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Monthly Archives: August 2013

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Capital campaigns are a vital element of a growth strategy for non-profits. Every five to seven years the typical non-profit needs a make-over or a face lift to remain competitive. It’s a useful opportunity to express earnestness and reaffirm the mission and vision.

According to a board member of a nonprofit organization, “a capital campaign has unique advantages that makes raising money easier than the annual fund”. Capital improvements are tangible – you can see the bricks and mortar. This changes the perception of giving – a donor becomes an investor. The ability to offer a naming opportunity can increases the perceived value proposition for someone who writes a check to your cause. It’s true, not all investors want “their names in lights”. Many of those who choose to remain anonymous may actually have a more vested interest in the success of your cause.

Capital campaigns allow the development staff to be creative and to have a few “aha” moments. I was part of the development team at Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts & Sciences during their first capital campaign. Our mandate was to raise money for the School, as well as raise money for a new athletic center. I was assigned to cultivate a wealthy alum from Texas. He was a lacrosse aficionado and only wanted to give to athletics. Over several months, I had roughly 8-10 contacts with the alum. One day while sitting in his office, I noticed a huge wall covered in Blue Jay memorabilia – the official mascot of Johns Hopkins. The alum expressed his dissatisfaction that since his children didn’t attend Hopkins they cared little about his collections of Blue Jays. For me, it was an “aha” moment. I asked the alum, if the athletic department agreed to create a permanent display of his Blue Jay collection in new athletic center, would he name the athletic center. His response was, “how much”? He was delighted with the ask amount and said – YES!

Since the proceeds from your campaign will help build capital improvements and enhance services to those who are served, it is important to build a case for each capital improvement, whether it will be new construction or extensive renovations. Remember, the real goal of a capital campaign is to successfully link more people to your cause. In fact, the success of the campaign will be closely related to your efforts to convince a current investor to a new investor or make a commitment.

Fund raising is an emotional business, with some logic drawn in. Your job as the nonprofit professional is to create “emotional resonance”. This will help the investor link their personal involvement with the changing environment of your cause and the needs of the people you serve.

Are you thinking about starting a capital campaign? Have you had an “aha moment you would like to share?

Next week I will be comment on how to create an engaging case statement.