A campaign is a pivotal event in the life of an organization. Over the years many leaders have asked, "How do I know when I should consider a capital or endowment campaign?" Although each organization is unique and there is no one right answer, there are several indicators that organizations may share. In my experience the following situations signal the right time to begin planning for a campaign, if your strategic plan is complete; the plan has costs affixed to it; there are capital, endowment, or operating needs identified; and the discussion of your mission values is behind you. The launch of a comprehensive campaign is evidence that your organization is acting on its plans to improve or increase services by executing the strategic plan.
- Your needs outpace your budget.
The preponderance of your daily operations is funded from your operating budget. As you grow and the demands on your organization increase, the demand for funds may exceed the budget. Many organizations draw supplemental income from an endowment fund. Building an endowment fund secures the future of your organization in several ways. First, it provides a relatively constant source of annual income to help bridge the gap between your needs and annual pledged income. Second, it provides a reserve asset to draw upon in times of emergency or unforeseen circumstances. Finally, it demonstrates surety and strategic long-range financial planning. This final element is crucial because it bolsters donor confidence, which in turn enhances pledges to the annual operating budget.
- Your staff and volunteers have more good ideas than you can fund.
A key element of successful not-for-profit organizations is creativity and energy for meeting the challenging needs of the community. By definition philanthropic organizations must be resourceful to fulfill their missions. The staff and volunteers are on the front lines working with your constituents. They assess need and opportunities to serve the constituents more effectively and efficiently. A thriving organization will engage those ideas. If you have more good ideas than you can fund, it is time to consider a capital or endowment campaign. A capital campaign may provide funds to turn one or two large ideas into reality. The funds raised can take the organization to the next level, generating vitality for not only the staff and volunteers but also the community. A campaign to build or increase an endowment fund will provide revenue to augment the annual budget, funding the new initiatives proposed by staff and volunteers.
- Your facilities are out of date or violate safety codes.
Obviously, when your facilities can no longer safely meet your organization's needs, it is time to consider a campaign. Space transformation, expansion, or relocation are inevitable components of facility management. Instead of funding the maintenance through small funds, a campaign is an option worth considering. In addition to securing the funds needed to make the facility improvements you need, a capital campaign will generate an awareness of your mission, commitment from volunteers and community leaders, and a renewed energy for serving your constituents. Many of the most beneficial elements of a campaign have nothing to do with money. Rather, a campaign will draw attention and support for your mission that will serve your organization for years to come.
- You have a waiting list for services or programs.
Although having a waiting list may seem like a positive indication that your organization is needed, there is a down side. Some may perceive that your organization does not have the expertise or ability to meet your constituents' needs. Donors may lose confidence in your capability and turn to other organizations. Although it is never possible to meet every need and at times waiting lists are expected in philanthropic organizations, a waiting list may also be a strong indicator that an endowment or capital campaign may provide the resources needed to expand your services or programs strategically.
- Your annual fund has been stalled at the same level for two or more years.
Consistency is valued. But when it describes your annual fund, consistency can turn into complacency. The annual fund of a philanthropic organization should be dynamic, growing as it attracts new volunteers, donors, and grants. If your annual campaign is not seeing an influx of new resources over the course of two or more years, it is time to consider a jump start. The campaign process crystallizes the organization's mission and focuses energy on one or two key expansion opportunities. Campaigns invite donors to become invested in new ventures, seek new donors and volunteers, and energize existing services and programs. The momentum created can generate a growth in the annual fund while securing capital or endowment funds for additional development.
- Your volunteers have energy to raise money and expand the organization.
One of the key elements of a successful campaign is volunteer participation. Campaigns involve a large number of people, not only to spread the work load but also to generate a sense of ownership in the campaign. If your volunteers have energy, you should take stock of this advantageous position. The right board members and volunteers are not only beneficial to the everyday operation of your organization but they are a critical component to a successful capital or endowment campaign.
- Income from your endowment is not adequate to augment earned income.
If you rely on earnings from an endowment fund to augment earned income on an annual basis, paying careful attention to the endowment fund is critical. Not only does it need to have positive growth from investments but it must continue to receive donations in order to meet increasing demand from the operating fund. It is reasonable to conclude that as the organization grows, the demand for funds will grow. Therefore, the endowment should keep pace. A successful endowment campaign will position you to fund future growth.
Bob Carter, Ketchum
© 2006, Ketchum
Bob Carter is president of Ketchum, the nation's most recognized name in not-for-profit fundraising. Under his leadership, Ketchum provides management and campaign guidance to a broad cross section of gift-supported organizations. Among numerous civic and professional activities, Bob is a board member of the International Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).