Executing Capital Campaigns in a Crisis

By Chelsey Souza, CFRE

We’ve all had to get creative over the last year and a half when it comes to fundraising – how we steward and solicit our donors, how we execute events, and how we carry out capital campaigns. Based on my experience helping multiple organizations with campaigns during the pandemic, I’d like to reflect on three important lessons:

  1. A Noble Cause Fundraising Success – A solid donor base, committed volunteers, and a worthy project may seem like a guarantee for success, but this notion is misleading. Launching a campaign without testing internal and external readiness is dangerous. While your fundraising goal is based on the cost of the capital project, it must also be a realistic goal based on the availability of philanthropic resources and overall community support. Organizations can evaluate current relationships and interest in supporting the campaign by carrying out an informal internal Planning Study, or enlisting outside counsel to conduct a formal Feasibility Study. Ideally, once there is consensus around the fundraising goal, a multi-faceted campaign plan is developed to serve as the roadmap for philanthropic success.

2. Volunteer Leadership is more important than ever – Over the last year and a half, we have learned to appreciate the relationships we have with our loved ones, friends, and colleagues. Our limited time is precious. Preparing for and implementing a successful capital campaign is an intense, time-consuming effort that requires prompt, thoughtful attention by volunteers over a long period. Dedicated board members and campaign steering committee volunteers are critical. Organizations must ensure that there are available, committed, volunteers who will help lead and inspire fundraising efforts for the duration of the campaign.

3. Donor Stewardship = Risk Management – Previous economic downturns have taught us the importance of good donor stewardship. Organizations that have put donations to use as intended and kept donors informed of the impact their funds have been able to survive. The pandemic has further confirmed that a committed donor base can provide immediate, unrestricted resources in times of crisis. Because capital campaigns are often funded by existing donors, ensuring your individual donors are properly stewarded in advance of a capital campaign is paramount.

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