Last week I hosted a special live Fundchat with Ian Adair on capital campaigns. There were some fantastic questions and great discussion. Here are the highlights.
How do you know when your organization is ready for a capital campaign?
Here are my top ‘absolutes’…
1. Strong base of sustainable, annual support
2. Strong volunteer engagement in fundraising at the leadership levels
3. A clearly defined and compelling need
“I think an organization’s knows when it is time to expand when programs and facility space have reached their capacity and other alternatives like remodeling and renovations have been exhausted. ”
How should organizations prepare?
You need a strong case statement for support. See these downloadable examples from Tom Ahern. Feasibility studies are also crucially important. Here are 5 Questions a Feasibility Study should answer and Ian’s 7 goals of a feasibility study.
Where/how do you recruit volunteer help?
Once you have a strong case study and confidence from a feasibility study, you need to recruit your campaign chair. As Ian shared “The feasibility study really sets you up for how the campaign is going to be run and by whom. The chair needs to be some that most cannot not say “no” to. A real influencer in the community who can open doors for others on the committee to make an ask.”
He/she should must have…
1. Ability to make a significant gift
2. Well known/respected in the community (ask around first!)
3. The interest in your mission to engage their closest friends/colleagues
4. Experience fundraising (other campaigns, other boards, etc.)
6. The understanding that they will be making asks and recruiting a campaign committee – who will be making asks
For more, learn from the Boy Scouts – who conduct capital campaigns regularly.
When/how do you go public?
Conventional wisdom is that you must have at least 50% committed prior to going public. In a difficult economy, the later the better. You should be confident that the campaign will succeed before even starting, let alone going public. Ian shared that many foundations won’t consider a proposal until 50%+ is committed and “others, like matching foundation grants, like to be the ones that cross the finish line for you. So if you open up to the public and gets some real head way, once you reach that level where you are almost done a foundation can get you to the finish.”
When you go public, make supporters proud of their help – give them buttons, pins and swag to brag. It builds excitement, interest and ambassadors sharing about the need with other community members.