Conducting a capital campaign can be one of the most exciting and transformational activities that an organization can undertake. The funds raised through the campaign can allow you to bring to life the vision and aspirations identified in your strategic plan and position your organization to fulfil its mission for years to come.
However, the excitement around the actual campaign can sometimes overshadow the realities. All campaigns come with some risk and require organizations to stretch to reach new levels. Proper campaign planning can minimize those risks and demonstrate to current and prospective donors the organization is a good investment and will be a good steward of their dollars.
Organizations must plan in order to allocate the time and resources to properly prepare for a fundraising campaign. The advanced campaign planning work that goes into a successful campaign is just as important – and probably more important – than the execution of the campaign itself.
Here are a five key steps for capital campaign planning:
- Set Priorities
- Do you have a strategic plan in place?
- Have philanthropic priorities been identified and researched?
- Do the leadership of the organization and the board agree on the strategic plan and the corresponding philanthropic priorities?
- Do the priorities and the plan align with the mission and current activities of the organization?
- Create a Fiscal Plan
- Does your fiscal model illustrate how the initiatives outlined within the strategic plan fit within the overall financial status of the organization?
- Does your fiscal model outline how the initiative or facility will be sustained on an ongoing basis?
- Does the financial model define the current and ongoing role of philanthropy to support the initiatives?
- Will an endowment be created to provide an ongoing revenue stream?
- Will the organization take on new debt to build the facility?
- Create a Human Capital Plan
- Does the organization have the right people in place to execute a campaign?
- Is leadership, both staff and board, prepared to lead the organization through a campaign?
- Can you reasonably expect that leadership will stay in place during the campaign? This is a hard one to predict as things happen that you might not expect, but before launching a campaign the CEO/president needs to clearly state his or her intentions to the organization moving forward.
- Do you have the development staff in place to execute a campaign and build relationships with the donors that will be needed? In many cases organizations don’t have the staff in place to build the quantity of donor relationships necessary to execute a campaign. In these instances, an organization should consider hiring new staff as early as possible so they can start more fully engaging the donor base.
- Does your board fully understand their role during a campaign? The board plays a critical role in fundraising during a campaign and needs to be fully aware of the responsibility before voting to move forward. They have to take ownership of the campaign.
- Prepare Your Donors
- Have you engaged your lead and major gift prospects with the organization?
- Are your key donors updated on the planning process and have they been engaged during the process? You should not expect to ask them to support a new initiative without having engaged them in the past.
- Has your development staff built relationships with a large enough base to support multiple phases of the campaign? These early conversations are critical to the success of the campaign.
- Test Your Plans
- Have you put your plans on paper and developed a case for support? This process can show you what gaps you may still have in your planning process and force you to focus your ask.
- Have you engaged your key current and prospective donors and asked for their authentic feedback on your plans? This can help create a deeper level of buy-in with current and prospective donors because you are asking them to help shape the future of your organization.
- Do you have a process in place to communicate the feedback you receive from donors back to leadership and are you prepared to reshape the scale of the project if necessary?
Campaigns should be exciting and transformational, but just don’t let that excitement cause you to move too quickly. Put the time and resources in before the campaign to set your organization on the path to success.
Here are some other resources to help you as you plan a fundraising campaign:
- Two Crucial Elements Influence Capital Campaign Success
- Getting Early Buy-In Crucial for Campaign Success
- Recent Capital Campaign Trends in Education
- Lead Donors Key to Campaign Success