The Tipping Point in Fundraising

Tipping

The Tipping Point in Fundraising

By Steven A. Reed

One of the biggest challenges fundraising executives face is getting board members, campaign volunteers and institutional partners to help raise money. Getting beyond the give-and-govern role mentality typical of healthcare fundraising boards is difficult. What’s missing is a specific role in a well-defined process that integrates board members and others into the fundraising team.

That role is one that Malcolm Gladwell, author of the best-seller “The Tipping Point,” terms the Connector. Board members, physicians and others use their personal, grateful patient and business connections to identify potential donors and facilitate introductions to them. I need to give a nod here to my then-client and now good friend and colleague Terry Newmyer, who came up with The Tipping Point concept as applied to fundraising when he was the Chief Development Officer at the Florida Hospital Foundation, Orlando.

The Tipping Point concept was first applied, along with the Core Process, with extraordinary success in a $100 million capital campaign that raised nearly 90 percent of its target through major gifts and reached its target 15 months ahead of schedule — all with an expense-to-revenue ratio well below the “gold standard” of 20 to 25 percent. This was a huge accomplishment for an organization that, not long before, was spending $2 million per year to raise $3 million.

The Connector Role

This is a more narrowly defined, less time-intensive, but more valuable approach to volunteer involvement in fundraising. It is one with great appeal to people who don’t want to attend a lot of meetings or be involved in asking for money. Individuals with personal giving capacity and high-dollar connections can work as initial “connectors” in partnership with staff in a process-based major gifts model.

Professional fundraising staff members rarely spend time in the same social or business circles as wealthy potential donors, but the members of a strong fundraising board do. Such board members, themselves committed leadership donors, can connect the development staff with high-potential prospects.

Making this powerful approach work depends on assigning roles as Connectors, Mavens and Closers, loosely based on roles identified by Gladwell in his book. The responsibilities of each team member are aligned with the strengths of each participating in the team-based fundraising effort.

Let’s look at these three roles:

Connectors — usually board members and campaign volunteers — are very much “people-people.” They identify prospects from their extensive collections of acquaintances and make the introductions that bring potential prospects into the process.

Mavens are the experts — often physicians and healthcare executives, but sometimes board members or planned giving specialists — who offer credentials and provide knowledge that build prospect confidence in the organization and credibility for the case.

Closers — analogous to Gladwell’s salesmen — are the transaction managers of the fundraising process. They are responsible for its culmination. Often the Closer role is filled by full-time development professionals, but volunteers, physicians and healthcare executives who are oriented to asking for gifts can play a role, too.