Are Capital Campaigns Successful in Today's Non-Profit World?
Much has been written about the many factors affecting a successful campaign. I find most of it is negative. As I am currently working with 5 capital campaigns, let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of a capital campaign in today's non-profit world.
1. Vision is still embraced by leadership donors.
One of the first components of a successful capital campaign is vision. Vision is how your organization will carry out your mission looking forward into the next period of time. For a capital campaign, this should be at least 10 years into the future. Vision, or how you define where your organization is going, will demand the needs of the new or remodeled facility.
Today, vision is still key and very much needed by donors in the nonprofit world. Leadership donors (those that begin a campaign and are needed for success) are those that invest in vision. Vision is not yet seen, but Leadership donors can understand the vision being cast by the organizations executive director or president.
2. A Case for Support is still the best tool for campaign communication.
The Case for Support is a document and a discipline for the nonprofit organization to be prepared for the campaign. This process is a must for an organization to be prepared both internally and externally. Internally it is needed to get the board, executive staff, and program staff on the same page. What is needed? Why is it needed? What are our solutions? Externally the case will shape the communication strategy including marketing pieces and talking points. The case is the tool that gets everyone on the same page.
3. While the economy is a consideration, it is not a major factor in the success of the campaign.
The economy affects many, but in the leadership phase of a campaign, it is not that significant. The people who can give large gifts for buildings are generally insulated from short term economic trends. Some may not agree with this. But my observation over the past 5 years is that few people have said "No" to a campaign due to the economy. And those that are affected usually extend a 3 year pledge to a 5 year pledge if they are truly committed to the cause.
4. Campaigns are still driven by leaders.
Campaigns are still a people-to-people strategy. Relationships with donors/stewards are the true test of an organization's readiness for a campaign. Do the leaders of your community see you as a leader in your mission? Are you worthy of a steward's investment? Your organization's leaders are still viewed as the driving force for a campaign in a community.
5. Donors ask more questions today.
Gone are the days when only the board and staff need to have many questions answered. Most donors, but especially leadership donors demand to ask more questions. Other donors may ask less, but still want to know much more information than in years past. This is part of the growing skepticism that younger donors have with nonprofits. But remember that younger donors do not build buildings through campaigns – yet. Giving is changing due to the Buster generation observations and trends. But today the Boomers and still some Builders make up the leadership giving that is needed for a successful campaign.
Yes, there are many trends in our communities that demand we are very prepared before moving into a capital campaign. But it is not something we should avoid or run from just because someone said that it is too hard or there is no money to give. Those comments are just opinion with no research to back it up.
As I said, I am working with 5 campaigns right now. This is the most I have worked with at one time. All are doing well while facing the same struggles and learning what everyone faces when you embark on a campaign.
Pay attention to the five points I make in this article and I believe your campaign will indeed be successful. Campaigns can be a great strategy to take your organization to the next level by building or renovating your facilities. Do not fear!