Focus On: Capital Campaigns: Beyond Bricks and Mortar
Fundraisers who think that donors to a capital campaign wouldn’t be interested in supporting their organization otherwise often are missing out on a valuable funding source. Development personnel are finding that, like the old adage says, all ships do, indeed, rise with the tide.
Ongoing communication with donors following a capital campaign is essential to building the long-term capacity of a development program and, in turn, “sets the stage for subsequent campaigns to address other strategic organizational priorities,” says Mark J. Zachary, CFRE, senior vice president of Ketchum, a fundraising consulting firm based in Dallas and Pittsburgh. He adds that it’s vital to emphasize the genuine partnership that arises through gift support.
“Managing and reinforcing the long-term relationship dynamic is crucial,” he says, adding that keys to maintaining long-term relationships with capital donors include:
- Establishing ongoing communications tools such as periodic e-mail updates, written correspondence and project promotion through existing newsletters and publications. Messaging should be tailored for the appropriate sub-constituent audience (e.g. faculty/staff, trustees, medical staff, top donors, general public, etc.).
- Staging an ongoing series of recognition/reporting events, especially for top-level donors who will be particularly interested in seeing the first-hand status and benefits of the project.
- Involving donors, especially top-level subscribers, with various program committees when appropriate to reinforce their ongoing bond with the institution. “A trend with the new generation of donors is an interest in taking a first-hand role during the implementation phase of things,” Zachary says.
- Actively promoting generous donor support through a well-defined donor recognition program, with special annual events and periodic reporting.
All of these strategies will help your organization avoid the trap of isolating capital campaign donors into being one-time givers of big gifts.
Now hear from representatives of three non-profit organizations about how they’ve worked to integrate capital campaign donors into their continuing giving programs.
Interviewed here are Pam Clark, station manager of WDCQ Public Television located at Delta College, a community college in University Center, MI; Sister Peggy Scarano, OP, development director for the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill, a suburban New York-based congregation of women religious that raises money for the care of retired and infirm members, their ministries and for missions in Pakistan and Peru; and Richard Zumwalt, executive director of the Foundation Council at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center, a 100-year-old hospital in Rockford, IL. The foundation was formed in 1991 to support OSF programs, including community outreach, capital acquisitions and endowment.
FundRaising Success: Describe your most recent/or current capital campaign.
Pam Clark: We had a goal to raise $5 million out of a total $8 million needed for a conversion of our PBS TV station to a new digital format. Since this is something required by the government, we received a federal grant of about $2 million, plus we had cash reserves and some college construction dollars totaling about another million. ... We have done very well and are at the $4 million mark now. We still have some outstanding commitments that haven’t come through yet with the actual donations, but I am optimistic that many of these will come through in the early part of 2004.
Peggy Scarano: We just introduced a new capital campaign in mid-July 2003 to raise $6 million to construct and furnish St. Agnes Residence, a four-story addition to our motherhouse, which will include residential space for sisters needing varying levels of care, plus an extension of our infirmary. Almost half of our sisters are over the age of 70, so we need the ability to care for the aging and infirm while at the same time continuing our missions.
Richard Zumwalt: Our most recent capital campaign was completed in 2001. Its purpose was to help raise funds to build an ambulatory care center, a 90,000-square-foot addition to the hospital, which basically added a new entrance and enhanced access to services. The total cost of the project was $22 million. We committed to raise $3.5 million for the project, and we actually exceeded our goal by $1 million.
FS: How do your capital campaign donors compare with your regular supporters?
Clark: PBS stations in general get lots of smaller donations — people giving $35, $100, sometimes $200 to get the free tote bags and videos. But we have a foundation that’s associated with the college, so we went to these non-broadcasting donors and had great success generating some bigger gifts.
Of course, we still asked our traditional PBS television donors to support the capital campaign. We have raised about $81,000 that way through a direct mail-based effort. But the bulk of the $4 million has come from the other donors — foundation names, new donors like corporations [that are] underwriting programs and will have the publicity of having their name associated with public television.
Interestingly, we’ve found that many of our individual donors — those who give the regular, but smaller gifts — are on the board of the foundations that support us through larger donations. So there is a crossover.
Scarano: All of the people on our current donor file were approached with the capital campaign appeal. We initially sent a letter during the third week of July announcing the campaign. But we had already done some pre-development work including soliciting grants from foundations we had worked with in the past, as well as making contact with some individual people of wealth.
Zumwalt: We’ve always relied on our strong patient support, and this was no exception: 75 percent of our donors to the capital campaign were from our traditional donor base, and 25 percent were new faces. But in an interesting twist, only 60 percent of the dollar donations came from the traditional donor group and 40 percent came from those new donors. So our new group proved to be more major givers.
FS: What are the keys to cultivating relationships with capital campaign donors so that they will be encouraged to donate to future campaigns and to ongoing efforts?
Clark: Working in partnership with the Foundation Office has been key to the success of the capital campaign, and it’s something we look forward to continuing. We’ve seen a good partnership evolve out of what could have been a very territorial relationship. Often it’s seen as, “No, those are my names, and I don’t want you to use them.” We’ve really overcome that obstacle, and I think it will benefit both sides in the long run.
Scarano: Since we’re still in the midst of the campaign, we haven’t really crossed that bridge yet. As we move through these next months and definitely when we get closer to the end of the campaign, which will be in 2005, we will ask for donations for more specifics such as furnishings for the bedrooms.
Zumwalt: We were very diligent about segmenting our campaign so as not to have one negatively impact the other. With names from the database, we pulled them out of the solicitation stream once their name rose to the top, where they were ready to be approached for the capital campaign. So they would not be receiving both efforts, they’ll remain off the traditional solicitation file until the year before their pledge matures, at which point they’d be brought back in.
FS: How will you increase annual and ongoing giving for those donors who you can now identify as able and willing to give more?
Clark: We’re being mindful of the payoff times associated with some of the larger gifts, so that if they are paying it in several installments over a couple of years, we would not approach them again until after that commitment has been met.
One possibility moving forward would be forming combined giving clubs, where we could recognize gifts to the college and station together and that would get people up to [a higher giving] level faster. It would allow us more opportunities to recognize these supporters.
Scarano: A component of our fundraising program is varying types of planned giving, so there’s the opportunity of doing more in this area with donors to the capital campaign. We will invite people to make long-term investments, introduce donors to the idea of leaving a gift in their will, transferring some stocks, making us the beneficiary of an insurance policy, making arrangements for matching gifts from their place of business, to being part of a pooled income trust.
Zumwalt: For the capital campaign, a Steering Committee had been formed of $100,000-plus donors. After the campaign, the Steering Committee became our new Major Gifts Committee. We’re working on some new projects now that will try to cultivate the donors from the capital campaign into a longer-term relationship with us.
FS: What types of communications media have you found work best with capital campaign donors — and how will this factor into your future communications with them?
Clark: Of the $4 million in large gifts, $3.9 million were generated in some part by face-to-face meetings. Going forward, we want [to continue] that personalized contact. It’ll take some retraining for our staff to think about personal face-to-face contact, but it’s a great opportunity for us to think out of the box, get out of the building and continue growing the great relationships that have already been planted.
Scarano: The telephone is a very effective tool in making personal contacts with donors. I call to say a personal thank you, or if I know I am going to be in the area of a long-time supporter or major donor and want to plan a visit or at least call them. It doesn’t have to be a $1,000 donor to make that personal contact, because making the call is a simple way to say thanks.
Zumwalt: For soliciting large gifts to the capital campaign, we did almost no direct mail; it was almost all through face-to-face solicitation using volunteers.
FS: When it comes to creative strategy for capital campaigns and also for follow-up efforts to these important donors, what tactics are used?
Clark: We’re going to keep up ongoing communication with them, so that even in a year in which they’re not able to give, or have other charitable commitments, they feel a part of the family and then perhaps will think of giving again the next year. I hope that we’ll be able to convert some of the $100,000-$1 million donors to an ongoing relationship where they’ll give every year or two or three, a gift of maybe $5,000.
Scarano: The tone of the letter is always, “Can you help us reach our goal?” Whether it’s the initial effort, a thank-you letter or a follow-up newsletter, we try to relate it back to the goal we’re trying to achieve. Then we do two newsletters a year, and both will have an update about the progress we are making with the capital campaign. Other than that, we’re staying with our regular mailing schedule, which includes nine appeal letters during a calendar year (including the two newsletters) and inviting donors to participate in two special events — a November calendar raffle and our annual golf tournament held in June.
Zumwalt: For follow-up, we’re planning some fairly targeted direct mail geared to communicating our needs for some softer projects. These mailings will take more of a high-education, warm-fuzzy approach, detailing our needs whether it be for new ICU beds or looking for support for our community outreach programs.
Also, we host an annual donor recognition dinner and included donors going back three years, so that brought a lot of the capital campaign donors out to get recognized at our dinner just as all of their pledges are maturing.
And we’re doing more with donor recognition, at all levels, for example, recognizing those employees who gave by payroll deduction based not on the dollars they gave but the hours committed that their gift represented. That way, every gift is recognized for the level of commitment without regard to pay rates.
Alicia Orr Suman is the former editor-in-chief of Target Marketing magazine, past editor of Catalog Success magazine and a freelance writer specializing in direct marketing. E-mail her at email@example.com.