Don’t assume that your Executive Director knows much about capital campaigns. Very few do.
Perhaps your CEO has been involved in a campaign before, but chances are she hasn’t taken an organization from the beginning to the end of a successful capital campaign. And it may be hard for her to admit that she doesn’t know very much.
But, if you’re the Director of Development or VP of Advancement, it may not be so easy for you to broach the subject with your ED. Telling your boss what to do can be sticky! So we’ve drafted a letter that might help.
How to Bring Your Boss Up to Speed on Your Capital Campaign
Below you’ll find a fantasy message written to your CEO. We named her Beth. Feel free to adapt it to fit your situation and send it to your boss. And yes, you can blame us, the experts!
If you are the CEO or ED, you actually may find yourself in this same situation needing to educate your board members.
So take a look at this letter — and perhaps you can use it yourself to introduce an important conversation with your own board leaders.
Sample Letter or E-mail from You to Your ED:
As we plan for our capital campaign, I know you’re wondering what it’s going to take from you.
You may be wondering about how you’re going to manage to work on the campaign on top of everything you already do to keep our organization going. So, I’ve done some research about the ED’s role in capital campaigns and I’ve written it up for you.
Here’s what the capital campaign experts say:
The ED has a Very Important Role to Play in the Campaign Campaign
Your role is going to be critical to our success. Yes, I’ll manage lots of the planning and day-to-day of the campaign, but you’re indispensable as our leader. Looks like your jobs will fall roughly into these six buckets:
- Making sure the vision and plan for this organization are clear and compelling.
- Bringing our board along so that they understand and own the vision, too.
- Meeting with key stakeholders and major donors.
- Talking to people — both individually and in groups — about the vision.
- Rallying the staff behind the campaign.
- And yes, asking people for gifts — big gifts!
The Campaign’s Going to Gobble Your Time
The experts agree that the campaign is likely to take anywhere from 25% to 50% of an ED’s time.
Whew. Last I noticed, you were already working a solid 60 hour week. So, I think we might want to look at a plan for someone to take over lots of the operational day-to-day work you do.
Now’s the Time to Invest in Infrastructure
The experts make a big and important point that a capital campaign relies on internal systems that work well. So, this is a great time to take a close look at how well ours work and upgrade if need be.
We’ll be able to include our infrastructure investments into our campaign goal!
That means that while we’ll have to lay out funds for infrastructure before we’ve raised a lot of money — we WILL be able to pay ourselves back from the money we raise.
What kinds of infrastructure investments do organizations usually make?
Staff: The bottom line is that most organizations staff up for the capital campaign in addition to hiring a consultant or coach. You might consider bringing in someone to help you with ongoing operations. And we might want to bring in some additional development staff too.
Systems: We have to make sure that our database is clean and can give us the information we need. And we’ve got to gear up for prospect research, grant writing and proposals. And on the financial side, let’s make sure that our gift acceptance, donor recognition and pledge billing systems all work smoothly.
Communications: During the campaign, we’ll have all sorts of opportunities to increase our visibility. We’ll want to make the best use of them. So, the campaign is a great time to invest in people who can help take our branding, newsletters, on-line communications, video and events to the next level.
The Importance of Teamwork
The experts talk about the importance of teamwork for a successful campaign.
You and I are in this together, Beth. In fact, we’re going to be in it up to our necks. But once we pull it off, not only will we have been personally successful, but we’ll have made a real difference in the world!
I’m excited to work with you in making this campaign a humdinger of a success. Let’s set a time to talk.
With all my respect and appreciation,
Your Director of Development
How would you feel about giving a letter like this to your ED? What might you change?
Let us know in the comments below.