Gary’s first answer was no. He told us he just couldn’t join the steering committee because he had to protect the confidentiality of his clients. Gary was not only an estate attorney in his town, he was THE estate attorney in his town. Everyone who was anyone had their estate plans drawn up by Gary. Not only did Gary know everyone’s business, but he was also very popular with his peer group. Not surprisingly, those interviewed for the feasibility study highly recommended his leadership for the campaign steering committee.
Capital campaigns live or die on leadership, especially from a group of high-profile, high capacity volunteers. It seems in any community if the right leader beats the drum, others will come marching. As members of the steering committee, these volunteers bring credibility to the campaign, wisdom and insider knowledge to the fundraising process, and leverage to donor solicitations. The right volunteer can meet with a prospective donor, look them in the eye, and say, “Harvey and Phyllis, Sheila and I gave $250,000 to this project and want you to match our gift.” While lacking in what most professional fundraisers consider appropriate solicitation form, such a statement by the right person is incredibly effective.
So, losing someone like Gary was a significant loss indeed. It is quite common to receive the confidentiality objections from fiduciary professionals. Bankers, lawyers, accountants, doctors, and other fiduciary professionals take confidentiality seriously. They rightly want to serve their clients well.
However, the confidentiality objection does not need to be the death nail preventing fiduciary professionals from volunteering in a fundraising capacity. Yes, the volunteer can help with case development, fundraising policies, and other activities that do not involve prospect development. But how do you leverage their knowledge and influence—the real value such a volunteer would bring to the table.
The trick is in how that volunteer approaches their work. Of course, it would be both unethical and legally problematic to divulge confidential information in the fundraising context. Instead, the fiduciary volunteer fundraiser can privately and quietly approach clients who may find great joy and fulfillment in supporting the cause. Such a donor conversation might go something like this:
“Harvey and Phyllis, I wanted to reach out to you to share a community opportunity you may be interested in. You may know that I am a board member of XYZ Agency and we are currently raising funds for the new building that will change the world. Honestly, the project sounded like something you might enjoy learning more about and perhaps even supporting. Would you have interest in learning more? If so, I would be happy to either introduce you to the campaign chair or talk to you about it myself. Oh, and please know that I take your confidentiality seriously. No one at the XYZ Agency knows that I am approaching you about this.”
We shared just that approach with Gary. As campaign consultant, I met with Gary over breakfast to answer his questions and present this as an option to serve. After about 30 minutes, he was in. At the steering committee meeting, Gary immediately demonstrated his value when he convinced another member to adjust an approach to a certain donor. We are just starting our campaign, but the other members and I are excited to see all that Gary does now that he is on the team.
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