What a Capital Idea!
The majority of early-career fundraising professionals try their hand at direct mail, special events, grants or other annual gift-type fundraising tactics such as social media. Over time, many mid-level professionals seek major gifts and planned gifts as an avenue for continued growth and experience. For the ultimate intense experience in fundraising, try tackling a capital campaign. Even if you have a campaign or two under your belt, it always pays to go participate in a capital campaign course as a refresher in the field.
Over my career I have been involved in a number of capital campaigns while serving in many roles. In the majority of these roles I have been the fundraising professional charged with directing the capital campaign. In other scenarios I was a consultant working with institutions to raise capital dollars. In additional experiences I served as a volunteer who played as a chairman and solicitor in a campaign. I realized quickly that each campaign is different and many variables affect the ultimate success of a capital campaign.
Some examples of my capital campaign experience include:
- Directing a $37 million capital campaign for an international organization as a consultant. Great start until politics and personalities got in the way between staff leaders, board leaders and other consultants.
- Coming in to direct a $100 million capital campaign for a national organization while the campaign was already in process, which was already a hot mess. The board phase was fine to raise the first 50 percent, but the organization was not prepared to raise the second 50 percent. The fundraising committee I inherited wouldn't even open doors.
- Being part of a staff for a university's first capital campaign for $75 million. It was exciting to be part of something where everyone wanted it to succeed and it did, eventually. I also enjoyed bringing in national professionals to educate various constituencies on the "process."
- Over a 20-year span, working for two hospital systems directing a number of capital campaigns generally in the $6 million to $10 million range. Since there were no natural constituencies many times you built the ship as it was leaving the harbor. I learned to build partnerships and make dreams come true in many areas of healthcare. The greatest satisfaction was knowing your vision was translated into the vision of others their eventual investment.
- Chairing a multimillion dollar campaign to build your own church. My priest did an amazing job in having the vision and ability to inspire others to give to benefit future generations. As chairman of my parish council I get to enjoy the beauty of this new church every Sunday.
As I always say, our field blends art with science and integrates new and old techniques. I recently attended the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Fund Raising School's Managing the Capital Campaign course. I was particularly excited to be taught by Ernie Vargo, because we go back in time.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at email@example.com or 317-224-1029.