For 24 years, I served as a nonprofit CEO. I ran four successful capital campaigns at two private schools. Now I’m a consultant helping nonprofits run campaigns.
At one stage in my career, l thought the Director of Development and I (50 years’ experience combined) were ready for a campaign and that we could manage the campaign without a consultant. We tried to do it on our own … and we struggled. Fortunately, our school received an unrestricted estate gift which enabled us to meet our campaign goals. Without that bit of luck, we likely would have taken longer and scaled back our project considerably.
That experience taught me how much I didn’t know about campaign readiness and campaign management.
There is a science to evaluating whether or not your organization is ready to launch a major fundraising campaign. But it’s not rocket science. Here are a few of the ingredients that will position your organization for a successful campaign:
- Solid reputation – Is your organization clearly distinct? Do your major donors know and trust the Executive Director, board members, and key volunteers?
- Compelling vision – Does your organization have a strategic plan that identifies the project you want to raise money for identified as a priority? Can you prepare a Case Statement that informs and inspires?
Strong fundraising program – Do you know who your top ten donors are? Does your organization have a loyal base of donors who will consider a campaign gift in addition to their annual gift? Do you have systems (data base, annual giving program, communications plan) in place that can be expanded?
- Committed Board of Directors – Are board members prepared to demonstrate leadership by making a personal, sacrificial gift and by inviting others to join them? Are they connected to people of means?
- Experienced staff – Are the Executive Director and the Director of Development prepared to spend roughly 50% of their time on the campaign for the next few years? Can they connect the mission to the donors’ values and ask for a big gift? Can those who work closely with these senior fundraisers cover much of their workload to enable them to focus on the campaign?
If you don’t have all the ingredients … fret not. Few organizations have all of these ingredients perfectly in place.
If you think your organization might be ready for a campaign, consider investing in a campaign feasibility study. If your organization is not ready, perhaps a consultant can help you get ready.
If you’re passionate about your mission and you have a compelling vision, don’t be afraid to take a bold step forward toward a major fundraising campaign.
To learn more, Lester Consulting Group, Inc. is partnering with Impact Foundry (formerly Nonprofit Resource Center) for a webinar on Thursday, May 27 entitled, “Are You Ready for a Capital Campaign?” Registration can be found at Lester Consulting Group’s LinkedIn page or on impactfoundry.org.
Focus on Mission. Engage Your Donors. Move Forward Boldly.