Attracting Donors to a Capital Campaign
In “Beyond Fundraising: New Strategies for Nonprofit Innovation and Investment,” a book that presents strategies for developing long-term relationships with donor-investors and volunteers, consultant Kay Sprinkel Grace, looks at the four principle issues that donors consider when deciding whether or not to make a gift to an organization’s capital campaign:
1) Benefit to the community. The community benefits of a new facility at a local food bank could be that enhanced facilities and equipment will increase the amount of food it is able to process and distribute each year. While the mission of arts and cultural organizations might not seem as urgent as hunger, these types of organizations can explain to potential donors that, as Grace writes, “If, in the course of solving all the human and social problems in our communities, we neglected and lost the arts, our society would be a sadly diminished one.”
2) Benefit to the organization. Whether its more space, endowment or equipment, Grace says the campaign’s benefits to the organization are often very clear at the beginning of the campaign, but after the campaign is under way it’s common for staff and volunteers to doubt whether it is worth their time and effort. She says it’s crucial that these concerns are not conveyed to donors. “Reflect on the community need that brought you to the point of undertaking the campaign; consider the long-term impact of the investment in additional staff, publications, volunteer training and cultivation of donors; and be confident that the outcome of a well-managed and successful campaign includes an enhanced organization as well as a delighted group of donor-investors,” Grace writes.
3) Benefit or recognition for themselves. Naming institutions, buildings or endowments after donors can lure donors motivated by the possibility of recognition. Grace says donors with this motivation should not be looked down on. In fact, providing the opportunity for recognition can instill pride and inspiration in the donor’s peers, family and friends and “may ignite a similar desire to give that will also benefit the community,” writes Grace. It provides a return on donors’ investments.
4) The involvement of other funders. Funders are often reluctant to be the first ones to give a gift to a capital campaign. Grace says this is why organizations need “champions” in the community who will step up and either give that first gift or convince other funders to give initial gifts. For this reason, it’s important to build strong long-term donor relationships. Grace recommends organizations take their initial dreams and ideas for the new building or equipment to these donors and share their excitement about the project with them. This will not only make them more apt to become one of the initial investors, it will motivate them to talk with other potential donors and community leaders.
But Grace cautions that if you plan on sharing donor information with potential donors, you discuss it first with the donor. “When leadership gifts are secured in a campaign, discuss with the donor the way in which information about that gift can be used to inspire others. In the initial or quiet phase of a campaign, the list of donors can then be conveyed to other potential donors in one-on-one meetings. When a campaign is announced to the public, the list of donors and the size of their gifts -- plus the total raised to date -- is often provided. Clearance with donors is obviously essential,” writes Grace.
“Beyond Fundraising: New Strategies for Nonprofit Innovation and Investment” (John Wiley & Sons, May 2005) is available via www.wiley.com for $34.95.