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Why the Most Successful Capital Campaigns Retain a Consultant

“Why does a capital campaign need a consultant?” That is one of the most frequent questions students ask when I teach my course on capital campaigns at the University of Saint Thomas in Minneapolis

There are multiple reasons that most nonprofits should have a consultant guiding them through their campaign. The first and foremost is that a qualified, experienced campaign consultant has navigated dozens of campaigns. 

In contrast, the nonprofit professional, board member, or campaign volunteer commonly has one or two campaigns under their belt (if that). Beyond experience though, here is a list of some of the benefits of having a capital campaign consultant on your team:

  1. Assess Campaign Potential – Prior to launching an active campaign, most nonprofits commission a campaign planning study, also known as a feasibility study. (Learn more about planning studies here.) Can a nonprofit leader meet with donors and ask them questions about a pending campaign? Yes. Will that donor be completely forthright? Not always. For example, donors may not offer that they are going through a divorce or that they are still offended by how their last gift was handled. Moreover, nonprofits may be uncomfortable asking certain questions that an impartial consultant can ask without awkwardness. This data provides a more accurate picture of what is possible and how to reach it. 
  2. Develop Campaign Strategy – Successful campaigns follow a fairly predictable framework and flow (Read my blog about the 5 Phases of a Modern Capital Campaign here). However, a savvy campaign consultant knows how to adjust the strategy within that framework to accommodate the project’s context.
  3. Coach Campaign Leadership – Campaign staff and volunteers have a lot on their plate during a campaign. The consultant is a critical partner in focusing the campaign’s leadership on the strategies and tactics of highest impact. For example, recently I was in a campaign steering committee meeting when a committee member suggested early into the campaign that we establish a “crowdfunding” strategy to move the campaign ahead. This idea—while well intentioned—would have led the committee down a path of frustration. As the consultant, I was able to honor the committee member while refocusing the team on more effective major donor strategies. 
  4. Encourage the Campaign Team – In nearly every campaign, there is dip—a period when fundraising temporarily slows for a month or more. This dip is not necessarily anyone’s fault. Instead, a combination of factors from seasonality to donor cultivation needs can briefly slow the campaign. Frankly, this slowdown can be unnerving for volunteers and staff. An experienced campaign consultant has been there before and can provide needed encouragement and strategic adjustments to get through the dip and back into a more productive fundraising groove. 

Can a nonprofit successfully complete a capital campaign without a consultant? Some certainly have. However, they represent a small minority of nonprofits well-positioned to do so. Sadly, too many nonprofits embarking without the guidance of a consultant have missed the mark. Campaigns are hard enough. Having a consultant can help you prevent costly mistakes and build the confidence and impact of your campaign team.

Looking for the right consultant for your capital campaign?  DickersonBakker has a team of campaign professionals with decades of experience and the dedication to partner with clients through every step.  Contact DickersonBakker today to learn more about how to lead your campaign to success.

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