An Easy to Avoid Capital Campaign Mistake

advice capital campaigns communications fundraising Apr 18, 2022

Easy to Avoid Capital Campaign Mistake

Capital campaigns are wrought with land mines. Whether it’s selecting the right ask amount or setting the right timeline some mistakes can temporarily or permanently de-rail your campaign. There is one mistake that I see time and time again which is very easily avoided. So many organizations skip one critical step which, when done, can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars more.

The capital campaign mistake that can easily be avoided is not getting your major donors involved early. By early, I mean even before your campaign is announced. I am most often hired when campaigns are fledgling and need to be reinvigorated so I do not always have the opportunity to intervene in this regard.

What you do prior to your campaign is very critical and can affect how much money is raised. It is very important that as soon as you consider a large campaign you STOP and make a pre-plan. Part of that plan should be to make a list of your top 25-100 donors (either by amount, years of giving, or depth of relationship). Next, make a customized plan to reach out to each of those individuals and execute that plan before you go further. 

There are many ways you can get these donors involved early, but you are going to have to decide what would be the best for each donor. Ideas include things like: an exclusive round table discussion with some of them, phone calls explaining the justification for needing the campaign and asking their opinion, asking if they’d be interested in serving on the steering committee, in-person meetings, etc. Yes, it’s a lot of work, and that’s precisely why so many organizations skip this step. But, the benefit of these discussions and interactions is that you are getting buy-in from your top donors. Don’t fall into the trap that many people do thinking “the donors love us; of course, they would like to support us.” It’s probably not as rosy as you think it is, but even if it is, donors give more when they feel they are critical to a project. What better way to make a donor feel critical than to involve them early.

It’s true that these types of actions will be done by a capital campaign consultant, but if your top donors find out about the campaign from a consultant rather than from you, you cannot easily recover. A feasibility study, a consultant, or an email about the campaign is too late. Do this all beforehand. I know you have a limited amount of time and I am one to recommend cutting slack, but this step is absolutely critical to your success. Do NOT skip this important step. 

If you are considering a large campaign, STOP, and make a pre-plan.