Guest Post by Kevin Wallace, President, CampaignCounsel.org

Are you embarking on a capital campaign in 2021? As always, process and strategy will be at the heart of everything you do and may be more important than ever. The Campaign Planning Study is your first step in launching a capital campaign. This process expands upon the limited scope of the traditional feasibility study to create a comprehensive plan to guide you toward capital campaign success. Learn the key elements that your capital campaign consultant should include in your Planning Study and our tips for overcoming the obstacles that loom in 2021.

Five Key Elements of Your Capital Campaign Planning Study

Your Campaign Planning Study should include everything normally associated with a feasibility study plus create a detailed fundraising plan and case for support. (Find a handy chart explaining the differences between the two here.) Going through the planning study process also ideally should get buy-in from staff and volunteer leadership and cultivate potential leaders and donors. Here’s what your study should include:

 

1. Family Commitment

An internal audit of your nonprofit allows your board, staff, and volunteers (your “family”) to seriously evaluate their commitment to the entire process of a campaign, as opposed to their commitment to the outcome of the campaign, like a new building or equipment. Then, your family can better understand how to start to develop the basics in preparation of conducting a successful capital campaign. This portion of the study includes a careful internal evaluation of needs and an honest appraisal as to whether the organization is ready for such a major undertaking.

 

2. Feasibility

This is the determination of the expected maximum and minimum amounts that could be raised in a capital campaign. This means your consultant will be presenting your project one-on-one and asking interviewees outside of your family to share their advice, insight, and level of support for your project. This usually is conducted in six to eight weeks and allows your organization, with the aid of your consultant, to objectively evaluate:

  • its image in the community,
  • how its case for support is viewed by prospective leaders and donors,
  • whether quality leaders are available to help in the campaign,
  • how much prospective donors will give to the project, and
  • whether the organization has the resources (staff, board, tools, and training) to conduct a campaign.

 

3. Fundraising Plan

This is a written fundraising plan that outlines how a campaign will unfold month-by-month. This plan should include a full disclosure of potential donors and their self-reported gift amounts, identification of key leaders who are interested in joining your campaign committee, costs for the campaign, timetables, constituency goals, gift chart, and organizational structure. The plan also includes strategies to maximize the campaign’s chances for success.


4. Case for Support

In addition to feasibility and the campaign plan, the Campaign Planning Study should include an initial draft of a comprehensive Case for Support. This document is based on feedback from those community leaders and donors interviewed to determine feasibility and suggests how the case should be presented to attract the highest level of support possible. 

 

5. Cultivation and Education of Donors and Donor Constituencies

Instead of interviewing only 30 or 40 community leaders (as is often done in the more limited feasibility study), the ideal Planning Study should include an unlimited number of interviews, focus groups, direct mail surveys, and research into corporate and foundation prospects. By focusing on cultivating and educating potential leaders and donors, the organization can be assured that the greatest degree of buy-in from the constituent community is received prior to even launching the campaign. From this point, the rest of the campaign will strengthen these connections with prospective donors and leaders. 

 

Interpreting the Capital Campaign Planning Study

The Campaign Planning Study is the launching point of your campaign. Without this information, your organization will be running a campaign without a fundraising plan, which is a little like building a house without blueprints. 

Campaign Planning helps the nonprofit launch its campaign quickly and efficiently. Once the Study is complete, the nonprofit has the insight, advice and buy-in from its top leaders and donors. A professional Study also minimizes mistakes. A good capital campaign consultant does this work all day and every day, as opposed to most nonprofit leaders who have minimal campaign experience.

Logic should rule in evaluating any Campaign Planning report. Don’t be fooled by generalities and vagaries. Reports with anonymous quotes and generic plans are more about a consultant selling its services than preparing your nonprofit for a campaign.

 

Amid Fundraising Obstacles, Remember Your Impact

There is never a perfect time to launch a capital campaign, even with a great Campaign Planning Study. There will always be other local competing campaigns, the possibility of an economic downturn or upswing, or an upcoming election. For us, the impact of COVID-19 is a new obstacle to fundraising – but our advice remains the same: follow the process and remember your impact.

Why does your nonprofit matter even more now? Whom do you serve that is directly impacted by the pandemic (short-term) and how will your nonprofit continue its mission into the future (long-term)? Your work is important in your community; even if you must temporarily close or limit access to ensure everyone’s safety, you still provide a valuable service. Remember that – and remind your family and donors that their role in this work is critical.

Your cause is worthwhile, and people give to worthy causes even in times of difficulty. Be sensitive to your donors and your community but keep working to move forward.

Take the next step by joining us for a live iWave webinar presentation, “Mapping Your Capital Campaign for 2021: A Roadmap for Today’s Challenges”, on Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. ET. Learn how your nonprofit can move forward with its capital campaign in the current environment as we discuss in detail how to assess your fundraising potential, plan for new challenges, and expand your definition of campaign success. As 2020 began, you had a brilliant roadmap to guide you to your fundraising destinations. The events of 2020 may have presented major roadblocks, but it’s time to get behind the wheel again!

 

 

Kevin Wallace is president of CampaignCounsel.org, specializing in capital campaign planning and management. Kevin has more than 17 years of capital campaign experience, conducting more than 80 campaign planning studies and capital campaigns around the country that have raised more than $200 million. Reach him by email or visit www.campaigncounsel.org.