 years
  • Define the Case for Support based on your organization’s aspirations. Temper each with reality and then set priorities and goals accordingly
  • Be diligent about accounting. Use accepted methodologies such as those set forth by CASE or CAE; make your own decisions as to how to “count” different gift types, like planned gifts, and then stick to it. Report each accordingly. Don’t deviate from your methodology
  • Outside fundraising counsel can be extremely valuable to leadership as an external source of legitimacy. As he explained it, his counsel often functioned as a sounding board for leadership’s new ideas. But be sure to hire the person, not the firm. You’ll be working with the person, not the firm.
  • Perhaps the most useful, not-to-be-overlooked statement to fundraisers was his view that Development is not to be evaluated for its cost center to an organization, but rather they are to be viewed as a Revenue Center. If management agrees, the organization will succeed because the fundraisers are then seen as respected, well-paid achievers/revenue producers 


Programmatic Donor Recognition in a Picture

August 25th, 2014

DR Hierarchy1DRhierAs a donor recognition consultant, I am asked often what I mean when I refer to a programmatic approach to donor recognition. This one picture says it all.

Efficiency and Accuracy. Continue reading »

Improve Your NonProfit’s Website….Now!

August 13th, 2014

web confusedWas reminded this week of how often not-for-profit websites miss the opportunity to inform, invite, excite and even IGNITE giving on-line. Continue reading »

A Troubling Trend for Fundraising

August 5th, 2014

Fundraisers might well take note that although the annual total for giving in the US is rising, the number of donors is falling.  Continued giving and donor retention have long been seen as keys to long term fundraising success. Yet the acquisition of new donors may be most important to assuring a viable future for a non profit.

Read more in depth about The Long Term Trend that is Going Unnoticed.

As a donor recognition program consultant, my identification of actions and policies that influence donor retention and continued giving are vital to my work as counsel to fundraisers. This trend of major donor attrition  is one I have “felt” but could not prove myself. I appreciated having this highlighted for me.

Dennis W. Linderbaum of UnityPoint Health Foundation, upon reading about this trend said he has seen real evidence of this with both their employee campaigns and  overall fundraising efforts. His reality supports that they are raising more money from fewer people. He says that “the old 80-20 rule has been replaced by a 95-5 or perhaps even a 97-3 rule — 97% of the funds raised come from 3%” of their donors.

Interestingly, he acknowledged that “this could be a sign of the economic situation where the middle class has seen its resources diminish ever since 1980 or so”. But he suggests another, troubling reality that may be influencing the decline. This may well be the result of what he called an “incredible increase in competition from an ever-growing non-profit sector”.

Fundraisers must be vigilant within their own internal analyses to understand their own trend(s) and to identify and address to the causes for it.

Written by Robin E. Williams