Completing the feasibility study for your capital campaign is a momentous step. This study provides important insight into whether you have the building blocks in place — i.e. reputation, vision, leadership, philanthropic potential, and internal systems — to achieve the successful result you’re after.
But if you’re anything like the fundraising leaders at most organizations, you have more questions than answers about what comes next. After all, this is when the rubber meets the road. Rather than asking if your vision is possible, now it’s time to explore how to make that vision a reality.
To that end, there are three important steps to take after you’ve completed the feasibility study and before you officially launch your campaign. These core components will become the foundation upon which your success is built.
1. Develop a Rock-Solid Campaign Plan
When you’re embarking on a campaign, it’s natural to wonder how your team will be able to accomplish all the necessary work to complete an endeavor of this magnitude. Capital campaigns typically span five or more fiscal years and require significant, prolonged effort. It can feel overwhelming to look at the big picture all at once.
A solid campaign plan divides the work into bite-sized, actionable objectives and becomes the roadmap the entire team will follow.
The Components of a Strong Campaign Plan
Your campaign plan should consist of four key components:
- An overarching narrative that articulates the strategies and tactics you’ll employ over the life of the campaign in order to reach your ambitious goal.
- Robust financial models that break your goal down and illustrate how many prospects and gifts you’ll need at each giving level — mega, major, middle, and modest.
- A SMART timeline and Gantt chart that keeps your team aligned around specific, measurable, accountable, realistic, time-bound goals organized in 90-day sprints.
- A multi-year budget to fund each portion of the plan.
Each element of the plan is important; to be successful you’ll need to devote particular attention to developing your SMART timeline and sprint cadence. For example, your first 90-day sprint might focus on recruiting your campaign steering committee, finalizing your case for support, and cultivating Tier 1 donors. The following 90-day period might lay out all the action steps related to board solicitation, solicitation materials, and advanced donor prospecting.
Stay Accountable to the Plan
To stay on track, check in with your team at regularly scheduled intervals to review the Gantt chart for each 90-day period. Evaluate the work that’s been completed as well as objectives that are still in progress or yet to be started. To achieve long-term success, you’ll need to hold yourself and your team accountable for reaching each milestone along the way.
This is where working with a campaign consultant is particularly helpful. A good consultant will make sure you stay laser-focused on carrying out the plan you work so hard to develop.
2. Build an Effective Campaign Steering Committee
Volunteer leadership can make or break your campaign’s ultimate success. It’s critically important to recruit and empower a team of influential, hardworking steering committee members to supplement your team’s bandwidth and become a force multiplier for your efforts.
The Characteristics of Effective Volunteers
Effective volunteers play an integral role in reaching your fundraising targets. They are passionate about your mission, willing to lend their personal support, and driven to succeed.
On the other hand, wrong-fit volunteers can demand excessive amounts of your team’s time and energy and become more of a burden than a boon.
Strong steering committees are comprised of:
- Board members with a passion for partnering with the development team
- Well-connected influencers who can help develop meaningful relationships
- Lead donors who will provide leadership support for others to emulate
- Insiders in your industry who understand the unique challenges and opportunities your organization faces
Forming a strong steering committee is one of the most important tasks you’re responsible for spearheading. Don’t invite just anyone to serve in this important capacity. Be selective.
The Impact of a Strong Steering Committee for a Nonprofit in Ohio
One food bank in Ohio learned the value of a strong volunteer network when they achieved an ambitious campaign goal in record time. Whereas it takes an average of five years for most organizations to reach a multi-million dollar campaign, this nonprofit achieved their goal in about a year.
They accomplished this feat by inspiring three prominent community leaders to be part of their steering committee and take an active role in the solicitation strategy. Yes, it took the food bank years to cultivate these leaders and make them advocates of their cause. But their efforts paid off. When these movers and shakers picked up the phone, the corporations, foundations, and individuals responded in astonishing ways.
That’s the power of getting the right volunteers on your side.
3. Refine Your Case for Support
Campaign consultants typically test a preliminary, three-page case for support with your stakeholders and prospective donors during the feasibility study. The purpose is to gather feedback and insight into which messages are compelling, which projects will excite and motivate donors most, and what areas to refine to achieve greater impact.
After the feasibility study concludes, we take the preliminary case for support and expand it into a comprehensive document that tells the overarching story of the campaign. This compelling case for support becomes the basis for:
- Project-specific marketing materials for each area within the campaign
- Solicitation appeals (e.g. direct mail, emails, social media posts, postcards)
- The campaign website
Just remember: A case for support ultimately isn’t about you and your organization. It’s about the impact your donors can make with their philanthropic gifts. Keep your donors at the heart of your case in order to stir them to action.
Lean on Your Campaign Consultants for Ongoing Guidance
Embarking on a capital campaign is a lot like running a marathon. Reaching the finish line depends a great deal on what you do long before you run the race.
To achieve your ultimate goal, it’s essential to devote adequate time to planning and preparation. Create a rock-solid campaign plan. Recruit volunteers who will supplement the reach and impact of your internal team. And create a case for support that will inspire donors to be part of your vision and mission.
Keep in mind: Most runners don’t prepare for a race alone. They access training resources and tap into external expertise to help them achieve their personal best.
In the same way, you don’t have to run your campaign marathon by yourself. Benefactor Group is here to guide you every step of the way. We’d love to help you create a campaign strategy that will empower you to achieve your ambitious goal. Just reach out.