Stonewall Columbus

In 1981, Stonewall had a mission of fighting for tolerance and acceptance of the LGBTQ community in Columbus, Ohio. Stonewall has since made great strides in education, awareness, and advocacy, putting Columbus on the map as one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities in the nation. Because of this growth, the organization currently faces an abundance of opportunity and a shortage of space at its humble facility on the corner of 4th Street and High. “We purchased our buildings in 2004 with the idea that we would grow into them,” said Stonewall’s Executive Director Karla Rothan, “recently we found that our capacity was increasing, but our space was not.”

Stonewall’s facility, commonly known as the Center on High, is home to more than 3,000 visitors and 100 groups annually. These numbers have been growing significantly, as has Stonewall’s visibility in the community. This level of growth proved to be a call to action for Stonewall leadership, who responded by creating a vision for expansion and plans for a capital campaign. When asked about the purpose of this campaign, Rothan replied, “we decided we needed to keep up and step up in order to really take off.” This meant carefully planning to raise $3.5 million to renovate and rebuild Stonewall’s physical presence in the community.

In order to make this goal a reality, Stonewall partnered with Benefactor Group to create a campaign plan entitled Stonewall Builds. Stonewall had previously engaged Benefactor Group in a fundraising campaign in 2008 and maintained that relationship over the years. When soliciting help with a new capital campaign, Rothan said simply: “Benefactor was the top of the list.” Stonewall and Benefactor Group worked in unison to conduct a feasibility study, organize a steering committee, and create a case for support to ensure the campaign’s success.

In addition to dedicated leadership, capital campaigns also need widespread financial backing. Benefactor Group helped Stonewall create a case for support in order to communicate to potential donors the importance of investing in Stonewall Builds. Most successful capital campaigns credit a few top-tier donors with the campaign’s success. Although Stonewall received generous top tier gifts, another tier of donors emerged as critically important – mid-level donors. Due to Stonewall’s widespread support system, Benefactor Group tailored the campaign strategy to target the “Mighty Middle”. These donors typically contribute campaign gifts that fall in the $5,000 to $99,999 range. In this case, Rothan attributes the success of Stonewall Builds in reaching its $3.5 million goal to this Mighty Middle. “We received top gifts of $500,000, which was amazing,” Rothan commented when reflecting on the campaign’s success, “but the Mighty Middle really made the campaign a success too.” Rothan also believes the Mighty Middle will be the donor segment that carries Stonewall all the way through its new stretch goal of $4 million and hopes to convert many of these Mighty Middle contributors to sustaining donors.

Once the campaign concludes, Stonewall will dedicate the majority of donations to expansion and revitalization of its current facility. The remaining balance will support the organization’s operating budget, which must grow in order to fill the new space with additional programs tailored to the community’s needs. When originally deciding what to do about Stonewall’s increasingly limited space, Rothan contacted an architect to help her answer the question “What do people dream Stonewall could be?” She took this question to the community as well, and the success of Stonewall Builds will allow the community’s dreams to come to fruition. Benefactor Group’s experience in this realm lent itself to Stonewall’s goal of expanding its footprint in the Columbus community and can do the same for the dreams of your organization, too.