It’s true. Your non-profit really should be in a capital campaign right now.
If you aren’t in a campaign currently, that’s OK. Just make sure you’re getting ready for your next one!
The obvious answer is that capital campaigns help you do big, mission-critical things—the kind of stuff that your annual fund, or your golf tournament just can’t do for you. Whether it’s building buildings, adding programs, or growing an endowment, campaigns have the power to bring your organization to a new and better place.
Campaigns also allow you to put your biggest and boldest ideas on the table and secure the most aspirational gifts possible for them. In fact, they’re the best way to maximize your donor community’s philanthropic potential.
There’s a special psychology to one-time, big projects with tangible benefits and impact. The simple, yet powerful idea that “we’re all in this together” that creates the ideal environment for true major gifts fundraising. And it’s when our development shops see their best return on investment.
But beyond big impact for your mission (and that really is the most important thing), there’s a whole host of other benefits that your organization will realize through a capital campaign.
First of all, campaigns give you a great reason to ask for people’s attention. You can go beyond your routine institutional marketing and talk about your big, bold ideas for a period of time. And, of course, you also invite people to engage. Campaigns give you a natural cadence events, milestones, and deadlines that you can rally around (like launches, announcements, celebrations, groundbreakings, etc.) and grab attention.
With increased awareness comes new friends. Many organizations attract new social media followers, newsletter subscribers, volunteers, and even donors during a campaign. Now, your best campaign donors will likely be your old friends. But, since campaigns you an excuse to make a big splash and talk to people about something shiny and new, you’ll inevitably engage some new folks along the way. And even if they don’t become major donors to this campaign (most won’t), they’re now in your pipeline for the next one.
Campaigns are also a chance to take your culture of philanthropy to the next level. Here’s how this works:
Over time (big stretches, think decades), you want to build your organization’s philanthropic capacity so that it can take on larger and larger campaigns. Sure, there’s a case to be made for mini campaigns between your big campaigns. But each major campaign should be bigger and bolder than the last. Each campaign should set new records: total dollars raised, largest gift to the organization, and most donors. This is how your raise the bar, so to speak, and become the type of organization that donors think is worthy of larger and larger gifts.
Campaigns also have the power to energize (or re-energize) all of your stakeholders.
Let’s start with your board. Now, every board is different and competencies and challenges vary. But, big picture, if your board has approved the campaign, you’ve got a starting point—a baseline. And a campaign can help you level up your board from there. (Stay tuned for a lengthier post on the role of the board during a campaign.)
A dynamic, successful campaign will also help you energize your staff, donors, and beneficiaries. It’s fun to be part of a winning team. Group energy goes through the roof when there’s a shared sense that “we can do big things, together.”
Well, my goal was to convince you that you need to be in a campaign. The infusion of philanthropic dollars will help take your organization to new heights and live more fully into your mission.
Yet that’s not all!
There are a whole host of other “halo” benefits that come along with capital campaigns. And they’re not immaterial. Each outcome I mentioned above will make a long-term difference to your organization.
So again, you need to be in a campaign. If you’re not. Start working toward one. In the weeks/months ahead, we’ll talk in greater detail about campaigns, how to get started, and how to get past some of the common challenges you’re likely to face.