We recently invited people to tell us their most pressing campaign challenges and concerns. Some campaign challenges came up again and again.
Capital Campaign Challenge: A Stalled Campaign
Here’s an email we received from Barbara, a development director, about the campaign challenge she is facing. I’ve changed her name, but her story is real and not uncommon.
Read on after Barbara’s story to find out how to keep this from happening to your campaign.
Our campaign is stalled.
We need help!
We did pretty well with our leadership gifts and through the quiet phase of our campaign. And once we raised about 70% of our goal, we had a public kick-off. We believed that the rest of the money would just flood in.
So after our kick off, we sent email and snail mail solicitations to our entire list and waited for those small gifts to get us over our goal.
But that’s not what happened.
Instead, we kicked off the campaign and sent our solicitation letters and emails. And then we expectantly waited for the mail. What arrived was not a flood, but a trickle. We still have $1.5 million left to raise, but we’re getting a smattering of $500, $300 and even $25 gifts.
That’s not going to get us to our goal.
We’ve started construction and we’ve got no option but to raise the money. What should we do?
Barbara is not alone with a stalled campaign. The drop off in gift size from the quiet phase to the public phase of the campaign is often shocking. And the number of gifts that come in from general mailings can be disappointing.
4 Lessons Learned from a Stalled Campaign
Here are some lessons to learn from Barbara’s situation.
1. Kicking off your campaign doesn’t mean that gifts will just roll in.
The most successful campaigns lay the groundwork for the public phase long before the public kick-off. They line up volunteer solicitors who are ready to go ask people they know, in-person, for mid-level gifts.
They also set up assertive broad-base funding strategies well in advance. They prepare their crowd-funding system and the communication that will go with it. And they pull together a group of people to champion that process through social media.
Successful capital campaigns also develop a multi-channel communications plan to spike the public energy through the public phase of their campaign. And they have all of their communication planned and ready to roll out the day after the kick-off.
2. Think of the public phase as though it were a new campaign.
But if you’re in the public phase and you haven’t laid the groundwork, you’ve got to step back and plan a full-on major gifts campaign. Here are four steps to get you going:
- Create a gift range chart, showing what’s left to raise as the campaign goal.
- Build a “depth Chart” filling in prospect names for each of the gift levels. Some of these might be people who have already given to the campaign but who might give again.
- Pull together a special “Finish The Campaign Committee.” Be sure to include your campaign chair and board chair, a major donor or two, and a few people who haven’t been actively involved yet.
- Often to help a campaign get over the top, a major donor will consider giving a challenge or matching gift to help motivate others.
3. Plan a second ‘Get Over The Top’ kick-off.
Once you’ve raised 60% or 70% of the money that’s left to raise, plan a Get Us Over The Top Party! Use it to build a head of steam that’ll really boost giving from the broad base.
4. Grab the Initiative.
All of these strategies are designed to move you forward in a highly targeted and specific way. A stalled campaign is not the time to sit back and wait until the money comes in.
Unless you take a bold and clear initiative, your organization is likely to be left with a failed campaign, a big debt, and a black mark in your community. That’s not a situation you want.
So, grab the initiative and have the will and courage and energy to develop a clear, time-limited plan to use the public phase to get your campaign over the top.
5. You don’t have time to spare!
Don’t forget that once construction is complete, your ability to raise capital funds will take a nose dive.
While you’re project is being built, your fundraising clock is ticking. Not only will bills come due, but once construction is finished and the ribbon is cut, the sense of urgency for donors will disappear. People in your community won’t particularly care whether your project is paid for or not.
What’s Your Biggest Campaign Challenge?
Remember, with a little support and a solid plan, you can make your capital campaign a monumental success — we know you can!
So, what’s your biggest campaign challenge? Let us know in the comments.
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