6 takeaways from LI's High-Dollar Fundraising School (Day 1)
The first day of the Leadership Institute's Comprehensive Fundraising Training -- a week-long bootcamp in raising funds for campaigns and causes -- kicked off with a full day at the High-Dollar Fundraising School.

If you couldn't make it, don't worry. Below are the key takeaways I learned from each speaker. More to come throughout the week.


You can't thank your donors enough.

Carsten Walter, Development Director of the Heritage Foundation, opened the training by answering the question: why do people give you money? He explained the keys of donor communication and the importance of saying thanks.

Other key points:

--> People give because of a cause. Ask donors about an issue and then about how passionate they are about that issue.

--> Send a thank-you note to donors and thank them multiple times.

--> After you thank you donors, let them know where their money went.


The five elements of asking donors: simple, unexpected, concrete, creditable, and have emotion or stories.

Ian Ivey, who works for the General Service Administration but has a long background in the conservative movement, taught attendees how to create a case for giving -- and how to make it stick.

Other key points:

--> Your goal is to persuade donors that what you are doing is valuable to them.

--> A good "pitch" follows the same checklist: simple, unexpected, concrete, creditable, and have emotion or stories.


Fundraising in-person or over the phone is your most cost-effective way to raise money.

Nancy Bocskor, Founder of the Nancy Bocskor Company, explained to students how to raise money person-to-person, to know when to ask for money, and to know what to avoid.

Other key points:

--> When you're making an ask, you have 21 seconds to make your impression.

--> The results of personal solicitation are immediate. Anytime you call someone rather then send them  direct mail your response rate will go up five times.

--> When you're asking for funds, you need to have a firm greeting, engage in small talk, make a good sales pitch, and then close the deal.


One person can only meet so many people -- so it's important to raise money with tools like direct mail.

John Davis is the Director of Donor Communications at the Leadership Institute. He talked about the benefits of having a high-dollar direct-mail fundraising program.

Other key points:

--> The response rate to your first letter will be around 2%. But that's alright. Your goal is to build a core group of donors.

--> Don't worry about getting a "no."

--> Build relationships with your donors. Make your communication as personal as you can. It's okay not to ask for money. 


Your fundraising campaign must have a mission statement that is short and to the point. It creates energy and urgency.

Karla Bruno is the Director of Foundations and Corporate Relations at the Leadership Institute. She taught attendees how to use capital campaigns to help their organizations grow.

Other key points:

--> Capital campaigns can super-charge your fundraising program when they tap into urgency. A sense of urgency in politics is phenomenal.

--> The Leadership Institute's expanded its Campus Leadership Program into new office space with multiple elements of a successful capital campaign: a clearly defined mission, a sense of urgency with a deadline for action, and a video appeal with endorsements from conservative movement leaders, including Grover Norquist and Governor Mike Pence.



Don't treat your donors as if you're meeting them for the first time.

Dick Patten, the CEO of Patten and Associates, explained to attendees how they could upgrade their donors.

Other key points:

--> Remember: working with your donors is about their needs and wants, not yours -- theirs. Provide engagement in all your communications with them.

--> Ask your donors for their input on a report card. Look at what's been accomplished and what needs to be done.

--> Create a strategic plan for upgrading donors with dates, actions, benchmarks, and goals.

Kyle Baccei is the Communications Manager for the Leadership Institute. Follow him on Twitter (@KyleBaccei).