Fundraising FAQs from Tennessee Chamber Pros

I very much enjoyed yet another Tennessee Chamber of Commerce Executives (TCCE) conference this year. Kyle Spurgeon and his team from the Jackson Chamber of Commerce were out in full force playing gracious host and did a great job all around. Special personal congratulations were in order this year on multiple fronts, including the recent marriages of Lisa Cothran (now Little!) of the Jackson Chamber and Michael Bobo of the Loudon County Chamber, as well as the recent engagement of Convergent client Paul Latture of the Rutherford County Chamber. And, of course, professional congratulations are in order to Kimberly Lynn of the Goodlettsville Area Chamber for winning Chamber Executive of the Year!

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to discuss your funding situation and needs with me, I want to share a few of the questions and answers from the discussions I did have:

Question #1: What sort of things do you raise money for when you work for a Chamber of Commerce?

In most instances, our chamber campaigns are for the purpose of funding a multi-year economic development plan. If your chamber has the responsibility for doing economic development work in your community, then we can help to secure major public and private sector investment, payable over a multi-year pledge period, to implement a bigger and bolder program of work than you might currently be undertaking. We often help chambers to develop those plans, dramatically increase the funding available to implement them, and in the process build a broader and stronger base of support within the community.

However, not all of our chamber campaigns are economic development focused. Many are for the purpose of funding a new chamber building or facilities renovation. Others are not for the chamber directly but rather a specific community project that the chamber is spearheading. For example, we’ve been brought in to raise money to renovate a historic theater in a small community downtown, to establish an endowment for a fireworks fund to sustain another small community’s annual 4th of July event, and to capitalize a local Promise Initiative (similar to what Tennessee Promise does statewide). In short, anytime a chamber needs to raise a lot of money for some special purpose, Convergent can help.

Question #2: We’re a small chamber in a rural community. How big do you have to be in order to do a major capital campaign?

We’ve worked in communities with less than 10,000 in population and we’ve worked with chambers and economic development organizations that only have a staff of one or two people. It’s more important to think about the value proposition you could provide your community if you had sufficient resources. If you can meet an unmet community need or do something that conveys significant value to community stakeholders, we can likely run a successful campaign and do it in a way that is cost effective.

However, before launching any big fundraising campaign we typically conduct a feasibility study (sometimes referred to as an opportunity analysis or campaign planning study). As a part of that study, we’ll help you develop your proposed plans and then conduct sufficient confidential stakeholder interviews to assess whether a campaign can be successful, determine a realistic funding goal, identify potential challenges and strategies for overcoming them, establish a realistic timeline and campaign plan, and many other items necessary to position your organization for a successful campaign. You’ll know before ever launching a campaign whether your community is big enough, your organization strong enough, and your plans appealing enough to be successful.

Question #3: Some of our members are nonprofit organizations and I know they always need to raise money. How can you help them?

We actually have a full range of services for nonprofit organizations starting with our Making Mission Happen division. This division provides nonprofits the organizational development and planning services they need to build the right vehicle for delivering their mission. Then our fundraising services put the fuel in the tank to drive the vehicle forward. Most of the time we’re hired by nonprofits to manage a major capital campaign or to position them to be successful when they do launch a campaign. If you have nonprofit members we’d appreciate being introduced as a resource for them. We’re also available to conduct a variety of workshops and seminars for them in a group setting.

Just to give you a sense of the variety of our clientele, we’re currently working on projects for three hospitals, a hospice, three charter schools, two YMCAs, a Boy Scout council, a university, a community college, a homelessness services organization, an intellectual disabilities services provider, three Promise Initiatives, an organization battling human trafficking, and an organization providing affordable housing to Air Force widows. Those are just current projects. Over the years we’ve helped pretty much every type of nonprofit there is.

 

Do you have any other fundraising questions? Please let us know, and we’ll be happy to answer them for you!