While a capital campaign may seem like a good idea, there are a number of considerations deserving significant review before a board decides to interview a consultant or launch a feasibility study. We like to refer to them as the 5 Campaign Keystones and they’ll help you raise more than money.
Our clients receive a word of caution for those in leadership positions or closely involved with the cause regarding unrealistic campaign expectations. It’s easy to believe everybody shares this passion for the specific project, building or fund. Remember, you have a different perspective, you’re able to see the vision with clarity and your prospective donors or supporters may not. While positive energy surrounding your potential project is certainly a plus, it can also fuel unrealistic expectations. Recognize these lofty expectations have the ability to elevate the temptation to start too early, set an unrealistic goal or skip some important organizational steps.
Beyond the obvious considerations here are five Campaign Keystones that need very specific attention in your planning process:
Keystone #1 – BUILD A PRE-CAMPAIGN FOUNDATION
It’s not unusual for the financial goal to be the first item to come to mind with a Capital Campaign. In reality, the parameters go so much deeper than money and you need to think about organizational readiness! Your pre-campaign history doesn’t magically go away so you want to be certain your house is in order before appealing to others to "move in!" You’ll want to review your organization and its interaction with the community, consider expectations that donors may bring to the table and try to anticipate questions and concerns. This review should include sustainability issues, strategies and ensuring the appropriate planning vehicles are in place. Some of the concerns may be expressed in a feasibility study but serious conversations and focus groups can help unveil others before you begin the journey.
Keystone #2 – FEASIBILITY STUDY
Feasibility studies can be insightful, but they are also optional, particularly for smaller campaigns. In fact, some of the most successful campaigns we’ve seen were able to bypass a study. While feasibility studies may appear to be pricey, they can also provide valuable tools in making determinations about the campaign and develop insight into a campaign’s likelihood for success. The substantial value comes in getting an objective feel for a proper goal, solidifying the potential leadership and identifying likely donors that might not currently be on the radar.
You may find it possible to proceed without a study when similar work has been done recently or if the organization has an active and engaging development effort and the group has a strong case statement. It is still wise to have an outside party analyze your status to avoid any prejudice toward the decision to proceed or not. They can also help you analyze the fundamentals of your organization.
Keystone #3 – REVIEW AND CREATE THE INFRASTRUCTURE
A successful campaign requires a significant infrastructure which will include staffing, policies, board support and other components. Your day to day activity doesn’t cease, so you need to be prepared to ramp up the existing staff’s commitment, add staff or hours, or be prepared to outsource. You can’t take the requirements lightly and hope to adjust mid-course. You must be certain you have what it’s going to take in place to conduct a successful campaign. Remember, campaigns can be time-consuming and labor intensive; so what infrastructure will you have built to stay on top of business when the campaign is in a demanding full swing?
Keystone #4 – SECURE LEADERSHIP WITH THE RIGHT FIT
Campaigns shouldn’t be staff led, but rather, staff supported. Attracting outside volunteer leadership to the project brings credibility, valuable resources and expansive networks to the table. As such, campaign leadership must be reviewed, discussed and carefully selected. They need to carry a commitment that is undying and deeply rooted. It is safe to say that less than 5 percent of the population matches the description you must have for campaign leadership. As a result, you need to take the time to get it right. This leadership will also be responsible for helping to build the remainder of the team, so the ability to attract and motivate volunteers is another important component in the selection. Without question, choosing an effective campaign chair can be the most important decision in building the campaign.
Keystone #5 – INTEGRATE THE CAMPAIGN
While campaigns take on a life of their own they need to be seamlessly integrated within the organization, which takes some effort. When conducting a campaign, you want to be able to take advantage of this unique opportunity to interact with the public in a new way. Campaigns help build awareness of your efforts and provide a rare look at how your organization is viewed among supporters and prospective donors. For example, the feedback alone is worth the effort but you must be certain a means of incorporating these comments is provided to the volunteers. On other fronts you want to consider how the campaign and its theme will be coordinated with your brand? What does the communication between your board and the campaign team look like? Integration sounds simple enough but the channels of communication need to be aligned to do so.
Conducting a campaign may seem daunting but remember a good campaign never leaves an organization where it was found. By incorporating the keystones and building the foundation of the effort, it offers the chance to raise, not only money, but the overall professionalism, awareness and credibility of your organization. Coincidentally, they’re all things that money can’t buy!
David Fry is president and owner of Effective Advancement Strategies in southeast Indiana.