How to Reach Your Goal By Reframing Your Capital Campaign
Some capital campaigns feel like a long slog. They begin with a big burst of energy and some large gifts from truly committed donors.
But a couple of years later when, perhaps, the campaign has reached 70 or 80 percent of the goal, and the same remarkable volunteers continue to gather once a month to strategize about prospective donors, it can be hard to sustain the energy.
Because chances are good that the donor names still on your list are the most challenging. They are names of people you’ve gone over again and again. Perhaps you’ve had one or two or three meetings with but haven’t been able to close the gifts. Or, perhaps you haven’t
been able to get a meeting with them at all.
And when the name comes up at a meeting—yet again—you can sense people’s eyes roll.
2 Capital Campaign Reframing Strategies
Here are two ideas for infusing this part of your campaign with some new energy. Both are based on reframing the last portion of your campaign.
Strategy No. 1: Gap to Goal Campaign
Look at this last portion of your campaign as a new campaign.
Let’s say you have $1.5 million to raise on a $10 million campaign. Yup, you’ve raised $8 million already. That’s no small potatoes. But your community is small, and you know full well that you won’t raise anywhere near $1.5 million with a broad base campaign. You’ll be very fortunate to raise $250,000 from the community at large and probably not even that.
What to do?
Think of this final portion of your campaign as a separate campaign for $1.5 million. Take a step back and create a new gift range chart and depth chart for this smaller amount and draft a new case for support.
Look carefully at your list of current donors to see if one or another of the lead donors might make a new gift as a challenge. For example, someone might be willing to put up a gift that would match every $2 of a gift with $1 up to $500,000. A match like that might well help close out the campaign.
Then, look carefully at the lists of people who have contributed and those recalcitrant folks whose names with whom you’ve been wrestling without closing gifts. Look for one or two people who might want to chair or co-chair this final push, working alongside your big campaign chair.
See if you can identify 20 prospects from whom you might be able to get 60 percent or more of the remaining goal. If you don’t see that possibility, you’ll have to regroup in a different way. Because in that case, your prospect pool isn’t big enough to complete the project in the way you had imagined.
Strategy No. 2: Project by Project
I was reminded of the power of this strategy recently when my friend Charlie reported to me that his campaign had raised more than $4 million, though the feasibility study had indicated he could raise no more than about $2.8 million.
How had he done it? Project by project!
Rather than creating one great big campaign that many thought would be impossible in his small community, he broke the campaign into several specific parts, each based on a particular campaign objective. And he set about raising money for all of them. Over three or four years, he had raised the money and—lo and behold—he had raise a total of $4.2 million!
Finish the Campaign Building by Building
I suggested a similar strategy for completing another campaign recently. It’s a campaign that’s raising money for several building projects. The first one has been completed, but several others are still in the planning stages.
So, rather than slogging on to finish the big campaign, they’re going to reframe the amount they still need to finish the goal project by project. Instead of having to raise the required $2 million to complete the big $8 million goal, they’ll break it down and invite donors to make gifts to specific projects.
So, for example, the education center needs under $500,000 to complete the funding. It’s got a specific case and construction schedule. It’s a specific and appealing project that might well inspire some of the donors who haven’t yet given.
And the visitor’s center is a perfect project to highlight during the big tourist season when lots of people will be on site.
Don’t Be Afraid to Switch It Up
Without upending the original structure of your campaign, you can just slide in a new frame and start highlighting project by project until the campaign is done. And when it is, you’ll wrap it all up and celebrate the conclusion of the great big campaign!
Whether you’re starting from scratch, or beginning a new phase to reach your campaign goal, a capital campaign checklist and timeline will help.
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.