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The Campaign’s Homestretch

How to raise the hardest dollars of a campaign!

COSI, Columbus Ohio’s dynamic Center of Science and Industry, inspires the scientists, explorers, and innovators of tomorrow. Opened in 1964, COSI attracts nearly one million visitors annually onsite and through outreach programs. In 2012, COSI launched a $10 million campaign for new experiences as well as facility and technology improvements to strengthen the impact of real, relevant science on all ages. COSI hired Benefactor Group as campaign counsel and successfully met the fundraising goal within three years.   

To raise the final $1 million of the capital campaign, COSI launched a fundraising effort to re-open the planetarium. This was done in concert with its 50th-anniversary celebration in spring 2014. The planetarium project included the original 60-foot dome and seats, with new imaging technology and new programming. The planetarium was ideal; it was beloved by many prior to its closing a decade earlier. COSI understood this interest and brought to the fundraising initiative years of donor cultivation and stewardship.

As you reach the homestretch of your campaign, consider the following tactics to reach your fundraising goal.

1. Establish a specific and tangible goal within the larger campaign.  

Your entire campaign may have a very large dollar goal and multiple funding objectives. For the final stretch, choose a very specific project with a more modest goal that makes a real impact and excites prospective donors. Consider a project that all five senses can experience or one you can describe with tantalizing appeal in your communications with donors and prospects.

For COSI, the $10 million campaign had broader objectives that supported many aspects of the museum. The planetarium provided a $1 million project that was more focused, with objectives such as new digital projector technology, programming for the big screen, and very apparent facility improvement. These objectives were within reach of a large pool of donors who provided broad-based support and saw tangible and immediate results of their giving.

2. Identify and empower constituents to support this campaign objective.

Understand the qualities and demographics of each of your donor constituencies and audience types. Deepen your understanding by developing donor profiles of the people and groups you plan to reach. With profiles you can customize your fundraising strategies and personalize your approach.

COSI leaders spent years cultivating major donors and various affinity groups; they understood that this is an ongoing process. They utilized their database and created committees to cultivate relationships with the various constituencies. From this cultivation emerged several groups that COSI leaned on to support the campaign, such as volunteer alumni, young professionals, major donors with a science interest, staff members, and corporate partners.   

3. Utilize the power of peer-to-peer fundraising.

Understand the needs and capabilities of each constituency. What will inspire a person from that group to give and/or become an advocate for the campaign? What are their interests and motivations? Then develop a strategy for solicitation by the right person(s) at the right time for the right gift.

COSI understood the interests of each constituency and developed a strategy for each. For example, the young professionals group did a 5K costume run on Halloween weekend for COSI; several major donor prospects held fundraising dinners at their home; and corporate sponsorship packages were developed. In each of these examples, a small group of advocates reached out to their peers to participate in an event or giving opportunity.   

4. Utilize a multi-channel approach to maximize the appeal to each constituency.

Though a constituency may have a common interest, it is likely composed of individuals of many ages and situations in life. Tailoring messages and using the latest tools to communicate with these people is critical to the success of your campaign.

Befitting an organization that is at the forefront of technology, COSI utilized a variety of electronic fundraising channels including a crowdfunding website, email, social media and their webpage to appeal to prospective donors. They also relied on traditional fundraising channels such as a direct mail campaign, house parties, calls from the board and CEO to donors, a 5K race, and other events to secure donations. Major donors contributed 90% of the funds, while 10% came from a broad base of donors. 

5. Provide a top-notch donor experience.

Providing incentives, recognition, and support to prospective donors will increase the likelihood of giving and cultivate recurring donations for future years.

COSI provided several interesting opportunities for donors to support the campaign, including name plates on the planetarium seats, the naming of a digital star, grand opening posters, and complimentary planetarium show tickets. Immediately following the contributions, COSI followed up and donors received thanks.

6. Develop management tools to guide your special project.

With the assumption that multiple constituencies are involved and various activities happen within the specific timeframe of this project, develop adequate project and data management tools to coordinate and track the efforts. Management tools do not need to be complex; in fact, an easy-to-use matrix may be the best bet to keep it simple.

COSI used a matrix like the one below to manage the planetarium campaign. The various constituencies, the communications channels, the upcoming action steps, and progress against the goal are the key items to document and track.  



Remember the key success factors t finish the campaign. Know your audiences. Develop a donor strategy that works for each of them. Make it easy to donate. Provide a top-notch experience along the way. Develop effective campaign management tools. Once each of these factors is complete, as we witnessed with COSI, it’s possible to raise the final $1 million from the broad base of support. To learn more about our recommendations for capital campaign and general fundraising success, please contact us at [email protected] or call 614-437-3000.

joined Benefactor Group with over ten years of experience in non-profit fundraising, operations, and management.

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