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The Harry S. Truman Library Institute for National and International Affairs

Jeffrey Byrne’s experience in planning, implementing and executing the Harry S. Truman Library Institute for National and International Affairs $22,500,000 Creating a Classroom for Democracy Campaign classically illustrates our Criteria for Success. Whether planning to raise one million or several billion dollars, these six criteria are tried and true guideposts for success in any fundraising endeavor.

When President Harry S. Truman left the White House in 1952, there were no presidential pensions or libraries. President Franklin Roosevelt established Hyde Park as the repository for his papers. President Truman decided that he wanted a library not only to house his papers but dedicated to the study of the American presidency. President Truman raised $1,800,000 over a three-to-four month period for his library, which became the first presidential library in the federal system.

Nearly forty years later, the Library suspended a $10,000,000 campaign – having raised $5,100,000, which Library leadership had viewed as a failure. In the wake of this campaign, the Library reinvigorated its Board and installed a diverse group that included former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, local civic leaders and supporters of the Library across the country.

The original campaign that raised $5,100,000 was closed down and celebrated. Jeffrey and Library staff traveled across the country to personally thank donors who had contributed leadership gifts to the campaign. Three messages were shared during the visits:

– Thank you for your gift.
– This is what we have completed…but we are not finished.
– In six to nine months we would like to return and tell you more about our vision for the future.

A positive had been created out of a campaign that had been perceived as a negative. This sparked anticipation for the new vision to come and positioned the Library to plan and implement its next campaign.

CRITERION #1 – Create a Valid, Realistic and Universally Accepted Case for Support
The components of the Case for Support for the Library included:

• Expanding the Library to include a gallery on the life and times of President Truman
• Developing exhibits of Truman’s presidency
• Adding space to accommodate touring groups
• Presenting public programs featuring world leaders
• Creating educational programs for children, adults and scholars at the Library and online
• Supporting the Truman Library Institute, the Library’s nonprofit partner

The Case for Support demonstrated the validity and realism of a campaign to transform the Truman Library into a 21st century facility. The Case was also based on a vision that was compelling and compassionate. The vision also provided the campaign theme: “Creating a Classroom for Democracy.” The Truman Library would become a place where people would not only learn about the past but how that knowledge could be used to create a better future.

CRITERION #2 – Commitment by Organization Leadership
While focusing on building the Case for Support, securing the commitment of local and national leaders of the Library was also a top priority. They were initially engaged through the solicitation of comments on drafts of the Case and campaign materials. The Library was cultivating leadership’s buy-in to the vision for the campaign. Subsequently, solicitation was successful. With the commitment of the organization’s leaders, the Board at the Truman Library gave its 100 percent commitment to the campaign and moving forward.

CRITERION #3 – Involvement by Community Leadership
The next step was to develop a strategy to obtain the largest gifts – who to ask, for how much and, equally important, who should do the asking. In fundraising, as in most disciplines, strategy relies on information. Before involving community leaders, several weeks were spent sorting and analyzing a few thousand donor files at the Library to determine who had been asked to give and who had given – who the Truman Library had touched in the past and who needed to be touched in the future.

The process of sorting, ranking and analyzing uncovered names that had accumulated over time, but about whom very little was known. These names were sent to a screening company for further study. A Prospect Committee was formed to review, appraise and rank a list of the previously identified prospects. The top prospects were agreed upon, and the campaign was ready to begin.

CRITERION #4 – Strategy to Obtain Major Gifts
A few years prior to the campaign, a donor had stopped by the Library during the holidays, and delivered an unsolicited $100,000 check. “I think you’re doing some good things and want to show you with my financial support,” the donor explained.

This donor certainly needed to be involved in developing the Case for Support, as well as in identifying and appraising prospective donors. In fact, this donor wanted to be asked for a gift before anyone else. After successfully soliciting this donor for a transformational gift to the campaign, the donor asked to remain anonymous, but agreed to accompany the Library on calls to other prospective major donors. During a six-week period (that seemed like a year to the anonymous donor) a $1,000,000 commitment was secured nearly every week.

CRITERION #5 – Proper Planning
With $1,000,000 pledges from seven major donors, the momentum was there to implement the remainder of the campaign plan: getting potential donors to tour the Library, and make a gift before they left that day.

The tour created was 75 minutes, and consisted of viewing models of the exhibits planned for the future museum, exploring archives of President Truman’s papers and seeing clothes and special mementos that had belonged to President and his wife Bess. The tour concluded in the Bess Truman Room, where prospective donors learned about Greta Kempton–the Trumans’ portrait painter who left her entire estate in New York City to the Library and heard customized presentations tailored to their interests.

If it was perceived the visitor was ready, still in the Bess Truman Room, a gift was sought. If the prospective donor was not ready, a packet was shared and a follow up solicitation took place at a later time. More than 150 tours took place, yet none of the visitors felt rushed.

CRITERION #6 – Proper Timing
Unlike the Library’s original campaign, which sought to first raise 90% of its $10,000,000 goal from national and international donors and the final $1,000,000 from donors in Greater Kansas City, that strategy was reversed. Major donors in Greater Kansas City were approached first, with prospects from around the country solicited as the local goal was reached. The campaign goal was achieved in 19 months: the campaign was aggressive, and remained a priority for the fundraising staff and the Library for its entire duration. Momentum was created and sustained. No other internal efforts deterred the fundraising efforts. While not every prospective donor made a gift, everyone asked felt respected and appreciative of the commitment to provide deeper understanding of the library and its mission.

The time and effort invested in planning the campaign had more than proven its value. The Six Criteria for Success were born. And any organization can triumph in fundraising by following the Six Criteria for Success.

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