5 of Your Most Pressing Capital Campaign Questions – Answered

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We love your capital campaign questions!

We’ve selected five of them, provided brief scenarios to give them context, and offered our expert answers.

1. Can a tiny organization conduct a successful capital campaign?

We’re a tiny organization with no paid staff and no organized fundraising program. We raise money from here and there, through small events and from local banks and other commercial organizations. We need to invest in equipment and an office. Can we have a capital campaign?

Our Answer:

You certainly can’t undertake a capital campaign in the traditional sense, but you can use many of the campaign fundraising strategies pared back to their simplest level.

I’ve guided several people through successful very small campaigns and have written a seven part series on how to do it on this blog. Start with section one and read all of them. They’ll give you a great model for conducting a small campaign.

2. Can you raise money for permanent staff through a capital campaign?

We want to expand our programs and to do that, we need to hire more permanent staff. We know we can raise money for building and equipment and endowment. But can we raise money for permanent staff through a capital campaign?

Our Answer:

Money raised to cover staff costs has got to come in year after year after year.

Campaigns raise money that is pledged over three or even five years. Then they’re done. So by and large they are not good fundraising mechanisms for staff salaries.

3. How can you cultivate donors who aren’t in town?

We understand how to cultivate our donors. And we do a pretty good job of it. But our largest donor, the CEO of the biggest employer in town, is out of town 95% of the time. And, as you can imagine, when he’s here we can’t get his attention. What should we do?

Our Answer:

You’re not alone in finding it hard to connect in person with your large donors.

Many donors winter in one community and summer in another. Some have multiple homes and many major donors travel extensively if not for work, then for pleasure.

But while it’s great to actually meet face-to-face with your donors, you can build a strong relationship through email too.

  • You can ask for advice and send documents for review.
  • You can send photos and short videos to keep them in the loop.
  • You can copy them on relevant emails or forward email to them. And the occasional brief voice-to-voice phone call can provide added glue.

So don’t fret that you can’t get as much face time as you’d like. But make great strategic use of the techniques that are available to you.

See this post for an innovative email strategy »

4. What happens when your campaign is on track but your project costs go up?

We’ve been working on a campaign to raise $3,000,000 for a new facility, and we’re on track for success. But even as we raise the money, the price of our project is going up and up. It seems that to cover our expenses and complete this project, we’ll need closer to $4,500,000 than to the $3,000,000 we had estimated for our campaign. What to do?

Our Answer:

I can feel your anxiety growing as the costs rise! Here are three suggestions:

  • This is not YOUR problem alone. Be sure that you’re pulling together a broader group to discuss and strategize the solution.
  • While you may be able to increase your campaign goal and raise more money, your organization may have to consider other ways to fund the gap. For example, taking out a mortgage or some other form of borrowing.
  • Consider involving some of your major donors in helping to find a solution. Because they have made big campaign gifts, they are vested in the success of the project. Get them to help find the best solutions.

5. What can you do about a failing campaign?

We launched our campaign three years ago and announced it at our big event last fall. Now, nearly a year later, we haven’t come close to raising the rest of the money and, frankly, I have no idea where it’s going to come from! I’m afraid that our campaign has failed. What now?

Our Answer:

A campaign has failed only when you announce that it has failed! And I suggest that you don’t do that.

Instead, either lower the goal or extend the campaign timeline or both. Then, when you achieve the new, revised goal, proclaim success and celebrate!

A bigger question might be how to pay for your campaign objectives if you can’t raise all of the money. I suggest that you pull together a small group of people to figure out how to rejig the financial plan to fit what is possible.

Slight of hand?

Perhaps. But you’ll find it more constructive to find the right ways forward than to despair because you couldn’t make happen the original goals.

More Questions?

Keep your questions coming! Ask them in the comments below or contact us.

We’ve got another five great questions and answers lined up for you in our next post. But the more questions you pose, the more pithy, on-target responses we can provide that’ll really get you moving!

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