When it comes to capital campaigns, axioms abound. Quiet phase … publicly announce at 75% of goal … sequential solicitation …
All of these are standard best practices for a successful capital campaign, yes, but there are exceptions to every rule.
One of the most common triggers for initiating an otherwise unexpected capital campaign is some kind of emergency—for instance, the sudden need for a new facility, or a sudden huge increase in demand for services.
Emergencies can spur Capital Campaigns
Not too long ago, I was working with an organization thrust into an emergency capital campaign after they were informed the building where they rented space was going to be torn down in less than a year. They learned that in the spring and needed to be out by December. This is a grassroots organization around for half a century (seriously) but then without a development department. (Remember: executive directors do ALL the things.)
This wasn’t a matter of allowing an organization to die. This was a matter of continuous provision of vital nutritional services to a vulnerable population. So when I agreed to take this on, I said failure is not an option. And we did things just a bit differently.
Was I terrified I was making a horrible mistake by not playing by the classic campaign rules? Honestly, yes.
I insisted we get the donor database, as well as volunteers, wealth screened. (Thank you Donor Search!) I put together things like a campaign plan, gift acceptance policies, a confidentiality policy, board expectations, and pledge forms, and vetted and segmented the highest-rated prospects and current donors from the screenings. Did some ask training, trained the board … all of these are business as usual steps to a successful campaign.
Key differences in Capital Campaign timing
Here’s where it got interesting. We went semi-public at 30% of the goal.
Necessity. We used the bully pulpit of a major fundraising event to spread the word and leverage a very critical sense of urgency to current supporters. We distributed pledge forms to each attendee and created a flier to share the next steps.
A volunteer campaign committee chair stepped up who is known in the community and respected and offered his services.
We conducted a media blitz in late summer with an announcement of what the organization was facing and what had been raised to date to make the goal really public and create a sense of urgency.
And we focused on some major foundations that want to keep the vital services this organization provides available and flourishing.
There were a lot of growing pains during the process, but by the end of the process, this fine nonprofit became stronger and more self-sufficient. To quote George Zimmer, “I guarantee it.”
This entry is cross-posted thanks to Donor Search.