Capital Campaign Fatigue?

One of my nonprofit clients is in the stakeholder phase of a $15,000,000 capital campaign. They have been in campaign mode for more than 18 months. In the last six months they have raised more than $5,000,000! There is no campaign fatigue here and I wanted to share how we are working together to overcome challenges and keep the energy high.

Right Leaders on the Bus

Well this goes without saying, but this campaign has not only the right leaders but in the right seats. Truly committed to the project, the staff and their lay leaders are absolutely cheering each other on and always thinking of ways to connect with current prospects as well as finding more prospects and the right volunteers are asking the right people. Often, this means one person has started the conversation with a prospect and some one else asks for an investment later. We fondly call the campaign chair “The Closer”-in the nicest way possible. Seems no one can refuse him.  The campaign chair also spends half a day at the organization office once a week and sometimes more, making phone calls, signing thank you letters and strategizing with staff. Everyone on the campaign views this campaign like a puzzle with many pieces. They are always thinking about the pieces – who else to ask and involve in order to succeed. And this persistence has paid off. New volunteer solicitors continue to join the cause. As donors sign their pledge cards and ask what else they can do, they review prospect lists, add some new names and begin their cultivation and solicitation process. New energy is always being infused into the campaign process.

How to Use a Challenge Match

Campaign conventional wisdom says use a challenge match at the end of a campaign to complete the effort. In this case, we decided to use a $2,000,000 match from an anonymous donor to move the campaign to the public announcement at $10,000,000. The campaign energy gained and conversations started at this point in the campaign have been worth bucking conventional wisdom. It allowed campaign committee members to have conversations with prospects who have not made their campaign commitment yet. Campaign leadership shared this new opportunity with current donors as part of the stewardship process.  Because of this – many current campaign donors stepped forward to increase their current pledges to help meet the challenge. All sorts of new and renewed conversations are taking place.  The anonymous donor is now thinking about coming forward to assist in solicitations of other seven figure prospects and encourage them to offer a match to help finish the campaign. Stay tuned, but it’s working – 90 days in the challenge, the campaign has used more than $1,000,000 of the match and counting and allowed the campaign raise more than $2,000,000 in 90 days. A boost to any campaign.

Campaign Cabinet Meetings

During the last six months we have changed the format of the Campaign Cabinet meetings.  Reporting from committee chairs has focused on a thorough review of every outstanding, verbal campaign commitment. This focus helps determine who will collect the pledge and when. The total dollars of outstanding commitments is usually more than $1,500,000. That number has an impact on the Campaign Cabinet. They see how much work has been going on, where the campaign would be if all the pledge commitments were received and how much closer they are to finishing the campaign. As with most campaigns, pledges are not counted until the hard copy, signed pledge form or written email confirmation is received. When the campaign provided tracking of where all outstanding solicitations were in the process, not just by committee, everyone had the opportunity to help collect the pledge and often allowed another volunteer to share their commitment to the campaign with the prospect.

The campaign continues to move forward with great energy and excitement as they approach public launch day by day, month by month.  It is a true pleasure working with such dedicated staff and volunteer leaders. I am honored to be a small part of their commitment.

What have you learned from your campaign? How have you avoided campaign fatigue? We learn best from one another and create best practices we can layer upon fundraising theory. 

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