It was perhaps one of the ugliest capital campaign scenarios I have ever seen. The nonprofit held a public groundbreaking ceremony for a building they didn’t yet own on a project they didn’t have a firm budget number on. Shortly after, they finally decided to launch their capital campaign!
One of the biggest capital campaign mistakes nonprofit leaders make is not starting early enough. It is a dangerous error that can hinder and sometimes cripple a campaign before it even started. But it doesn’t have to be. You can jumpstart your campaign by building your development program, project plans, and partnership with your consultant prior to launch.
Building Your Development Program
It is hard to understate how helpful a robust existing development program is for campaign success. Strong, collaborative major donor relationships make it easier to approach donors for campaign sized gifts. Specifically, we recommend building deep relationships with anyone capable of giving ½ of a percent of your overall campaign goal. Moreover, the most successful campaigns have well established development systems such as your annual giving program, donor database, and a strong fundraising staff.
Building Your Project Plans
The campaign is not the time to figure out what you are going to raise money for. Minor changes to the plan are natural but having a clear project plan that your team is unified behind is key. Your plan should include estimates from a builder on the costs for your project. Estimates based on a generalized square-foot can be off by 30% or more; when dealing with a project in the millions, that kind of variance hurts! We also recommend having a 5-10 year projected operating budget for the new facility or program.
Building Your Partnership Your Consultant
It is never too early to reach out to a consultant for advice on getting ready for your campaign. In fact, the earlier the better because it allows time to strengthen any weak aspects of the campaign prior to launch. Adequate preparation can save your campaign time, money, and heartache. In addition, reaching out to your consultant can give you time to “test drive” your consultant before the big game. Consultant shifts in a campaign are brutal. However, they are easier to make before the campaign, so there is an advantage to getting to know your consultant before the campaign begins. As such, start the search for your consultant sooner rather than later.
Sadly, but predictably, the ugly capital campaign mentioned in the introduction never got traction. They started way too late and made too many mistakes in their preparation. While few organizations make mistakes to this extreme, mistakes in campaign readiness are far too common. Your nonprofit can avoid costly mistakes by intentionally getting ready in the months and years prior to your campaign. You won’t regret the preparation, in fact, it will jumpstart your campaign.
Campaign in the future? Reach out to DickersonBakker today to discuss how your nonprofit can be ready for campaign success.