I’ve brought up this strategy with many of my clients and they all look at me like I’m crazy.
I assumed, incorrectly that most fundraising professionals know what a caucus is. I was wrong.
If you are struggling to close board or committee gifts, holding a caucus might be the strategy you need to not only lock in donations, but to bring your board or committee members closer together.
What is a Caucus?
A caucus is a group of people meeting to advance a shared cause. This term is most often used in relation to politics - but it also applies to nonprofits.
How Does it Work?
Along with the rest of your executive team, dedicate one entire board meeting to caucusing. Divide up into small groups of three or four people. Do not let people choose their own group. Instead, put people together based on their interests, passion, and giving capacity.
Instruct everyone to open up and talk about why they are involved with your organization, why they are passionate about your cause, and what in their life led them to your organization. Lastly, ask people to share either how much they are going to donate or how much they are going to increase their gift/donation for the year.
If this is your board’s first time caucusing together, it may be helpful to have a list of questions to help guide your groups in their discussion.
The “why” is the most important part of the caucus because it is so easy to lose focus on why we’ve chosen to give to specific organizations. Vocalizing this choice helps people remember why they got involved with the organization and it can reinvigorate board members who were losing their emotional investment in the organization.
Sometimes there’s even a bit of friendly peer pressure in this situation. If one member is only giving $200 and everyone else is giving $1000, that person may be inspired to increase their gift.
Caucusing is a unique and fascinating way to fundraise because of the personal nature of the discussions that arise. These discussions will often form the basis of new friendships and deepen the bond between board members. Best of all, you can close everyone’s gift in just about two or three hours. Talk about expedient!
The idea of caucusing and talking about giving can make some people very uncomfortable. Reassure your board/committee that this will be a positive process. By the end of the caucus the skeptics are usually won over and are often the biggest proponents of caucusing.
I recommend trying a caucus with your board this year. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how well it works and how good your board members feel about your nonprofit afterward.