Oh no! We need a new building. The offer letter is on the table.
What now? We need money!
But wait, we haven’t done any fundraising in the past. We need millions tomorrow to move into our new facility and to make all the necessary upgrades. Time, we don’t have time!
Does this scenario sound familiar?
It very well may. It is an accurate one of many who forge ahead without contemplating the planning and preparation necessary for a successful capital campaign. And, let’s face it, there is a great deal of planning and preparation necessary. You can’t just flop campaigns of this magnitude together. They take strategic thinking and planning. Capital Campaigns are the science behind fund development.
For instance, one question that is always top of mind for me as a consultant, “Do you have any major donors?” or even, “Any major donor prospects?” “What relationship-building strategies have you been engaged in with your current donors and prospects?” “For those current donors and prospects, what cultivation activities have you been pursuing with them?” and “At what stage of cultivation are you at with each of your prospects?”
Fundraisers can’t be expected to swoop in and create money where it is not possible. And, surely they can’t do it in the time frame that a capital campaign demands. It is setting the fundraiser, and, ultimately, the organization and the organization’s mission up to fail.
Here are some things to think about up front to ensure the success of a campaign:
What is the expertise level of current development staff? Do you have ample development staff on board to handle a campaign?
Do you need campaign counsel to oversee the stages of a capital campaign effort (highly recommended, of course)?
Do you have a large enough major gift pool of loyal and personally significant givers?
Do you have a large enough major gift prospect pool?
At what stage of cultivation is each major gift prospect at within this pre-determined pool?
How comprehensive has your donor stewardship plan been in the past?
Do you have a long track record of raising funds within the community?
Does your organization have a long-standing reputation?
Are there other similar services or projects that exist in the community and, if so, how is yours different?
Do you have a clearly outlined case for support document that highlights a substantial community need?
Have you previously conducted a feasibility study for this campaign to determine the feasibility of a major fundraising effort to support the case for support.
Do you have the internal structures in place to mount a large-scale campaign such as up-to-date database software, cleaned-up and segmented database, acknowledge and pledge receipting process, finance and bookkeeping systems, and overall campaign management supports?
These are just a few questions that are top of my mind as I sit and think about an organization seeking to mount a significant capital campaign. This list of questions is not exhaustive but illustrates the types of systems and processes that need to be in place before a significant campaign is mounted.
The morale of this story? One can’t embark on a such a significant endeavor such as a capital campaign without planning. Failing to plan, is failing to succeed. And, failing to succeed, in most cases, falls on the backs of the fundraiser who is “put in charge” of the effort. Rarely is failure seen as a team-effort.