Change Your Mindset: Capital Campaigns Build More Than Buildings
What’s the first thing you think of when you think “capital campaign?”
I’ll bet it’s buildings. Most people believe that capital campaigns raise money for new buildings. In fact, many people think that donors like to give big gifts for buildings.
But, in my experience, that’s not entirely true.
The Real Reason Donors Give
Most donors give large gifts to building campaigns because that’s what they are asked to do. But if you dig under the surface a bit, you’ll find that the real reason they give is not the bricks and mortar at all. What sparks their generosity is what goes on in the buildings.
- They love the plays that happen in the new theatre.
- They love knowing that more children are safe and happy in the new neighborhood center.
- They are inspired by the learning and research that happens in the new facility of their university.
- They give to the cancer center, because they want better patient care.
You get it. Though people often give big gifts to fund new buildings, what matters to most donors is the profound difference their investment can make in the lives of others.
Capacity Capital Campaigns
These big, extraordinary fundraising initiatives are more accurately called "capacity capital campaigns." That is, capital that is raised to increase an organization’s capacity.
Buildings usually do increase impact. They do build capacity. But they are just one way to increase capacity. If you think about it, you’ll come up with many other ways that an infusion of money might be used to increase your organization’s capacity.
Investment Capital: Not For the Day-To-Day
Raise money to invest in your organization’s ability to do more to carry out its mission. The key idea of investment capital is that it is money that will be raised and spent to make your organization stronger and have more impact.
Investment capital does not go to your day-to-day operating budget. Investment capital helps you deliver more services, more effectively.
Here’s a list of some things you might plan a Capacity Capital Campaign around.
- Measurement and evaluation systems: Systems to help you measure and evaluate your programs and their effectiveness can transform your decision making. A one-time investment in consulting and systems that will help you know what’s working and what’s not can help your organization increase effectiveness and impact.
- Fundraising: Investments in fundraising staff and systems can radically improve the amount of money you can raise every year. An investment in fundraising is an investment in revenue generation. And while you can’t support a new staff member year after year through a capacity campaign, you can fund one or two years of a new staff position while the program grows.
- Communications: You can invest in brand development and communications to build awareness of your programs throughout your community. This is an investment drawing more people to your programs and services.
- Technology: An investment in upgrading technology can increase efficiency and impact.
- Professional expertise: Money spent on consultants and coaching to strengthen the leadership team and train board members in fundraisingand other nonprofit management skills is also likely to produce real and important results, increasing capacity once again.
Don’t Wait Until You Need a Building
If it’s been three years since your organization had its last capital campaign, it’s high time for you to think about planning a capacity capital campaign. Don’t wait until you need a new building. Instead, start thinking about what you might do to ramp up your organization’s capacity.
Get your staff and board thinking … and then plan a capacity capital campaign.
Your donors want you to have more impact. They want you to make a bigger difference in your community. Ask them. You’ll see!
If you want to think differently about your capital campaign, sign up for the Capital Campaign Masters’ newsletter. We’ve got a lot of ideas and tips to share.
Andrea Kihlstedt is an innovative leader and expert in capital campaign fundraising. She wrote "Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work (4th ed)," often referred to as the “bible” of capital campaign fundraising. She founded Capital Campaign Masters and co-founded Capital Campaign Toolkit, an online capital campaign resource and platform.