When asked why Mid-Ohio FoodBank decided to initiate an ambitious capital campaign to expand its facilities, President and Chief Executive Officer Matt Habash had a simple answer: “Quite frankly,” he said, “We ran out of space.” The FoodBank, which is now the 12th largest in the country, serves 20 counties and over 550 charitable organizations—handling more than 66.5 million pounds of food annually, a precipitous incline from the 200,000 pounds of its opening year. The organization needed room to grow in order to continue serving the rising needs of hunger in the community. Benefactor Group helped MOFB to assess its capacity for a capital campaign, as well as lay the preparatory groundwork for successfully meeting its $16 million goal.
Preparation was a critical thread in weaving the campaign’s success. Preparing for a successful campaign involves answering five essential questions: Does my organization have a highly regarded reputation? A compelling case for support? Committed leaders? Generous leadership gifts and ample philanthropic potential? Sufficient technology and infrastructure? With guidance from Benefactor Group, Mid-Ohio FoodBank assessed or further developed all these essential elements.
Habash attributed the success of the campaign to some of these essential elements in particular—such as the case for support that Benefactor Group created. “The case for support forced us to crystallize what we were really trying to do with our space and how that would allow us to serve the needs of the community better…having a strong story to communicate the impact that hunger was having on the community, coupled with describing how strongly we wanted to do something about it—it inspired passion.” Producing a compelling, thorough narrative detailing the impact that an organization can have is a pivotal step in preparation; it forms the messaging foundation for the entire campaign.
Thoughtfully fostering campaign leadership—and leadership giving—were also essential steps in preparing for the campaign. The Mid-Ohio FoodBank utilized a unique strategy for selecting its campaign committee leadership. Instead of the more traditional route of recruiting high-visibility CEOs, Habash filled his team with individuals in the corporate world often on the receiving end of capital campaign requests. The unique team structure panned out well; among other things, it allowed corporate granters to experience the other side of the decision-making process. In addition, the MOFB family “truly stepped up to the plate,” as Habash described. “We went to our family first for gifts. We were a little apprehensive—almost one-third of our board members were brand new—but each board and staff member stepped up, and we exceeded all our family goals.”
After Mid-Ohio FoodBank successfully established its base of family gifts, Benefactor Group’s work helped the organization’s leadership prepare for approaching further donors. “Campaigns are about building momentum. When we were about to approach donors, we used Benefactor Group’s advice to leverage our meetings and take the level of trust we had already built with donors and turn it into commitments and gifts. What the Benefactor Group team really did well was teach us about relationship building. Relationship building is the key to fundraising, and the Benefactor Group team members are rock stars.”, said Habash.
Relationship building is one of the many steps an organization must take to prepare the foundation of a successful campaign. Capital campaigns can be hard work, but thoughtful preparation and planning make the process far more manageable. A truly strong foundation consists of five essential elements. A highly regarded reputation ensures that an organization has earned the respect of its community. A compelling case for support persuasively positions the organization’s fundraising goals as sound philanthropic investments that appeal to donors. Committed leaders inspire devotion and lead their team toward exciting results. Generous leadership gifts and ample philanthropic potential help an organization meet its overarching fundraising goals. And of course, sufficient technology, infrastructure, and personnel allow an organization to carry out the appropriate fundraising tactics to make these goals possible. Each element is crucial to building the foundation of a successful campaign—and with their collective 200+ years of experience, Benefactor Group team members can help guide your organization in laying the bricks.