Capital Campaigns are Built out of Friendships

A Camp Director and I sat down together to plan meetings with top donors and major donor prospects that he didn’t know very well.  He was very eager to talk about his plans for the camp’s future capital campaign.  

I warned him that no one cares.  Not yet.  

If he talks about his vision for camp, and all the new projects they are going to build, he will likely get some, but not enough, nice donations.  

I said, “Start by listening to your donors. Get to know them, and ask them what they think. This way, you are more likely to get some stunningly large gifts from these donors.”  

Here is the key to major gifts: 
  • Build a trusting relationship with your donors. 
  • Take the time get to know what is inside their hearts and minds. 
  • Be curious and honest. 
  • Ask them frank and open-ended questions about what they think, and why they care. 
  • Ask them to tell you what you are doing wrong or right these days. 
  • Find out what would bring them joy.
Listen to their feedback. Make the changes they suggest if they are good ones. Follow-up and stay in touch. Build trust and partnership over time.  Show them through your actions and your words that you are worthy of a million dollar donation.  

A capital campaign is the start of some beautiful friendships. Give them the time and attention they deserve. 

Bottom Line: When asking for a million dollars, start by listening.

Written by Julia Riseman. Julia is a Mentor with JCamp 180. Julia leads Data2Donors, a program to advance Alumni Outreach, improve camp databases, and raise more major gifts, and Fundraising Fundamentals. Julia has also sparked the creation of many JCamp 180 programs and offerings, including this blog.

Who we are: JCamp 180 is a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF). Our goal is to significantly enhance the long-term effectiveness of nonprofit Jewish camps in North America. To meet this goal, we provide affiliated Jewish camps with consulting services, annual conferences, shared resources, professional development, and matching grant opportunities. Find more at