4 Lessons Learned From a Stalled Capital Campaign
At Capital Campaign Masters, we recently invited people to tell us their most pressing campaign challenges and concerns. Some campaign challenges came up again and again. This is the first in a series of posts about campaign challenges and what you can learn from them. I’ve changed the name, but the story is real and one of several facing the same situation.
"Our campaign has stalled. We did pretty well with our leadership gifts and through the quiet phase of our campaign. Once we raised about 60 percent of our goal, we had a public kick-off. We believed that the rest of the money would just flood in.
But that’s not what happened.
Instead, we kicked off the campaign and then... a little trickle. We still have $2.2 million to raise, but we’re getting gifts of $500, $300 and even $25. That’s not going to get us to our goal. We’ve started construction, and we’ve got no option but to raise the money. What should we do?"—Barbara
Barbara is not alone with a stalled campaign. The drop-off in gift size from the quiet phase to the public phase of the campaign is often shocking.
4 Lessons From a Stalled Campaign
Here are some lessons to learn from Barbara’s situation:
1. Once construction is complete, your ability to raise capital funds will take a nosedive. If your project is being built, your fundraising clock is ticking. Not only will the bills be due, but once construction is finished and the ribbon is cut, the sense of urgency for donors will disappear and people won’t care particularly whether your project is paid for or not.
2. Just because you’ve kicked off your campaign, it doesn’t mean gifts will just roll in. The most successful campaigns lay the groundwork for the public phase long before the public kick-off. They line up volunteer solicitors who are ready to go ask people they know, in-person, for mid-level gifts. And, they have set up their broad-base funding strategies. They prepare their crowd-funding system and the communication that will go with it. They pull together a group of people to champion that through social media, and they have all of their communication planned and ready to roll out.
3. Think of the public phase as though it were a new campaign. But if you’re in the public phase and you haven’t laid the groundwork, you’ve got to step back and plan a full major-gifts campaign.
Here are four steps to get you going:
- Create a gift chart, showing what’s left to raise as the campaign goal.
- Build a depth chart, filling in prospect names for each of the gift levels. Some of these might be people who have already given to the campaign and might give again.
- Pull together a special "Finish the Campaign Committee." Be sure to include your campaign chair and board chair, a major donor or two and a few people who haven’t been actively involved yet.
- Identify a challenge gift. Often to help a campaign get over the top, a major donor will consider giving a challenge or matching gift to help motivate others.
4. Plan a second "Get Over The Top" kick-off. Once you’ve raised 60 percent to 70 percent, plan a "Get Us Over The Top Party!" Use it to build a head of steam that’ll really boost giving from the broad base.
Take Bold and Clear Initiative (Or Else)
All of these strategies are designed to move you forward in a highly targeted and specific way. A stalled campaign is NOT the time to sit back and wait until the money comes in. Unless you take a bold and clear initiative, your organization is likely to be left with a failed campaign, a big debt and a black eye in your community. That’s not a situation you want to have. So grab the initiative and have the will, courage and energy to develop a clear, time-limited plan to get your campaign over the top.
You can do it!
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Andrea Kihlstedt is a co-founder of the Capital Campaign Toolkit. She is the author of "Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work," now in its fourth edition, as well as "How to Raise $1 Million (or More) in 10 Bite Sized Steps," in addition to other books. Andrea has been leading successful capital campaigns for more than 30 years.