National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
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The Raising of Money, by James Gregory Lord (Cleveland, third Sector Press, 2nd printing 1984), provides key principles of fundraising, focusing on the art and science of campaigning and face-to-face solicitation, presented in a highly readable format and style. The fund raising principles outlined are applicable to a broad range of organizations, including the National Park Service, interested in tapping into the private philanthropic community.

While most pro-active fundraising for parks is through our partners, it is important to understand the ingredients and terminology of fund raising techniques. Specific fund raising techniques are profiled in this section.

Fundraising and volunteerism in the current recession has been challenging. Those working in support of national parks are trying to address the emerging economic realities, assess best strategies and opportunities to stay on target, and get through the recession. Here is an overview for coping with the current downturn.

The array and inter-relationship of fund-raising strategies that park support organizations employ can readily be envisioned through the construct of a Park Giving/Donor Cultivation Pyramid. Optimally, a comprehensive fund-raising program employs strategies at each level of the pyramid to engage first time donors at entry levels and cultivate them to make successively larger gifts at the upper levels over time.

Park Giving Pyramid

Fundraising professionals commonly refer to the Giving Pyramid. It serves as a model to envision how donors are initially attracted by entry level fundraising strategies at the base of the pyramid and cultivated over time to give larger gifts through successive engagement strategies. The pyramid reflects successive giving opportunities through which a donor is cultivated as their commitment and capacity to assist an organization, such as a park and its needs, increases over time.

While fewer donors emerge at each successive level from the pool of donors at the previous level in the pyramid, the amount of their gift increases as the donor moves to the next level. There can be exceptions and a donor can surface at any level. But if you are thinking pro-actively and strategically, the Park Giving/Donor Cultivation Pyramid is a time-tested guide for framing your donor cultivation strategies and giving opportunities. Ideally, you and your fundraising partners will actively seek gifts and provide involvement and donor opportunities at all levels of the Park Giving/Donor Cultivation Pyramid.

Pyramid display of donor giving used to cultivate fundraising strategies.

Pyramid Level 1 - On-Site Giving: At the base of your pyramid is a large pool of donor prospects. The majority of people enter as first-time donors to your need with an initial, often spontaneous, gift. The initial contact comes in many different ways. Usually a park visit and a quality park experience motivate an initial gift through an on-site giving opportunity such as: a donation box, a lodging check-off under the Guest Donation Program, or an Adopt-a-Park Program opportunity. Most people learn about park giving opportunities through: the park newspaper they receive when entering a park; a display in a visitor center; or information in guest lodging. Another way that people may initially choose to support a park is by becoming a VIP-Volunteer in the Park. Outside a park, the initial opportunity might be through a special event or direct mail appeal. In addition, some parks and park partners are experimenting with On-Line Fundraising by featuring direct donation opportunities on their webpages.

Pyramid Level 2 - Annual Giving: As you accrue names of previous donors or likely donors, you can begin to recruit annual gifts which support mostly on-going needs. This is done through Membership Programs, direct mail appeals, e-mail appeals, and annual special events held by your park partners in connection with your park. Annual and seasonal appeals and events provide an opportunity to begin building an informed relationship between your park and these donors who choose to sign on to help meet your needs on a regular repeat basis. Like building any good relationship, these techniques require a higher investment on the fundraiser's part to enlist and regularly communicate with the donors. But the reward for building these sustained relationships is that the members and donors who continue to contribute, often increase the level of their gifts over time and become your best prospects for the next successive levels of the Pyramid -- Major Gifts and Planned Gifts.

Pyramid Level 3 - Major Gift Campaigns: These are usually directed to raising substantial amounts of funds for capital construction projects, land acquisition or an endowment fund. Capital and endowment campaigns require a pool of donor prospects from which to recruit lead and substantial gifts that will take the campaign two-thirds or three-fourths of the way to the campaign goal before turning to the final public phase to complete the campaign. Unless you have a pool of donors who have an established track record of supporting your park/program over time, your chances of successfully reaching your campaign goal are somewhere between unlikely to impossible. Most donors at this level strongly identify with and have chosen to focus on your park/program as a giving priority in their life. As they get further along with their lives and careers and have the means to make greater gifts, they will choose to do so.

Pyramid Level 4 - Planned Gifts: Donors at this level are at the pinnacle of the giving pyramid where the largest gifts are usually realized. These donors have decided that your park/program has great resonance in their life and that they want to assign a substantial share of their wealth or assets to make a difference and leave an enduring legacy. Planned gifts can include bequests and gifts of will or trust mechanisms, or Endowments that can be established immediately or co-mingled from their gift. The nature of these gifts will vary based on the intents and needs of each individual donor.

Many parks examples of unanticipated bequests are remainder of estate gifts that are announced out of the blue. But planned gifts are more numerous when they are deliberately cultivated. That cultivation starts at the first level of the Giving Pyramid and continues up through each successive level.

The art and strategy of fundraising is to motivate donors so they continue to support the park at increasingly higher levels over time and move up through the levels of commitment and investment represented in the Park Giving/Donor Cultivation Pyramid to the ultimate gift. This technique is called "cultivation", "moves management" or "relationship management." The cultivation techniques become more targeted and personal as the donor is involved up the pyramid to the top.

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