Getting to and Through the Four Phases of a Capital Campaign
The best way to determine an organization’s need for a capital campaign is by doing a strategic plan that outlines the goals and direction of the organization for the next three to five years.
That according to Corrine Sylvia, founder and president of Corrine Sylvia & Associates, who currently is campaign counsel for Pennsylvania’s West Chester Area Senior Center’s $1.5 million capital campaign and the Philadelphia-based Congregation Rodeph Shalom’s $10 million capital campaign.
“Out of that strategic plan will come either capital items or programmatic items that you need to find funding for over and above what you raise for the annual fund, and that’s usually where the very beginning of your capital campaign comes from,” she explains.
If, after doing the strategic plan, an organization realizes it needs a bigger facility, Sylvia says the next step is to determine what it will cost to create the facility and what it will cost to raise the funds to build the facility. Then take a look at your organization. Do you have enough staff? Do you have enough donors? If you do a capital campaign, can you also sustain an annual campaign? Do you have enough volunteers to go out and solicit gifts?
In the session she co-presented in Philadelphia May 18 for the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals on how to have a successful capital campaign, Sylvia suggests that the next step is a feasibility study will address questions about how individuals feel about your organization. For a $5 million capital campaign, Sylvia recommends interviewing 35 to 40 key donors, being sure to address their feelings about the specific campaign, your organization in general (visibility, leadership, staff, its image in the community, etc.) and their reactions to the case for support, the document that explains the organization’s need for donations.
Sylvia adds that bringing in a consultant to conduct interviews often can elicit much better information than handling it in house. “Sometimes donors don’t feel comfortable talking to an executive director or another staff person or even a board person because it may be speaking truth to power, and they don’t want to be in an uncomfortable position.”
Organizations then should use the feasibility study findings to strengthen the case for support and any other areas that need fixing. Then it’s time to recruit individuals who can help raise funds. Organizations should seek out people who have visibility in and are respected by the community. Some may be board members, but a capital campaign is a good time to reach out and bring in new volunteers. If the volunteers do well with raising funds for the capital campaign, they might be good board prospects in the future.
After the feasibility study is done and volunteers are found, the campaign begins. The stages of soliciting funds include:
1) Quiet phase. In this stage an organization solicits those gifts that were identified in the feasibility study, approaching its strongest donors for the initial, larger gifts that get the campaign going. During this phase an organization should seek to raise 30 percent to 50 percent or more of its goal. The idea is that when you open the campaign up to the public you want to be able to position it as being successful. It encourages others, particularly smaller donors, to give, knowing they’re a part of a successful campaign.
2) Public phase. After about 50 percent or so of the goal is reached in the quiet phase, an organization embarks on the public phase of the capital campaign. It should announce that it is launching the campaign and that it already has raised X number of dollars. In this phase organizations are looking for smaller leadership gifts of $10,000 to $25,000, and gifts of any amount in general.
Ways to publicize the campaign include running stories in the local paper and putting a visual chart -- a lot of organizations use the thermometer image -- to show the campaign’s progress.
The public phase is a good time to hold fundraising events and, if it’s a building campaign, the organization can walk donors and potential donors through the space so they can get a feel for the reality of the organization’s goal. Sylvia notes though that organizations should strive to articulate their need for funds in a way that shows how the completed project will affect people’s lives.
“Buildings are great, but what are you going to do in the buildings, what are you going to put in the buildings? How are they going to affect an individual’s life? How are they going to make an impact? That’s truly what donors want to know, so you always have to put it in human terms,” she says.
3) Wrap up. When the organization has raised 90 percent of its goal, it’s time for the wrap-up phase, the hardest part of the campaign, Sylvia says. To get the remaining 10 percent of your goal, she recommends recruiting a donor to do a challenge grant where he or she matches every gift given dollar for dollar. Other incentives include putting smaller $100 to $500 donors’ names on bricks on a sidewalk or terrace that’s a part of the build.
4) Announcement of completion. When the campaign goal is met, Sylvia says, an organization should announce it loud and clear to the public. Throw a big party and thank all of your donors.
“You let the community know that you successfully raised the money that you wanted to raise, and that’s an important part of the public relations and the visibility of your organization as well because it positions your organization as a successful nonprofit that can raise a significant amount of money in a capital campaign,” she adds.
Corrine Sylvia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.