Intro: Welcome to the Fit Fundraising Podcast, where we bring you game changing fundraising topics direct from our meetings with major donors and nonprofits nationwide. While most consultants are busy giving advice, Fit Fundraising stays on the front lines with non profits and major donors. This podcast is a glimpse into our world of work with non profits as we get on the field with them and successfully model fundraising.

Get ready to get fit with the hottest show in fund development, Fit Fundraising.

Roy Jones: Welcome once again to the Fit Fundraising Podcast. We’re so glad you’ve joined us today, and we’ve got a fantastic interview planned for you. Candace Gregory, the President and CEO of the Open Door Mission in Omaha, Nebraska, is going to join us and continue our conversation on capital campaigns. Candice has been there since 1995. She’s got more than 28 years of experience in working in children and family ministries. She has been a noted speaker and advocate for the homeless across the country for decades, I’ve learned so much from her, working with her on the development front. She truly has been on the cutting edge of direct response fundraising, of major gift fundraising, of principal fundraising, of legacy fundraising, and she really has become the industry spokesperson on creating capital campaigns.

And so, in the last episode, we learned she went from 150,000 to 2 million to 24 million to 32 million, and right now we’re still in the silent phase before I could close my big mouth, but she’s on the verge of about a, between a 40 and a $50 million campaign so, it’s kind of exciting especially for us to talk about it now and again to share her experience.

Candice, thank you so much for joining us today. I’m so honored and so blessed to have you. Thank you again for joining us. 

Candace Gregory: Thank you for having me. It’s such a privilege to be here and to be able to just share a light that if you’re needing some encouragement I’m here to tell you, you don’t need a pen, you just need to have faith and be obedient to the calling that god’s placed in your heart and in your life, and he provides Roy he provides. But, you have to have a good business plan.

Roy Jones: That’s right. That is right. Well, I want to jump right into it. Think about, and I know we’ve talked about this many times, but I know you’re an advocate that part of our role and responsibility is to minister to donors, just like we minister to our guests and the people we serve. Talk about an example of how you met a donor. How did you figure out how much to ask them for? What does that process look like? How did you put a need in front of them? And again, you could give me a, let’s start out with a good experience and think it doesn’t have to be your biggest donor, but think about one of those cases and walk me through the relationship building process. And then ultimately how you made it ask, 

Candace Gregory: Interesting enough, it is a ministry Roy. And it’s not that you can just pick up the phone and make an ask without a relationship. It all starts with a genuine, sincere relationship. And that takes time. I do believe even as the CEO and President, that it’s very important that I, if I’m going to expect people to make an ask, that I also make asks. And that’s why I have a portfolio, and that’s why I have a portfolio of donors that I am cultivating and building a genuine, sincere relationship with. They know my family and my children, I know theirs and it is personal. I want it to be where I am keeping them informed of their investments here at the Open Door Mission, think if you never heard from your financial advisor. But you give them millions of dollars. I mean, that’s not a relationship. I mean, if I’m having my financial investor invest my money, he better be reporting back to me about what is going on, right? I think we need to think about that, when we have people making investments in our ministries, in our projects, we need to keep them informed and that’s part of having a genuine, sincere relationship, Roy. Not all my asks have been yes. They have been no’s, not right now, but that doesn’t mean not yes later. 

Roy Jones: Right. 

Candace Gregory: Interesting enough, I’ve had so many interesting interactions with donors over the last 28 years, but one in particular I’ll never forget, I actually was going to a family’s home and we had set up a time for us to have coffee and it was during the holiday season and of course it’s super busy, right? And if you’ve never worked in a ministry during the holidays, it’s like not a good time to start. But I’m going to visit, and I’m literally blocks from their home and she calls me and says she has a flat tire. We’re not going to be able to meet. I’m like, Oh my gosh, this is like seven days to Christmas Eve. How am I going to fit this in? Anyway, nevertheless, I ended up going back the next day, and we met in the kitchen, didn’t make it very far past the kitchen. And when we were done having our drinks, she said she gave me an envelope and she said, Candace, we just want to invest we prayed about it. Of course, leading up to this war, you’ve had lots of conversations about the project that’s going on, lots of the naming opportunities, I mean, I have been over communicating to this family. And so we’re finally in the kitchen and she hands me an envelope and I say, man, every little bit adds up to make a big difference. God bless you, he is going to multiply this. I am like. singing their praises. I never opened the envelope. Got back in the car, put it above my visor, drove around town for a couple of days, remembered it was there, came in, threw it on my accountant’s desk, ran to a speaking engagement. He calls me and he says, Hey, did you know how much was in this envelope? And I’m like, yeah, I think a couple, I don’t know. I said, I think so. And he says one point. 

Roy Jones: Oh my goodness. 

Candace Gregory: I said. What in the world? I better pull over and of course, the only thing I could think about was I, do you remember I said in that kitchen, every little bit adds up to make a difference. And so I called that family and she picks up the phone and I said, this is Candace. You know what she said to me? I’ve been expecting your call. So that’s just a little bit of fun. 

Roy Jones: But you know, you demonstrated to them that it’s really not about the money. It’s about the relationship, it’s about the friendship and it is about, what they mean to you and you’re talking about children and the families and really building a friendship.

Candace Gregory: Now, I will tell you, we didn’t get past the kitchen that day, but I’ve been in that home many times and been throughout the home. But, it’s interesting as I look post COVID Roy, I never thought that I would be making asks for money over zoom, texting and phone calls. I always in my head thought all of that was going to transpire face to face, but our world has changed so much. 

Roy Jones: The phone has come back in a big way, hasn’t it? 

Candace Gregory: Yeah. And so I’m going to be interested to see how this all plays out in this next capital campaign because, we are in the silent private phase and we’ve already raised a little over 12 million, and I’ve got some tax credit program and some grants pending and things like that before we go public, but it’s going to be very interesting, Roy, because a lot of relationships, I mean, technology has changed, I’m sending people pictures of my family and the mission and via text and I’m keeping up on, I have donors literally on my facebook. Huge amount of donors. 

Roy Jones: Talk to me about how you raise these issues. And again, you kind of referenced that you’re still in the silent phase of the campaign. Of course, silent does not mean silence. it just means we’re not blasting it out to every person on the file. 

Candace Gregory: Yeah. I don’t have any direct mail pieces going out, I’m not talking about it in the public service announcements or even on the radio spots, not doing any interviews or big speaking engagements about it, that kind of thing. I’m not even talking to our major donors.

Roy Jones: Have you seen, I always refer to it as substitutionary giving, you don’t want people to move from operations to capital and then stop giving the operations. What’s that process feel like? So you’re kind of looking at your file. You’re selecting donors that you want to engage with, at this high level, during the quiet phase of the campaign. Any secrets there, or is it just, just like it sounds? 

Candace Gregory: You have to make the face to face eventually. I really believe even with this isolation period that we’re having where people are, still just a little bit more reserved. I still think it requires the call to say, this is so personally important to me, I’m willing to wait. When might your calendar have an opening for me? Because I think that when it comes to making those big asks, Roy, that we’re talking about in the pyramid, we have to have so many in the upper pyramid down to like the hundred dollar gifts. You’ve got to get those face to faces, you just really do, I mean you go through your wealth screening, there’s only a couple wealth screening tools three I think that are top right and so you’re going to go through that you’re going to see your history of donations, you’re going to see how the other campaigns played out and then you’re going to kind of juggle around where those people are going to fall in your pyramid in that private phase. But when you get to that point, it’s gotta be that, Hey this is so personally important to me, I’m willing to wait to when you have five or 10 minutes for me to visit. I just don’t want them to open the mail and see that first, Roy, because I really believe I have a gift for communication and I believe that I am very good when it comes to being with someone personally face to face. And so I think I can talk them out of their shirt, if I had to. And so, but I gotta have these, 

Roy Jones: But it is face to face, isn’t it? And then again, it’s about relationship. It’s about trust. And it’s about giving them an inside look, before it’s blasted out to the public, right? It’s about prioritizing 

Candace Gregory: Absolutely, and then too it has to be some really important questions in this process because you’ve just poured your heart out to them about your vision and your passion for your janes and your ebony’s and your lovely men women and children that you want to see have these opportunities through this capital campaign and so it’s get to a point where it says, Roy, I don’t want to ask for too little or too much and be quiet, be quiet. You just poured your heart out to Roy, about what you need to make this happen. And then it gets to the point where I don’t want to ask for too little or too much. And you sit back and you just take a breath. And it’s okay to say, what do you think a leadership gift looks like? If you don’t know. I always know. But if you don’t, it’s okay to ask, Roy. 

Roy Jones: You ask them to define the level, they’ll tell you where they’re, I have seen so many times. I believe people kind of have their hearts, they’re led to a certain place before you get there. 

Candace Gregory: I can tell by their body language. I can tell by how they’re leaning into me, I can tell how fast, like depends on fast I got in to see them. I can tell if I have permission to say, would you prayerfully consider a million dollar gift? I know, you have wisdom you have to call upon the Holy Spirit to give you that wisdom and discernment, to be able to know you got to read people. Because you may see them in a standing off and leaning back and whoa, you better not go bake in there, to bake the cake, because you’re still stirring the bottom. 

Roy Jones: Right, that thing’s got to bake some more. It’s got to go back in the oven. 

Candace Gregory: And so, it’s got to percolate. And so, we don’t have no air fryer that’s going to just make it go fast, so you’ve got to be able to read people that’s why it’s about a relationship. I’ve never ever in 28 years, to my knowledge, offended anybody with my ask. I’ve always prayed before I’ve gone in. I’ve always prayed before I call. 

Roy Jones: So people said no, people told you no, but they weren’t offended. 

Candace Gregory: I have one donor that every time I call and say, have I got an opportunity for you? And he’s like, I bet you do. Because it’s always an opportunity. It is. It is an opportunity. They get the choice. And just because,

Roy Jones: You use small groups, Candace, I mean, you get these donors together sometimes, or is it pretty much always one on one? 

Candace Gregory: Prior to COVID, I did a lot of major donor dinners in the public phase, and they were very successful, Roy. In the public phase, I’ve done big galas and been very successful in those settings. And I am still a very much supporter of major donor dinners. In fact, I’m not in the public phase of the capital campaign, but I’m doing three major donor dinners in December.

Roy Jones: There really is some synergy that’s created when you get them together, isn’t there?

Candace Gregory: Yes. And I need to make sure that I end well in this recession. And how can I even think about talking to them about a capital campaign? I’ve got to make sure that this budget’s solid, for my annual campaign. So you’ve got to be able to balance both at the same time. You got a lot of plates in the air when you’re doing a capital campaign.

Roy Jones: Wow. Well, now is it just with capital campaigns and they’re there, as you’ve indicated, oftentimes, much larger ask amounts. It’s not just cash giving, is it? Talk to me about the assets you see.

Candace Gregory: It’s absolutely not. We get a lot of stock, gifts. We get a lot of stock gifts annually and in capital campaigns and in our pro annual projects too. We get a lot of stock, we get a lot of IRA, we get life insurance policies. We actually get a boat, 

Roy Jones: Right? So you get some real estate type things. 

Candace Gregory: 50,000 and 50,000. It’s like, I’m not gonna bat an eye. I’ve gotten houses, and sold them for, well, we sold one for 182, 000. That was one of her largest gifts to us. A second home that he owned. And so, you have to remember that people of wealth, are very creative, and they have many ways, to make their gift, if they want you. 

Roy Jones: How do you thank capital campaign donors? Is it different? Is there more acknowledgement involved? Of course, many times we’re using naming opportunities. What’s been your experience? 

Candace Gregory: We have been. Our team, has been very successful in retaining our donors to not only be capital campaign donors, but to be annual donors as well. And so, and I think if you do it well, and you tell your story well, that it won’t impact your annual as much as you think it might.

Roy Jones: So they’ll still give to the annual campaign, they’ll still give to the operations? 

Candace Gregory: Yeah, we did not, I know people say, Roy and I know that research says it impacts your annual. We have been successful in our, we’ve only gone to our donors with, we’ve asked for three year pledges, I should have mentioned that. Those work well for me. Because then people can plan, the people of wealth do like to plan, how they’re going to give their gift, and I think when you give people options, then they gives them more opportunity to even give more. And so we have been very successful in doing pledges through for our campaigns that have been in the millions.

Roy Jones: So multi year pledges are very effective 

Candace Gregory: I’ve only had one person not be able to fulfill. One in all my 28 years, and it was mainly because of economic situation not because their heart wasn’t there, but their company folded 

Roy Jones: it happens. It happens. Yeah. Well Candace, 

Candace Gregory: But god provided.

Roy Jones: I have learned so much and it’s just really interesting. Just to see your passion, to see your faith grow from one year to the next, from one decade to the next. And see how the donors and supporters that God has brought alongside you have grown, too.

Candace Gregory: It’s been amazing. We have grown in our faith in this process. But we’ve also seen our donors grow in their faith. And I know many people think, wow, you have a ministry to those experiencing homelessness and poverty. And Yes, we do. But we also have a ministry to our volunteers and our partners and our supporters. And it’s really important that we actually have a genuine sincere relationship with everyone that we serve. 

Roy Jones: That’s awesome. Well, Candace, if somebody wanted to reach you, how do they reach you? 

Candace Gregory: Well, they can reach me at cgregory@ opendoormission. org, and I’d love to show you firsthand how God is changing lives at the Open Door Mission, and I’d love to share with you, if you’re discouraged in your capital campaign or where you are right now in your fundraising, just remember there’s hope.

Roy Jones: There is hope. And I think, and we’re seeing it, I mean, capital projects, especially among nonprofits are exploding nationwide, especially when it comes to this issue of homelessness and what’s going on in the economy right now, so this topic is so relevant. Thank you so much, Dr. Gregory for joining us today. We so appreciate it. And again, if you’re listening to us today for the first time, stay tuned. We’ve got more interviews for you with some of the top fundraisers in America. So join us again, stay plugged in the fit fundraising podcast. Thanks again. Bye bye.