Capital Campaign Advice From the Field
A capital campaign not only is an effort to raise funds for large organizational expenses, but it also can be a learning experience in how best to engage constituents and educate them about your mission and programs.
The Campaign for the Children of Lawrence Hall is a phased, three- to five-year $35 million capital campaign for a new five-acre campus for Lawrence Hall Youth Services, a 142-year-old organization that provides child-welfare programs in the Chicago area.
The campaign began nearly three years ago and remains on schedule and on budget. Last July the organization broke ground on the campus’ multiple buildings, which include a therapeutic day school, a residential treatment center, a clinical center and recreational facilities, and plans it to move in to the residential treatment center in December.
Julie Youngquist, vice president of institutional advancement for LHYS, says one notable challenge the organization has encountered during the campaign is competition from a slew of other capital campaigns going on right now in Chicago, plus the city’s 2016 Olympic bid.
Youngquist says the organization has surmounted that challenge by stressing in campaign fundraising materials that LHYS is a social-services agency, unlike many of the other campaigns currently underway in the area.
“The other capital campaigns that are happening in the city, ones that are in the same kind of ballpark or same dollar amount as ours, don’t tend to be social-services organizations, so there are donors in the city that will donate to the Field Museum capital campaign, they may donate to the Lyric Opera capital campaign and other capital campaigns, and we would be their social-service agency of choice,” Youngquist says.
The capital campaign is growing LHYS’ internal fundraising and communications strategies as well as its physical presence. Youngquist says a unique thing LHYS is doing to raise both funds and awareness of the campaign is its breakfast briefings, which it holds two Fridays a month. The organization invites groups of donors to choose from a selection of topics that relate to its programs and then presents information on those topics at the residential treatment center that’s being built. It gives potential donors a chance to visit the facility, hear about the construction project and see for themselves the progress that’s being made, as well as hear about issues teens are facing and how LHYS is addressing them.
In addition, board members host cultivation events at a variety of locations throughout the Metropolitan Chicago area. The events bring current donors together with people interested in LHYS’ cause, and the result is a very personal experience with the organization.
“It’s different than anything that we had done before,” Youngquist says, “and we’re really taking the time to make personal connections with our donors -- going to see them and getting them to come out and see our facility, meet some of our kids, see the programming first hand and really making that personal connection with them, which is good practice in fundraising. But being in a capital campaign has really heightened the need for that for us and for our volunteers.
“It just gives us a chance to tell our story and get to know people a little bit better and then to again tell them about our vision for this facility that really will enhance our mission, which is to serve kids who are vulnerable, abused, neglected and just need a chance to have a better life,” she adds.
LHYS also received a very large grant from the McCormick Tribune Foundation -- a result, Youngquist says, of a newly developed grant-solicitation strategy.
“We used a number of our volunteers, and we really went at the foundation from a number of angles. We had board members talking with people that they knew who were board members at the foundation, we went through the official grant process and it really was a model for how we would like to be able to secure large organizational gifts,” Youngquist says.
“Really the planning and the thought that went into this campaign to make sure that it not only represented our mission but enhances our ability to make sure that we are able to fulfill our mission was tremendous. I mean, that’s really what this is all about,” she adds.
Youngquist’s final words of advice to organizations planning or preparing for a capital campaign: “You have to be very committed to it because there’s going to be peaks and valleys like in anything else. The payoff is tremendous, but it’s a long road.”
Julie Youngquist can be reached via www.lawrencehall.org