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Reasons for Having—and NOT Having—a Capital Campaign

Two hand-drawn check boxes with Yes and No beside them. The Yes box has a checkmark in it.Lots of board members and even staff members have misguided notions of why organizations should have a capital campaign. Here is the main reason you should have a campaign, and three reasons why you should not.

Why You Should Have a Capital Campaign

There is one overriding reason why your organization should have a campaign: it’s ready for exponential growth. 

Perhaps you want to make a bigger impact by serving more people in a bigger geographical area. Or maybe your programs and services have outgrown your space, or the current space is no longer available or adequate. 

Whatever the case, your organization is ready to grow in a big way! And that means you are ready for a capital campaign. 

3 Reasons NOT to Have a Capital Campaign

To keep you on the straight and narrow, consider these three important reasons NOT to let your board discussion devolve into the idea of a campaign before you’re truly ready.

1. You Have an Upcoming Milestone Anniversary

Simply because you’ve existed for 25, 50, or even 100 years is not motivation enough for donors to give you substantial dollars. In other words, your milestone anniversary is not a good enough reason to have a capital campaign. 

The truth is that campaigns are about the next 5, 10, or 20 years. They’re about the future, not the past. And while the past is relevant because it shows you have a track record and staying power, it’s not justification for a campaign itself.

2. You Want to Start or Grow Your Endowment

While I know you and your board would love to have a huge endowment, that’s not motivation enough for most donors. 

Of course, you will likely include endowment as one component of your campaign. But that’s just one small slice of your campaign pie. In order to be of interest to most donors and grow your organization as a whole, your campaign will need to raise money for programs, services, and capital needs as well as endowment.

3. You Need to Reduce Your Debt

Reducing your debt will not be a motivator for the majority of donors. Once the building is built or the programs have started, most donors don’t feel a sense of urgency. An appeal for debt reduction can feel like a desperate plea, and no donor wants to be in the position of bailing out your organization. 

So, while your organization may wish to pay off debt, it’s important to identify other needs for which to raise money.

Is Your Organization Ready for a Capital Campaign?

To find out if your organization is ready for a campaign, go to CapitalCampaignToolkit.com and apply for a free campaign strategy session. You can also subscribe to the Capital Campaign Masters newsletter. When you do, you’ll gain access to a 7-part Campaign Readiness Assessment as a free bonus.

Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, and Andrea Kihlstedt have developed the ground-breaking Capital Campaign Toolkit, an online, step-by-step guide to capital campaign fundraising. Visit www.CapitalCampaignToolkit.com.

Amy EisensteinAmy Eisenstein, ACFRE, is a well-respected author, trainer, speaker, and nonprofit coach. She wrote the book, Major Gifts for Small Shops, and developed Mastering Major Gifts and other online resources.

Andrea KihlstedtAndrea Kihlstedt is a campaign consultant of 30 years and one of the world’s leading capital campaign experts. She wrote THE book on campaigns—Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work, now in its 4th edition—and is president of Capital Campaign Masters.

Topics: capital campaigns
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