Capital Campaigns Don’t Just Happen: Planning for Success

 In Capital Campaigns, Fundraising

We’ve been fundraising for many years. While some things have changed on the margins, fundraising remains simply this: people give to people. In other words, major donors give to campaigns because someone (preferably a peer) asked them to do so. In a face-to-face meeting. With a very specific request for a gift.

These very thoughtfully planned meetings with major donors happen in the Quiet Phase of a campaign. Potential major donors are first identified, and qualified, by the Campaign Committee. Have they given to the library in the past? Does their giving history indicate an interest in civic betterment or a specific population the library serves? What is their capacity to give and what gift amount should they be asked to consider? Once these questions are answered, a solicitor (or solicitors) is assigned – preferably a peer – who will ask for an appointment and make the face-to-face ask.

All of this personal asking of major donors in the Quiet Phase occurs before the campaign is announced to the public. Up to 90% of your campaign goal should be secured in this Quiet Phase before launching the Public Phase. We used to advise our clients to secure 75-80% of the goal in the Quiet Phase before going public. However, with less discretionary income in lower and middle income households, giving patterns will continue to shift toward those with higher wealth and greater capacity to give.

Once you have secured 90% of your goal in gifts and pledges, the Public Phase can be launched with fanfare. Requests in this Phase typically take the form of direct mail requests, announcements at library or community events, social media campaigns, and other creative approaches to attract the broadest participation from the community. This is the time to put up that thermometer, or other public displays of campaign progress, to get the community excited about achieving, or even surpassing, the goal.

Once you have achieved the goal, you’re done! Right? Well, not quite.

There is a third phase – a Reinforcement or Enrichment Phase – because the end of a campaign is not the end of your need to cultivate, nurture, and engage your new donors in ongoing support for the library. Now that you have attracted donors to share in your vision for a new and better library, they are on your team to make that vision a reality and to ensure their investment in the physical structure will continue to strengthen the community and impact lives.

After a capital campaign, there is typically a “new normal,” with an increased level of understanding, interest and support for the library from the community. Continue to build on that momentum… for the next campaign.

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