Embarking on a capital campaign is akin to declaring war on the universe.
Everything is stacked against success. You must overcome an ailing economy, competing magnets for your donor’s dollars, shrinking nest eggs of wealth, naysayers and profits of doom. You will stare adversity in the face. You will claw, fight, and scratch towards your goal.
Knowing this; organizations still choose to declare war on giants. Like David with five small stones; they face the enemy.
David Slays the Giant
In “What’s really in your campaign fundraising frig?”, we talked about avoiding the common mistake of going public with your capital campaign before you have the right ingredients in place.
But there are more basic principles so essential that without them, you will never realize your goal. These are the lifeblood of the campaign.
They transcend strategy, structure and methodology.
If these three essentials are missing; you will quickly face the spinning tire phenomenon. This happens when you are holding the gas pedal to the floor board; yet going nowhere.
Three essentials for every capital campaign.
1) A strong compelling need
In other words; do enough people want to realize your building initiative so intensely that they will make personal monetary sacrifices for it? Will they be driven by their need to convince others to get on board? Is the perceived need strong enough to build a solid rationale for your capital campaign initiative?
You must do the homework to verify that the your circle is big enough. Whether you engage in a pre-campaign analysis, a formal feasibility study or informal conversations with key donors, you must evaluate this objectively. You also must verify with reasonable certainty that the need is compelling enough to move donors to action.
2) A solid gift chart.
Count on 4-5 legitimate prospect for every major gift. If you cannot fill every slot in your gift chart with the adequate number of prospects for each gift range; you will need to adjust your goal.
Once you’ve identified strong prospects in this chart, the top gift should amount to about 15-25 percent of the monetary campaign goal. The top twenty percent of the donors should account for 80 percent of the total goal.
The fewest number of donors give the most dollars; the largest number of donors give small amounts. This is the cardinal rule of capital campaigns.
If you diagramed your campaign chart it would look like an inverted pyramid with the heaviest dollars on top and the last 20 percent at the bottom tip of the pyramid.
Always, always start with the big gifts. Don’t go public until 70 – 80 percent of goal has been met by signed pledges.
Why? Because you must mitigate the unwelcome possibility that your identified major donors might not come through. Failed public campaigns implant long negative legacies. Take a long sober look at the likelihood of success before you proceed. Major donor work is everything in a capital campaign.
Realize this; even if your family is large, italian and bound by blood, your 21 aunts, 19 uncles, 52 cousins cannot achieve a $4 million dollar goal with $100, $1,000 or even $10,000 pledges. DO THE MATH!
3) A passionate leader
There must be that voice of clarity; the campaign evangelist who preaches your campaign gospel with revival-inspired fervor. This voice is afire with the passion that rises out of a strong compelling need.
He or she can see inside each major donor, identify the ache and mix the right prescription in your campaign medicine cabinet to soothe it.
Passionate leaders see the fruition of the dream long before others can and they are masters at articulating it into a mental picture for everyone else.
Campaigns have a life span; they are living and dynamic. Leaders may be a public figure or they may operate from behind the scenes. But they have certain common qualities.
They are committed to maintaining the vibrant health of the campaign. Strong campaign leaders understand the essential power of momentum. They sense the ebb and flow of the living campaign and recognize when it needs intervention to breath new life into it.
A dynamic campaign leader can pull a waning campaign out of the ditch and set it back on course through the sheer power of their indestructible will.
Passion builds courage in others. It points the way. Someone must be able to infect other people with this passion.
Campaigns without a dynamic, passionate leader are uphill battles often ending with a disillusioned little army of wondering vagabonds stumbling around the battlefield. They become half blinded by the heavy fog that settles over campaigns without a clear message.
The sense of urgency wanes, timing is blown to heck, compelling needs become muddied waters.
Don’t make the mistake of underplaying the three essentials of a successful capital campaign.
But if you have them, get busy putting the right structure in place and blow the battle horn!
There is a giant waiting to be slain.