Building a Case for Support
Building a Case for Support
Dec. 20, 2005
By Abny Santicola
Capital campaigns are an essential component to universities' fundraising efforts. And with state funding for public institutions on a consistently downward slide, universities have had to step up their money garnered from such campaigns.
Bruce Matthews, senior consultant and leader of the higher education practice at Chicago-based fundraising, executive search, and marketing and communications services firm Campbell & Co., should know. He's been working with higher-education institutions for 20 years on what he calls comprehensive campaigns. The first capital campaigns, Matthews explains, were done specifically to build new buildings or facilities, but since then the concept has evolved into what are now called comprehensive campaigns, which can involve annual giving, major and planned gifts, special projects, money for programs, endowment and capital campaigns. And donors can give to whichever they choose.
"Institutions do these campaigns to try and increase their capacity and not just raise money to build a dorm," Matthews says.
Comprehensive campaigns can take anywhere from three to seven years, he adds. The first 18 to 24 months of the campaign is the non-public leadership gift phase, often referred to as the quiet phase. But before even embarking on a comprehensive campaign, institutions should formulate their case for support. Getting the involvement of external constituents in forming the case for the campaign is imperative.
"You've got to involve your board, your donors, your members," Matthews says.
Matthews recommends a feasibility study, or a philanthropic market study, to gauge how constituents feel about an organization, how they feel about the campaign, whether they'd give to it and at what level they'd give. The feasibility study gives institutions "some sense as to whether their constituency is ready for this campaign, and the target goal that should be tested should be a product of not only what they think they need but what they think they can realistically raise, given their prospect pool and their staff and systems," Matthews says.
"The big mistake that's always made is that the case for these campaigns and these decisions are made internally only, without ever talking to the customers who are the potential donors and volunteers," he adds.
Also crucial is a commitment from staff, volunteers and board members.
"When an institution is considering doing a campaign like this, everybody involved, the staff and the volunteer boards, all have to realize that we're talking about 'us' and not 'them,'" Matthews says. "They all have to understand that they are going to be asked to make significant gifts and that they are going to be involved in the fundraising process."
Raising money for a capital or comprehensive campaign requires direct personal solicitation.
"Fundraising is a contact sport; there's no getting around it. You have to be out, looking somebody in the eye and asking them for a significant gift ... Unless they're committed to doing that, the campaign will never succeed," Matthews adds.
Bruce Matthews can be reached by visiting http://www.campbellco.com