Engage your major donors when a campaign is just a gleam in your eye.
Tell them what you have in mind. Ask their opinions and listen to what they say. Recruit them to be part of your planning committee or your campaign steering committee. Make sure they are interviewed in a feasibility study. There's no better way to draw someone in than to involve them in key strategic decisions along the way.
Some donors will want extensive involvement. Others will want to participate only now and again. But if you invite the people who have the means to make your project successful into the planning process and let them know what's going on, they'll be more inclined to make a significant gift when you need it.
Don't finalize your campaign goal until you've tied down most of your top gifts.
Set a "working goal" and then reset it up or down when you get a clear sense of how much your major donors are going to give. For some campaigns, that'll mean raising the goal, for others it might mean pulling it back. The phrase "working goal" is like a DRAFT stamp. It puts a goal out for people to work toward but gives your campaign the wiggle room to change it if need be.
You'll have to tie it down by the time of your campaign kickoff. But, because you won't kick off the campaign until more than half of the money is committed, you've got plenty of time to reconsider before you finally announce the real number.
Kick off your capital campaign when you're quite sure it's going to succeed!
Okay. You've engaged your key donors months or years in advance. You've been testing a "working goal" while asking each of the major donors to commit to a gift. You have a good idea how much you can raise because the top gifts have been committed.
Now, finally, you tuck the ball under your arm and run full steam toward your goalposts. You've crossed the 50-yard line and have a clear field ahead. Everyone watching is fixated, breathing with you as you move toward the end zone. As you gain steam, your fans and supporters are drawn into the energy of your success.
That's just what happens when you kick off your capital campaign. You've already raised more than half the goal, and you're running like mad to raise the rest. Everyone who has already given is excited by your progress. And your fans are starting to cheer. People want to get involved—who wouldn't want to be part of a winning team?
Your campaign kickoff is the way to draw them in. You'll use it to thank people who made early gifts. You'll wax eloquent about benefits of the project you're raising the money for, and you'll pump up the energy for all of the people whose smaller gifts will get you over the goal.
Your organization will be a winner, and everyone who has been involved in your campaign will feel like one, too.
Andrea Kihlstedt and Gail Perry
© 2012, Capital Campaign Magic
Andrea Kihlstedt and Gail Perry have joined forces in a new Web site, capitalcampaignmagic.com, where they will share their stories and ideas and advice about capital campaign fundraising.
Andrea Kihlstedt has written two books on capital campaign fundraising, and she cofounded Asking Matters, an invaluable resource that teaches people how to ask for donations in a natural way that complements their own personal Asking Styles. Her latest book, Discover Your Personal Asking Style: A Fundraiser's Guide to Getting the Gift, will be published soon.
Gail Perry is the author of Fired Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action and is an international speaker, fundraising consultant, and trainer. Her Fired-Up Fundraising blog has more than 10,000 followers from around the world. She's led more than 25 capital campaigns and says she's seen it all!