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Many organizations are either planning a capital campaign, or thinking about one in the future.

It’s what happens early on in the capital campaign planning process that really lays the groundwork for success. This Checklist Tool will help you and your team evaluate how prepared you are for a capital campaign in the future.

In our work with clients to set up a winning capital campaign, we begin by evaluating their readiness based on these key seven areas of capital campaign planning.

It’s what you do ahead of time that makes all the difference in capital campaign planning.

Smart capital campaign planning is like stacking the dominoes.  You take the time to carefully and strategically get organized, and line everything up.

Then, once the campaign begins, everything comes together quickly. Like the dominos, they all drop one after the other in perfect sequence.

Please know that very few organizations can say 100% YES to all these questions below. It’s the questions that you answer “maybe” that will point out your focus for the next few months.

This is a handy tool for the board and CEO to understand just how much additional preparation they need to do before moving forward with a capital campaign.

YOUR BOARD

Can your board set the financial pace for a campaign?

Are your board members considered to be leaders in the community?

Is your board in full agreement on the proposed plan for a campaign?

Does your board have good fundraising connections?

Do your board members operate with business minded board practices?

Does your board have a good relationship with staff?

VOLUNTEER LEADERSHIP

Do you have a history of influential people involved with your cause?

Can you enlist top leaders in your community who are well-known to help lead the capital campaign?

Do you have volunteer campaign leaders or campaign chairs already enlisted?

Can your volunteer leaders make major gifts to the campaign?

PROSPECTS

Do you currently have a vigorous major gift program in place?

Do you think you have the donor prospects to reach your campaign goal? 

Are your donors well cultivated and involved?

Can you identify your leadership gifts up front?

Can you identify 15-20 potential sources of major campaign gifts right now?

DEVELOPMENT OFFICE and INFRASTRUCTURE

Do you have experienced, capable staff?

Is the development office fully staffed now?

Is your administrative back office functioning smoothly?

Do you have a system for tracking pledges and policies for accepting gifts of stock and real estate?

Have you allocated funds to staff up and pay for campaign expenses? (the campaign will cost 8-10% of your overall dollar goal.)

Have you determined if you need outside expert guidance as Campaign Counsel?

YOUR PLAN/CASE

Is the need well established, urgent and understood?

Do you have an updated strategic plan?

Do you have an updated master facilities plan with completed capital projections and budgets?

Can you convey the impact of your project in vivid emotional terms?

Do you have data to back up the need you are addressing in your case for support? 

IMAGE

Is your organization well respected in the community, with a track record of success? 

Is there confidence in your organization and its leadership?

Are you communicating your results and your good work to the rest of your community?

Are you visible in the community?

TIMING

Is the fundraising environment good right now?

Are the economic conditions in your community good right now?

Bottom Line on Capital Campaign Planning.

If you have these conditions all set, then you are ready to embark on a capital campaign. 

If not, it’s time to get to work enlisting volunteers, identifying prospects, cultivating your prospective donors and sharpening up your case for support.

Let us know if we can help. We’re happy to provide a free strategy call to guide your capital campaign planning, anytime. 

A Message To You

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the U.S., a time to give thanks for what we have.

It felt a little different this year. 

2020 has thrown a lot of challenges our way. Maybe it feels like we’d rather wish away 2020 than be thankful for it. 

But as we all know – there is no light without darkness. There have been so many bright spots in 2020, amid the challenges. We have been brought together, even when apart. 

We realize now, more than ever, we cannot take our health for granted. We are thankful to have gotten to December – through a historic election and a pandemic; thankful to have our loved ones close (physically or virtually). 

And right now, we want to take a moment to give thanks to you.

The fundraisers, the development team, the major gift officers, directors and VP’s, the board members, the CEOs.

You are an army of justice and peace and kindness.  We know you are seldom acknowledged and thanked for your selfless and difficult work. 

So we want to take this special opportunity to appreciate you, day in and day out. Rain or shine. Recession, pandemic, or not. 

You are carrying the light. You are performing a crucial act in order to bring positive change to the world. 

We are thankful for you. 

P.S. We Have a Special Black Friday Sale, Just for You

Because 2020 has been super challenging, you deserve a boost. We want you to have the chance to skill up and save. 

That’s why we’ve bundled our two top-tier on-demand courses together for special savings – save $800!

Capital Campaigns in Times of Crisis: 5 Keys to a Successful Campaign Even in Today’s Uncertain World

Raise Major Gifts in Virtual Times: Master the Skills You Need to Thrive

This has been a challenging time. It seems you have to pivot your strategy every other day. This takes time, energy, and costs your organization money. 

Let us help you pivot faster and easier using our lessons learned. 

LEARN MORE NOW

We hope you will join us in the course and on our live coaching call in December. What a wonderful time to all pull together and learn from each other.

 

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If you are planning a capital campaign and would like to learn about our unique Capital Campaigns by the Numbers approach, let us know. 

Hope you have a wonderful and safe weekend.


You might be planning a campaign for 2021, or you may be in a major campaign right now. What can go wrong?

Capital campaigns, as we all know, are huge undertakings. They are full of risks, rewards and mega gifts, too.

And sometimes capital campaigns can offer breathtaking challenges. Add a global pandemic to the mix, and you have a recipe for stress, heartburn and anxiety.

Capital Campaigns in Pandemic Times

This year has been such a challenge! You and your team perhaps had a solid campaign plan. Your leadership was recruited and in place. Your lead gifts were identified. And everything was moving along smoothly.

But out of the blue came a global pandemic. Everything shut down. You could no longer visit your donors or see your key volunteer leaders. You might be concerned about your donors’ ability to give during this time. And you had to reinvent everything. You and your entire team shifted to juggle many balls in the air.

There really is a path to a successful capital campaign, though. You can still close major campaign asks, even virtually. Our clients are closing big gifts every day, and we want to show you how you can too.

If you’re interested, our new course, Capital Campaigns in Times of Crisis: 5 Keys to a Successful Campaign Even in Today’s Uncertain World will help guide you and your team to success – even in this virtual environment.

What Can Go Wrong with a Capital Campaign Today?

Where do we start? There are so many challenges! (By the way – You’ll find solutions to these challenges in our course – that will help you accelerate your success.)

Decision Making During Uncertain Times

Making major organizational decisions during uncertain times is scary. It can seem overwhelming at best, and may bring your organization to a standstill.

But not making decisions is just as dangerous as making the wrong decision.

First, you need to craft or re-craft a workable Campaign Plan in the midst of uncertainty. What can you control, what can’t you control?

How would it feel to be able to move forward vigorously with a revamped, realistic campaign plan? You’d see success on the other side.

Planning a Virtual Campaign and Feasibility Study in a Virtual World

Are you in campaign planning mode? If your campaign is on the horizon for 2021, we will show you how to take the right steps, now – so you can successfully move forward with lead gifts next year.

Managing a successful feasibility study – even in this environment – is very doable. We are actively working on some virtual feasibility studies, and they are moving along nicely. Donors are more available, and are willing to chat at length.

What is the Right Case for Support in This Environment?

How are you positioning your case in this competitive fundraising environment? You are probably struggling with the right story to tell for today’s donors. Yes, you do need a different story for today and tomorrow!

In our new course, we’ll share secrets on how to develop or refine your case for this environment. It seems more daunting than it is!

Nurturing Donor Relationships

We’re in a distant world now. it’s against everything we’ve gotten used to.

And are you exhausted by zoom?

Don’t be. We now know that donors are more available than ever. They are not traveling as much; they are focused on their community, they want to help.

Zoom means that the rules have changed. The future of your capital campaign depends on mastering a new set of discovery and qualification skills for the virtual environment. Let us show you how.

Staging and Closing Major Campaign Asks – Virtually

The biggest struggle of all? It’s how to manage a major campaign ask on zoom.

Yes, it can be done. Our clients are closing 6-figure gifts often, even in this environment.

There are a few strategic shifts you can make to ensure that your major campaign asks are successful, especially in a virtual world. In our course, we’re sharing five proven approaches you can use to set up and close major campaign asks. This is crucial for your successful capital campaign.

Bottom Line

The world is changing, there is no doubt. We are excited to share that your campaigns can still move forward, and be even more successful in this new world.

We have been helping our capital campaign clients reinvent, adapt and successfully move forward, despite the current climate. And it’s been going well.

This can be your success story too.

If you’d like to be prepared for the world as it is going to be, not as it was, please join us in our new course. We hope you’ll join Capital Campaigns in Times of Crisis so you can take your campaign to the next level of success next year.

If you are not in capital campaign mode, we wish you many major gifts flowing in from your generous donors.

 

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If you are planning a capital campaign, take a look at our NEW course which launched this week, Capital Campaigns in Times of Crisis:5 Keys to a Successful Campaign Even in Today’s Uncertain World

Hope you have a wonderful and safe weekend.

If your organization is running a capital campaign right now, you are probably finding more than a few haunting challenges these days. 

Even in stable times, campaigns are high-risk projects that take persistence, dedication and creativity. 

 And now, in the midst of all that 2020 has brought, everything is even more difficult. Yes, it’s a scary year – for a lot of reasons. 

But it’s not all scary.

Don’t let the pandemic goblins get you down. 

 We’ve seen many successes this year!

  • Capital campaigns we are coaching are moving toward their goals quite successfully this year. 
  • We are seeing the advantages of conducting virtual feasibility studies.
  • Our clients continue closing lead gifts – virtually. 
  • The Campaign Steering Committees we work with are maintaining momentum and enthusiasm.

Exciting News: We’re launching a new on-demand course in November! Capital Campaigns in Times of Crisis: 5 Keys to Success in Today’s Uncertain World. We will share how to chart a course through tough times to achieve a successful capital campaign. Stay tuned, and plan to join in! 

Today let’s have some Halloween fun. The campaign werewolf is not going to haunt you.

 It’s entirely possible to overcome these energy-sapping roadblocks:

1. Does calling on campaign donors feel like a trick . . . or a treat?

Talking with donors by phone or zoom can be full of surprises, tricks and sometimes special treats. 

But it takes more than dark magic to get donors to engage with you virtually. You need to employ your new and improved fundraising skills.  

We hear from fundraisers who are terrified trying reach out to a donor they don’t know. How should they craft a pretext for the visit? They feel awkward, grappling for the right thing to say and do. 

Are the prospect of these donor calls haunting you?

The good news is – these calls and zoom visits can be a breeze. Once you learn to have a Skillful Donor Conversation, and zero in on your donor’s interests, these calls can even be joyful and fun. 

Our upcoming course will touch on these techniques, so if you’re working to reach out to campaign donors – I hope you can join in!

2. Has your campaign goal become a ghostly apparition?

Has the flow of gifts into your campaign become just a trickle? Are your donors ghosting you? Are your key Foundation donors – who were once top prospects – shifting to other pandemic-related priorities? 

Your campaign might be stagnating.  What’s worse, your original campaign goal feels like hocus-pocus – something conjured up when times were good. 

BUT – it doesn’t have to be this way! 

We are seeing client capital campaigns move toward their goals nicely. Even when the pace has to slow down, we are using the extra downtime to dive into analytics and refine prospect lists.

You CAN keep moving toward your goal. 

Right now, even in this tough virtual environment, moving ahead just takes constant attention, gentle prodding, unremitting cheerfulness, and being present in front of your donors as much as possible. 

3. Will it take more than a séance to bring your campaign committee back to life?

 Your Campaign Steering Committee may have vanished into thin air. Your campaign volunteers might have drifted into creepy territory, never to be seen again. What to do? 

You need your key volunteers to open doors, make connections, and think through strategy.  It’s certainly frightening if they aren’t in action. 

But keeping them engaged and active is entirely possible!

Be present. Talk with them one-on-one and help them feel needed and productive. 

Here’s a tip: stage your campaign meetings to feature success stories and generate that magic thing called “momentum.” 

Bottom Line: You Can Create a Robust Capital Campaign – Even in Times of Crisis.

In our new course, we will be sharing our best advice on guiding your capital campaign through tough times. 

While we had a little fun with today’s post – we know that steering capital campaigns successfully through these difficult times is not easy. We’re excited to be sharing the many lessons we have learned with you, and help your capital campaign become more than just witchful thinking. We hope you’ll join us!

 

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If you are planning a capital campaign and would like to learn about our unique Capital Campaigns by the Numbers approach, let us know. You can also join our INSIDERS community for more fundraising training and content. We would love to have you! 

Hope you have a wonderful weekend and a safe Halloween. 

What does it take to be really ready for a capital campaign?

Are your board members and leaders chomping at the bit to move quickly?

I hear from some fundraisers that they feel pushed to get going and start asking for lead gifts as soon as possible.

Your smart plan sets up the dominoes so they will fall nicely in place.

Your smart plan sets up the dominoes so they will fall nicely in place..

And the organization may not be READY!  My advice: Slooooowwww down.

There’s lots to do in order to be ready for a capital campaign.

Here are key steps you need to work through BEFORE you launch into the silent phase of your campaign.

1.   Decide your scope.  Exactly what will you be raising money for?

This sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But it’s not.

Do you need a new building? Consider this:

Go ahead and develop a rough schematic well in advance!

Go ahead and develop a rough schematic well in advance!

  • Where will the building be and how much will the land cost?
  • Do you have a simple schematic design?
  • Do you have an idea of what the actual construction (or renovation) will cost?
  • What about the cost of building permits, new furniture, and etc.?

And what other things might you want to include in your campaign objectives?

  • What about endowment?
  • A special building maintenance fund or money for equipment?
  • What about including start-up costs for any new programs?

Identify all the different “funding objectives” or purposes that your campaign might include – well in advance.

2.   Get a rough idea of your capital campaign dollar goal.

Once you have a sense of what you might want to raise money for, you can put some numbers next to each funding objective.

Then you can come up with a “working” campaign goal.

It’s a starting place for your campaign planning.

Go ahead and set a preliminary dollar goal as soon as you can.

Go ahead and set a preliminary “working” goal as soon as you can.

Once you start talking numbers, you’ll find a sweet spot; a number that impresses people but doesn’t make them gasp at your foolishness.

(Now,  a little foolishness is not all that bad.  It’s much easier to come down later than it is to go up, so reach on the high side to start.)

3.     Break down the capital campaign goal by gift amounts.

It’s essential for you to create a Gift Range Chart. This little chart will be a remarkable planning tool for you, and will help you be ready for a capital campaign when the right time comes.

Based on your preliminary working campaign goal, create a chart that will show how many gifts you’ll need of what sizes to reach that goal.

  • How many gifts of $1 million will you need?
  • How many of $500,000? and $250,000?
  • How many in  smaller amounts will you need to cover what your major donors don’t?

Know that a gift range chart for the same goal will vary from organization to organization. Why? Because it really depends on the size of your prospect list and the potential of your largest donors.

4.     Get your board on board.

If you want to be really ready for a capital campaign, make sure your board is well-informed about the prospects and potential for your campaign.

Your board needs to:

  • Understand how capital campaigns work.  Major gift and capital campaign strategy is not always intuitive. Your leaders need to understand that it takes time and a lot of nurturing to close huge gifts.
  • All agree on the campaign objectives.  You can’t go forward if there is dissent about what the campaign will include!
  • Be willing to make the investment in infrastructure that will be required to support the campaign. This money won’t just walk in the door! It takes extra staff, extra events, extra PR, and a ton of work.
Get your board on board with the campaign early!

Get your board on board with the campaign early!

5.    Involve your most important donors in your capital campaign planning.

Many people ask us, “when do we approach our major donors about the campaign?”

We recommend that you engage major donors when your campaign is just an IDEA!

You should involve these donors in the planning process – as your ideas evolve. Let them actually help shape the plan.

You get the idea.

Don’t keep your most important donors at arm’s length through the planning process – instead, use your planning phase to draw them in. The pre-planning phase is a wonderfully exciting time to involve your donor prospects.

Take these steps first and you’ll not only save time and money, but you’ll also have your campaign on the early road to success!

 

Gail Perry's interview on capital campaigns.

Is your organization looking to raise more money this year? Do you want to learn the steps to meet your fundraising goals? If so, then you are in luck.

Amy Eisenstein from Tri Point Fundraising and I recently spoke about the key steps in preparing for a successful capital campaign. You can find our introduction to the basics of capital campaign fundraising in the video below.

To discover the true secrets of capital campaign success please visit Capital Campaign Magic, a joint project between Andrea Kihlstedt and I where you will receive newsletters, webinars, and coaching that provide the building blocks to your success.

In the video interview you will learn:

  • Whether an organization is ready to start a capital campaign
  • The value of feasibility studies and how to get around them
  • 3 objectives to keep in mind when meeting major donors
  • How to develop and rate your prospect list
  • How to get your board to open the door to prospects
 gail

 

Bottom Line:

If you are just getting started, never fear! Start with these steps:

  • Go for your goal with great vigor
  • Have a clear, feasible and compelling vision that is supported by your board and community
  • Use a donor pyramid to run the numbers
  • Have your first 5 to 10 donors be top level gifts to get you half way to your goal

Two questions to ask yourself and your organization’s leaders before beginning a capital campaign:

  1. Can we raise this money?
  2. Where do we think it may come from? (Know your top donors.)

 

Are you chomping at the bit to get moving on a capital campaign?NOT YET SIGN

My advice: Slooooowwww down.

Make sure you have done your homework before you start interviewing capital campaign consultants.  Don’t rush to pick up the phone!

Today’s post is written by two of us: Andrea Kihlstedt (who wrote the BOOK on capital campaigns) and myself.

Hiring your consultant too quickly can be a huge waste of your organization’s money.

Why?

Because your consultant needs something to work with when he or she walks in the door.

If the consultant finds a blank slate with no cultivated donors, no real plans laid, there won’t be a lot to work with.

Then you’ve just wasted a big chunk of money on a feasibility study.

It’s disappointing to consultants, too, when we have interviews with potential donors who are not familiar with the project and not close to the organization.  There is nothing to talk about!

 (Don’t get me wrong, I really DO believe in campaign consultants – just bring them in at the right time!)

Five Things You Need to Do Before Hiring a Capital Campaign Consultant

1.     Decide what you’re raising the money for.

This sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But it’s not.

Just because your organization needs a new building, for example, doesn’t mean that that’s the only thing you’re going to raise money for:

Go ahead and develop a rough schematic well in advance!

Go ahead and develop a rough schematic well in advance!

  • Do you know where the building is going to be and how much the land will cost?
  • Do you have a simple schematic design?
  • Do you have an idea of what the actual construction (or renovation, if you’re buying an existing structure) will cost?
  • What about the cost of building permits, new furniture, and etc.?

And what other things might you want to include in your campaign objectives?

What about endowment? A special building maintenance fund or money for equipment? What about including start-up costs for the new programs you’ll have in your new building?

Identify all the different “funding objectives” or purposes that your campaign might include.

2.     Get a rough idea of your campaign dollar goal.

Once you have a sense of what you might want to raise money for, you can put some numbers next to each funding objective. Then you can come up with a nice, simple round number that’ll be a starting place for your campaign planning.

When you develop a tentative goal, be sure to consider how much money you’ve raised annually in the past. (It’s probably not wise for your campaign goal to be more than ten times your annual fundraising totals.)

Go ahead and set a preliminary dollar goal as soon as you can.

Go ahead and set a preliminary dollar goal as soon as you can.

Once you start talking numbers, you’ll find a sweet spot; a number that impresses people but doesn’t make them gasp at your foolishness.

(Now,  a little foolishness is not all that bad.  It’s much easier to come down later than it is to go up, so reach on the high side to start.)

3.     Break down the goal by gift amounts.

Create a Gift Range Chart. This little chart will be a remarkable planning tool for you.

Once you have decided on a preliminary capital campaign goal, start creating a chart that will show how many gifts you’ll need of what sizes to reach that goal.

  • How many gifts of $1 million will you need?
  • How many of $500,000? and $250,000?
  • How many in  smaller amounts will you need to cover what your major donors don’t?

Know that a gift range chart for the same goal will vary from organization to organization depending on the size of your prospect list and the potential of your largest donors.

4.     Get your board on board.

Before you start interviewing potential consultants, make sure your board is well-informed about the prospects and potential for your campaign.

That means that you will have to work with board members independently and together on your planning.

You should also find a way to educate board members about what a capital campaign entails, both for the organization and for them individually and as a group.

Get your board on board with the campaign early!

Get your board on board with the campaign early!

Remember, even after you’ve taken these five steps, hiring a consultant will still require a significant financial investment.

And if your board is paying attention — and they should be! — they’ll want to be well informed about your campaign prospects before committing to that investment.

5.    Involve your most important donors in your capital campaign planning.

During these beginning steps in your planning, make a list of your ten to twenty most important donors – the ones who are most likely to make the top ten gifts to your campaign.

Then develop a plan to involve each of these donors in the planning process.

This can range from taking a donor to lunch to let her know what you’re working on to asking one or more donors to serve on a pre-campaign planning committee.

Get your lead donors involved with your planning early.

Get your lead donors involved with your planning early.

If one of your top donors is involved in real estate, you might ask his advice on choosing a new location for your new building.

You get the idea. Don’t keep your most important donors at arm’s length through the planning process – instead, use your planning phase to draw them in. The pre-planning phase is a wonderfully exciting time to involve your donor prospects.

And there you have them – the five things you need to do before hiring a capital campaign consultant!

Take these steps first and you’ll not only save time and money, but you’ll also have your campaign on the early road to success!

And your consultant will be happy she has so much to work with when she walks in the door! YES!

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about major gifts this week preparing for my July 29 webinar: 10 Mistake-Proof Steps to Prepare NOW for Your Next Capital Campaign. (join me at 1pm eastern for a lively discussion about raising BIG money.)

I see so very many nonprofits limping along in the major gifts category until they want to embark on a capital campaign. Then they stall because they don’t have any major donors or influential leaders ready to step up.

Here’s what you have to do right now if you ever want to raise big money.

And it’s not rocket science. It just takes commitment and focus:

  • Identify 10 major potential donors. They may be foundations, corporations, individuals, organizations, government agencies, or current donors.
  • Get in front of them.
  • Make friends with them. Ask their advice.
  • Bring them on tours. Ask them for help.
  • Listen, listen, listen to them.  Ask them why they care about your cause.
  • Build trust by following up and doing what you say you will do when you said you would do it.
  • Keep in contact with them MONTHLY – at the very minimum.

What are your roadblocks?

But, you might say, “I am too busy! My other responsibilities are vacuuming up all my time!  I am running around going to meetings, creating reports, planning events, writing letters, filling out grant applications, selling tickets.”

Or you might say, “My boss expects me to be in the office all the time. She doesn’t understand that I need to be out of the office making calls.”

Yes, there are always plenty of roadblocks: time traps, deadly meetings, unenlightened bosses.  We all have plenty of excuses and distractions.

But I’m telling you plain and simple, unless you commit to getting in front of these donors, you’ll NEVER raise the big money your cause needs.

This type of relationship building takes time. And it takes face time. Person to person time.

Major gift and capital campaign fundraising is a BODY CONTACT SPORT.

Here’s how you make this happen:

1. Set a goal of at least three donor visits a week, no matter what is happening in the office, with your board, with your staff, in your life.

2. Get your boss and peers to buy in and support you in this. Help them understand why it’s so very important.

3. Commit to your boss in your work goals that you’ll be making 12 calls a month.  (This is a scary one because you are accountable.)

4. Hold a monthly meeting with your boss to review progress on your top 1o donors and discuss next step strategies.

(This is the most important because it sets up a support and reporting mechanism. If you know you’ll be meeting with your boss monthly to review the calls you’ve made, then you will MAKE the priority!)

Implement this plan and you’ll be rewarded with close donor relationships.

You’ll have people who really care about your cause: new volunteers, new leaders, new connections, new support, and new investments. You’ll raise more money. You’ll also have warm personal friendships with some wonderful people.

Fundraising can be so very, very rewarding – and fun – when it becomes all about people and not about their money.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think! And forward this to a friend who needs more money for an important cause.