In this webinar, Amy Eisenstein & Andrea Kihlstedt will reveal three truths you need to know for a successful capital campaign, including how to design a no-fail capital campaign, as well as letting you in on closely held secrets of campaign consultants.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right. Amy and Andrea, is it okay if I go ahead and get things going officially?

Amy: Yup, we’re ready.

Andrea: Yes, sir.

Steven: All right. Great. Well, good afternoon, everyone if you are on the East Coast, and good morning, if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar “How to Design a No-Fail Capital Campaign, plus 3 Truths You Need to Know.” And my name is Steven Shattuck and I’m the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.

And just a couple of housekeeping items before we get started, just want to let you all know that we are recording this presentation and I will get that recording in your hands later on this afternoon as well as the slides if you didn’t already get those. So don’t worry if you have to maybe leave early, or you want to review the content later on, or maybe share it with a friend or a colleague, I will get you that recording this afternoon, I promise.

Most importantly, if you are listening today, please feel free to chat in using the chat box right there on your webinar screen. We’re going to save, actually, a pretty healthy amount of time for Q&A today. It’s going to be really fun and interactive. So do not be shy about sending in your questions and comments for the next hour. So we’ll try to get just as many as we can before the 2:00 o’clock hour. You can also send us Tweets, you can use the #Bloomerang, or send us a message right @BloomerangTech. I’ll be taking a gander at the Twitter feed every once in a while as well.

And if you are having any audio difficulties through your computer, we find that the audio by phone as usual a lot better. So if you have a phone nearby and you don’t mind dialing in, and it won’t bug your colleagues too much or be uncomfortable for you, whatever, try that, try that before you totally give up on us. There is the phone number that you can dial and the email from ReadyTalk that went out around noon today. So give that a try before you a totally give up on us.

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say an extra special welcome to all you folks. We do these webinars literally every Thursday. I only take a couple Thursday off throughout the year. I guess not literally, but almost every Thursday we do a webinar, one of our favorite things we do here at Bloomerang. But if you never heard of Bloomerang beyond that, we are a provider of donor management software. And if you’re interested in that, or maybe want you want to check out our offering, or just kind of see what we’re all about, check our website. You can watch a demo of the software even if you want to see it in action.

Don’t do that now. Please, don’t do that now because we are in for a real treat this afternoon, this morning if you’re on the West Coast, because we have not one, but two of my favorite people of leading experts in the nonprofit sector. I think we’re probably going break the internet today because we’ve got Amy Eisenstein and Andrea Kihlstedt here. How’s it going, friends? Thanks so much for being here today. Are you doing okay?

Amy: Thanks for having us.

Andrea: Yeah, it’s a treat, Steven.

Interviewer: It’s a treat for me. It’ll be a treat to have just one of you do a webinar. We’ve done that before, but to have both of you here is really awesome. I’m really excited for this presentation. I do not want to take a lot of time away from you, so I’m just going to brag on you two really quickly. What can I say about these two? They’ve been long time friends of Bloomerang.

Amy Eisenstein, she is who I consider to be the leading expert in major gift fundraising, definitely has a lot of capital campaign experience as well. You’ve probably seen her do other webinars, maybe speak at conferences. She’s awesome. She is the author of “Major Gifts for Small Shops,” which is, I think, the book on major gifts fundraising in the sector. Check that out if you don’t already have it. Very active at her home, AFP Chapter in New Jersey, and one of only a few people that has the ACFRE designation. So you’re really in for a treat here.

And Andrea, equally impressive resume. I’m not going to go through all the bullet points, but she also wrote what I think is the premier book on capital campaigns, “Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work” so check that out afterwards. Definitely want to pick up a copy of that. She did a great webinar for us a couple of years ago on asking. So if maybe you struggle with asking in your fundraising, you know, direct ask, check that one out. I’ll send you a link if you can’t find it. But, like I said, very special to have both of you here, and I’ve already taken up way too much of your time. So capital campaigns, no-fail capital campaigns. Take it away my friends.

Amy: All right, I’m going to get us started. Hi, there. Thanks so much for joining us, and I just want to quickly welcome you to the Capital Campaign Training. I’m Amy Eisenstein.

Andrea: And I’m Andrea Kihlstedt. I think we’ve got a little soft chew going here, Amy. So the book that Steven mentioned is this big book of mine. It doesn’t look so big there, but it is a big 400-page book. It’s “Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work.” And I’m bragging on it a little because it is in it’s fourth, and I must say, final edition unless somebody else does the next edition. I’m actually super proud of it. I wrote it many years ago and have updated it, and, honestly, I never imagined that it would make such a difference in the field and that I would get so much amazing feedback over so many years about it. So if you’re in heading into a campaign, it probably is worth your while to get as sort of a desk encyclopedia or something. So Amy and I are going to . . . Well, Amy, do you want to show your book too?

Amy: Sure. Quickly, yeah.

Andrea: While we’re talking about books, right?

Amy: Yes, yes. But that you can see it. It’s on the screen. Go ahead and get started. Let’s get into the webinar, Andrea.

Andrea: Great. So we’re going to give you, in this webinar, we’re going to give you three keys to running a successful campaign. Campaigns can be super scary. Most nonprofit professionals only work on one or two in their entire careers. That’s why it’s so scary. Right? And that’s because most nonprofit in most nonprofits campaigns only take place every 10 or 20 years. So if you haven’t done a bunch of them, there’s a good reason for that. If your organization is heading into a campaign and you’re terrified, you’ve probably come to the right place.

Amy: Yeah. So as Andrea said, you may be really terrified by the idea of a capital campaign. You may not think that you have enough campaign experience, or that your organization isn’t ready. You may not know where the big gifts are going to come from or be concerned that your board, of course, isn’t a money board. So we’re going to cover all of that today. So we want to first of all, put your mind to rest. We have seen so many organizations complete successful campaigns without a money board, and in the beginning when they didn’t know where their big gifts we’re going to come from. And so, if you are worried about an upcoming campaign that you may have, you are not alone. But we’re going to talk about that.

Andrea: You know, most everyone we’ve worked with on capital campaigns over a lot of years, if you ask them, they’ll tell you that before they got started, they were scared to death too over those very same things. They didn’t think they knew enough to guide their organization through a successful campaign. They had misgivings about the organizations, whether the organizations were really ready. I bet most of you wonder that.

They weren’t at all sure if they knew the donors who were going to give the gifts. I mean, donors aren’t out there just saying, “Hey, I’ll give you want million dollars, right?” That doesn’t happen, really. It’s natural that you’re anxious about that. And they didn’t know if their board was up to the task. I mean, that’s a big deal, right? And like you, they weren’t sure how to start figuring it all out, but we really do want to put your fears at rest.

Amy: Okay. So the good news is, you can do this. We really believe you can. Now, in the past, your solution might have been immediately to hire an expensive capital campaign consultant to guide you. But the good news is, there’s another way now, because the philanthropic sector is changing, the way the world works in terms of technology and other innovations. They’re changing the way we communicate. Capital campaigns are changing too. And instead of being dependent on a consultant to guide you from start to finish, we want to help you be in the driver’s seat. So you really just need the right tools and the right guidance to show you how to conduct a successful campaign. And once you have those things, you’re going to be able to really step up with confidence and take your organization. We want you to be able to lead your organization through a successful capital campaign.

So you may be worried that you are going to fail spectacularly because this is the biggest fundraising challenge your organization has ever faced. But if that’s your concern, don’t just stop, take a deep breath. We know you can do this. So we’re going to go ahead and get started now. So in the next few minutes, we’re going to share three truths that we think you need to know to run a successful campaign, and then, of course, Steven’s going to ask us some questions, and you’ll have a chance to ask some questions too. So go ahead and start thinking about those. So let’s go ahead and get started.

The three campaign truths that you need to succeed are number one, leadership level donors are actually closer than you think. Two, you don’t need a money board to be successful. And three, a well-designed and, of course, executed campaign never fails. And so those are the three things we’re going to talk about today. So we’re going to get started with a poll. So in just a minute, I’m going to ask you to answer these questions for you. So where are you with your campaigns? Starting to think about it, a feasibility study stage, soliciting leadership level gifts, or the public phase.

So go ahead and submit your answers now. So are you really just starting to think about it? Are you doing a feasibility study? Maybe you’ve just done one, maybe you’ve started to solicit leadership level gift and the public phase. Now, Steven, we didn’t discuss how everybody’s going to see the answers. Do I click “skip to results”?

Steven: Yes. Both of you see them now. I can see them now too. Can you see the bar graph?

Amy: I cannot see the bar graph. Can everybody else? I’ll click skip to result but I don’t want to close it too early. What should I do? Click to “Skip to results” and then we’ll see the bar graph?

Steven: Yeah.

Amy: All right. Here we go. Oh, excellent. Okay. So about 50% of the people on the call are starting to think about it, 20% in the feasibility study stage, 26% soliciting leadership level gifts. Okay. And we’re fluctuating still a little bit, and 5%, maybe 6% are in the public phase. All right. Excellent. Let’s keep going. So we’re going to go ahead and get started with truth number one. I’ll get us started and then Andrea will pick it up in just a second. So the first truth we’re going to start with is leadership level donors are closer than you think.

So what we want to say about this is that successful consultants who do capital campaigns, they know that without a doubt, they know without a doubt, I should say that the largest gifts to your campaign are going to come from people that you already know. So people in your local community, your current donors, and they don’t waste their time looking around to people outside your community for the largest gifts. They’re not looking to Oprah Winfrey. They’re not looking to Bill Gates. And sometimes, you know, Andrea and I get into a boardroom and that’s who the board members think we should approach. But instead consultants, they take a really serious look at the people who are all ready for donors and leaders in the community. And they work with you to develop ways to engage them in the earliest planning processes of the campaign.

And when they do that, when you do that, they greatly increase the chances that major donors who already are aware of your organization, that your friends, your fans, followers, will make those big gifts. So Andrea, now you’re going to tell us a fantastic story. Aren’t you?

Andrea: Let me tell you a story about that. You know, I think it’s so important that you understand that that money doesn’t come from out there. And this is the story I had fairly early in my career when I was . . . I was hired by a private secondary school that was planning a campaign. It was the very first campaign. And to get started, Susan, the development director had headed, before they engaged me, she had headed to the foundation center to do a research.

Now, if you’re a newbie in the capital campaign business, that sounds like a reasonable thing to do, right? Money is in the foundations. I go to the foundation center to look and see who’s giving money to educational sources. Then I send out proposals, and that’s going to help fund our campaign. Right? So Susan headed to the foundation center to do a research and she came back after a bunch of hours there, super excited, because she found that there were literally hundreds of foundations that supported private secondary schools. I mean, that’s really exciting, right? She could see how much the foundation had given the various campaigns, and it seemed as though she had flipped into a rich field of possible donors for her school.

Now, some of you know the fallacy of this, but some of you may not. So instead of pouring her attention into the parents of the children in her private school and the school where she worked, Susan was convinced that none of those people had big bucks, because, of course, they had never told her they had big bucks. It was sort of a crunchy granola school. And she spent a huge number of hours whittling down her foundation center list to the entries that supported schools that had some kind of overlap. You know, they were elementary schools, or they had funded something that she thought was an overlap. They were interested in languages, or the other things that were characteristic about her school.

And then one by one she sent inquiries to those foundations. Now, can you guess what happened? The right answer is nothing. That’s right, a big fat nothing. None of those foundations that had looked so utterly promising and the foundation center wound up having any interest in Susan’s school at all, right? Even though it was where she felt like she could submit a full proposal, didn’t fund your campaign. Poor Susan. Holy mackerel.

Susan had missed at least two things. First, lots of the foundations on her list we’re private foundations in which the parents or grandparents supported the private school of their children or grandchildren. It’s not easy to see that because sometimes the names aren’t the same, but if you dig enough, you’ll figure it out. You’ll see that the chair of the foundation turns out to be an alum of the school that’s funded both his children and his grandchildren attended there, right? So yes. The foundation did give a lots of gifts to private schools, but it didn’t qualify them to give to Susan’s school in any way, shape, or form.

The saddest part of the story really is Susan spent so much time doing it. And had she turned her attention to her own community of parents and donors, which she would have found, which eventually she did find out, that there was a lot more potential there than she ever imagined. You see, Susan’s anxiety about money, her own personal anxiety about money got in the way. And this is pretty common. We tend to think out of our own checkbooks, our own pocket books when we think about fundraising, right? She had this assumption that because she didn’t have big bucks, that people who looked like her wouldn’t have big bucks. And, of course, it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

She knew parents paid a lot of tuition and because the school had a low key culture, the parents who had lots of money simply didn’t show it. They didn’t tend to drive fancy cars. They had no fancy clothes or expensive diamonds. It just wasn’t the culture of the school. But when Susan hired a firm to do some wealth screening, boy was she surprised? Some of the most modest seeming parents were actually quite wealthy. And when she started to get to know them better, they led her to other people in the school community who had the ability to make significant gifts. So going to your existing donors and those who are in your community is way more effective and efficient than trying to go to the foundation center or trying to find someone new. You have to start with the people who are right under your nose.

Amy: Yeah. So that’s an important point. I want to emphasize that and say that most donors to your organization could give up to 10 times more than they already are. So I’m going to use myself as an example. I give dozens of organizations $25, $50, even $100 a year. But the reality is that if any of them came to me and had a compelling case for support, in other words, they convinced me of a strong need. I could give them $1,000 more than 10 times or more what I had been giving them.

So the reality is that for some special one-time projects that really move me and mattered to me, I could give $5,000. And if I pledged that amount over five years, well, you know, you can do the math. So even a non-wealthy person like me could make a really big gift and it’s true for lots and lots of your donors too, especially the ones giving by mail and email and coming to events that you haven’t sat down and talked to in person about a significantly bigger gift yet.

So I’m not alone in this. Your donors can do this too. Data and experience tells us that many of your donors could give 10 times more or more than what they are currently giving if you only ask them. So that’s actually what happens in campaigns. It’s quite amazing. Donors step up in ways that they never have before because there’s a really compelling case for support. And, and, and this is important, they are asked for significantly bigger gifts.

Andrea: No, Amy, before you go on from this point, I just want to encourage people to think about it this way, that when people give to your organization year over year, over year, over year, when they give to your annual fundraising, excuse me, they tend to give at a lower level because they have the anticipation that they’re going to keep on giving, right? But this is going to be a recurring gift. When you come to them over and above that for something that is special, that’s really what enables them to give a multiplier of that. So people who give $1,000 year after year might give $500,000 for your campaign, for example.

Amy: That’s a good point, yeah.

Andrea: I’ve found through many years that the distinction between special gifts, asking people for special gifts and asking them for recurring gifts, is something that many people don’t think about. And it’s particularly important than relevant when it comes to a capital campaign. When you’re asking for special gifts that you aren’t going to expect that people will give at the higher level forever. So let me tell you a story. This subject here really is, how a startup found money close to home. And this was a project I did some years ago. It really was one of my favorite, favorite projects because . . . and it tells so many lessons. Some years ago, my friend, Jim decided that he was going to create a new organization. It was a hands-on science center in the town where we both lived in.

And Jim had lived there for a lot of years. He had retired from a successful advertising firm that he started. It went on for a long time, actually. It had a presence here in New York for some time. So he came out of that firm with some money, and he decided he was going to start an organization that helped kids who learned experientially better than they learned from books, because that had been his experience. He didn’t know very much about fundraising. So we came and knocked on my door. I had known him for some time. And because Jim’s idea was just that, an idea, he hadn’t literally no donors. I mean, nothing. He knew nothing about fundraising and he had no donors. He himself, of course, was willing to make a really generous gift, but that wasn’t going to fund the project. He needed some millions of dollars to get this up and running and he certainly couldn’t do that.

So at first, Jim thought he could do what Susan had done. He came to me and he said, “Well, let’s look at the foundations. Let’s go to the foundation center.” But we sat over coffee in here and there and he took a different approach. What he did was, with my guidance, he started going to people he knew in the community and talking to them about the project.

Little by little, he found that people who were wealthy, who had reasons of their own to give to his project, were happy to talk to him. One person had become wealthy from his inventions within that community. It turns out he had started tinkering with things in his basement when he was a young boy, and he loved the idea of inspiring other kids to do the same thing. And when Jim went and talked to him, he said, “Hey, I’m interested. Let’s make this happen.”

A retired judge in the community who had known Jim for a long time was happy to support the idea because he saw this little science center as being an antidote for the kids who came to his bench when he was an active judge. He thought that the science center could keep kids out of trouble. And the head of the biggest foundation in town realized that having the science center for kids could make their community a destination for families traveling between New York, Philadelphia and DC. It was the town was located between theirs.

Now, here’s what to notice. While Jim literally had no donors, he had lots of relationships, right? He knew lots of people. He was someone in the community who was a part of the community. He knew them. They knew him. He had a passion. He had an idea, right? And through conversations with them, Jim was able to find out what in each person’s life overlapped with the organization he was getting ready to build. So it was as though he had donors, even though they hadn’t yet given.

Jim was successful in this project. He raised the money. He created the organization, the Lancaster Science Factory, for those of you who know Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and that’s still flourishing. Of course, now the organization has a history with donors in the community. But even at the very beginning, the money came from existing connections and local interests.

So where can you find leadership level donors close to home? There are three primary places to look. First of all, start by looking at your existing leadership level donors. Always start there. Look at the people who are already giving to you. You may be hoping they’re going to give a half a million dollars. They may only be giving $500, but that’s not a disqualifier. You have to start by looking at the people who are already giving.

Then you have to look at all your current donors who are qualified. They may not be leadership level donors, but if you do a little prospect screening, and you start talking to the leadership level donors, you’re going to find that there are a bunch of donors who are giving at low levels, who actually are qualified, who have the ability to give, who have a reason to give, a belief in your project, right? And with whom you have contacts. They’re already on your list. You know somebody who knows them.

And finally, and this is a big one, you need to be talking to the philanthropic leaders in your community. Now, that’s a big deal. Most communities, if you live in a relatively small community, and by that I mean, you know, 100,000 people or smaller. I’m ruling out places like New York. That’s a little more complicated. But if you live in a relatively small community, what you will find is that your community has some philanthropic leaders that may or may not be immediately tied into your organization, but you’re going to want to be talking to them in the early phases of your campaign, because some of them may want to give to a capital campaign of yours, even if they’re not giving in a regular ongoing way.

Amy: All right? So that is why we say that leadership level donors are closer than you think. That’s truth number one. And whenever we start working with an organization, several people usually on the board, or maybe sometimes staff members, they really believe that they don’t have donors for a capital campaign. You may be in that boat right now so that the go-to thought is that the donors are out there, meaning somewhere else, not, you know, in here with us or in our community.

But I hope now you really are starting to understand that leadership level donors are always part of your community whether they’re existing donors or people who are close by because, really, no one else is going to care except for people who are our close and look and understand the issues. Now, I know that some of [inaudible 00:27:49] are spread out geographically, but you get what I’m saying. I hope.

So [inaudible 00:27:56] just say something about list wealth screening. If you’re using Bloomerang, you probably have access to having your lists screened for wealth. But, if you haven’t had that done yet, I can almost guarantee that you’re going to be surprised by the results, because just because you don’t know that people with assets or wealth are in your database, doesn’t mean that you don’t have existing donors who could give significantly more. So most of the time organizations are very surprised to find these people within their donor bases. So and not only that, people connected with your organization are connected with the leaders in your community. It may take a strategic effort to go out and find them, but they’re there.

All communities in our experience have lead donors, and they see that as their role in the community. So even if the people, the leaders in the community are not currently on your board, or currently donors, chances are that they are familiar with your organization. So just because you don’t know the largest donors, or they’re not giving at a high level yet, doesn’t mean they won’t for a special campaign. Okay. Andrea, why don’t you take us to truth number two?

Andrea: I will. You can leave this slide, Amy. But before I do that, I just want to be sure that people know that when you’re going to people like the philanthropic leaders in your community, you want to be talking to them long before you’re asking them for your big campaign gifts. You don’t want to start that relationship by asking them for a big gift. So having early conversations with people is going to be key to your being successful when you are ready to ask them for a gift.

Let’s go to truth number two. Excuse me. You don’t need a money board to be successful. So you know, I hear this all the time. “My board isn’t wealthy. My board doesn’t contribute.” Don’t have it in our board policies that our board has to give. Does this means we can’t have a successful campaign? And that’s really important that you understand this.

Excuse me. While you dream of a big portion of your campaign money coming from your board, and sometimes for some organizations that does [inaudible 00:30:29]. The truth is that your board will lead your campaign. You’ll create campaign committees that include some of your biggest donors in addition to some board members. Consultants who know what they’re doing will actually help you use the campaign process to increase the likelihood of success, to really broaden beyond the people who are on your board. And this is a great way to do it.

So stop worrying about the fact that your board isn’t a money board. You don’t need a money board. What you do need to build your campaign is to build campaign committees strategically to add people who have serious capacity that will be part of your campaign committees for a fairly limited period of time. And that’s what’s going to run and lead and make your campaign successful.

Does that make sense? It’s kind of like for your campaign, you’re building a shadow structure, or a double structure for the period of the campaign where people who are philanthropic leaders are willing to help. Or they’re willing to help you, but not by serving on your board. They don’t want to be on your big sale board. They don’t want to come to monthly meetings. They really don’t.

They’re willing to help you build a new building, they’re willing to help you do something significant, and it’s a great opportunity for you to say, “Won’t you serve on our campaign committee even though you’re not serving on our board?” So your campaign is a great opportunity to bring people in.

Keep in mind that though your board members may not have to give most of the money to the campaign, they do have to be fully committed to the project you’re funding and to the campaign itself. Board members will be important advocates and spokespeople for the campaign, and their enthusiasm and commitment are critical to ingredients, I’m sorry. And their enthusiasm is critical to the success of your campaign. If they’re hanging back and don’t want to do a campaign, you do have a problem, even unrelated to whether or not there they are a money board. So you have to build a committed board.

Amy: Yeah. No, I was just going to add that your campaign is an opportunity to really rally your board. They’ll actually appreciate some training to learn about the campaign, to increase their skills, and it’s really also an opportunity and a great time to weed out board members who maybe aren’t so committed. So I once worked with a chapter of Big Brothers, Big Sisters and several of their board members didn’t support them financially. So what we decided to do at a board retreat, organized to start a conversation around fundraising. We talked openly about the need for every single board member to make a meaningful commitment to the campaign.

And at the end of that retreat, two board members who had never given before actually handed the executive director their first donation checks. It was pretty amazing. And two other board members, well, they stepped off the board. Now, the board members who stayed and stepped up, they were part of a powerful team that was really fully committed to the organization. And the board members that stepped down, honestly, everybody was relieved. And I’m sure that you have some board members that you would be relieved if they stepped down too. So they hadn’t been pulling their weight . . .

Andrea:[inaudible 00:34:21] to the campaign.

Amy:Right. They hadn’t been pulling their weight.

Andrea: The lousy board members step off.

Amy: Yeah, exactly. So and, you know, it was a great opportunity. So anyways, you want a strong commitment, and it’s going to really set the tone for your campaign. So even if their gifts aren’t huge, we need fully committed board members. Okay. Andrea, we’re going long. So tell your story about [inaudible 00:34:50]

Andrea: So I’m going to go short here. So you do need to leverage your strengths. I worked on some years, I worked on a little daycare center campaign. And, of course, the people on that board tend to be the moms of the kids in the daycare, right? And most of them didn’t have any money. But they had grandparents who were also on the board who had lived in the community a long time. And what they did was, they got the grandparents together to make a list of the people in the community who could help to actually leverage their long-standing relationships. So just because your board doesn’t have money doesn’t mean that they can’t leverage their strengths and help you really ratchet up your power and your capacity. So if you’re getting ready for a campaign, but you still aren’t sure where your leadership level gifts are going to come from . . . well, Amy, are we going to talk about the campaign toolkit here?

Amy: Oh, not yet. Not yet.

Andrea: Not yet. All right.

Amy: We will soon. We will soon. We’re almost there. We got to get the truth number three first.

Andrea: Yeah. Got it.

Amy: But you don’t need a money board. I think that’s the bottom line, is that board members really do need to understand their roles in the campaign, and you do need a campaign committee that has the capacity to make leadership level gifts. So if you don’t have a money board that you’re out of the game. I think that’s the important point. Anything you want to add to that, Andrea, before we go to the truth number three?

Andrea: No. I think we’ve made the point.

Amy: Okay, excellent. So you don’t need a money board to have a successful campaign. All right. Let’s talk about truth number three. A well-designed and executed campaign will not fail. It’s pretty exciting. So for a consultant, a failing campaign, you may know, is the kiss of death. In other words, a consultant’s career lives and dies by the success or failure of campaigns. Because word of mouth is how we make our living. And so, if we have people in the community talking about a failed campaign, it’s really bad. So consultants know how to design campaigns for success. And it’s a strategy that we want you to learn and understand too.

And the strategy and design of the capital campaign has honestly, been closely held secrets by campaign consultants. But we’re going to spill the secrets today. So you’re about to learn the largely unknown secret that consultants use to lead successful campaigns every single day. Are ready with me? So once we tell you, it’s going to seem simple and obvious, and an almost like cheating, but I really don’t want it to fool you because it works.

And so, I want you to have an open mind. So here’s the secret. Consultants build in two fail safe checkpoints for their campaigns. Now, these fail safe checkpoints are times when they can take a step back and help organizations evaluate really just how much money they raised. And once they have a good idea of what’s possible, then they adjust the goal accordingly. So that’s it. I know it may sound a little bit like cheating to change the goal midway through a campaign, but it’s really not. So that is how successful campaigns are structured.

So before we get into more detail on that, we’re going to do one more quick poll. So we want to know how much right now you hope to raise, how much you’re thinking about, and really start using the language working goal. What is your working goal? So one is under a million, two is $1 to $5 million, three is $5 to 10 million, and four is over $10 million.

So let’s see quickly what we’ve got here. Okay. So we’ve got lots of goals at all sizes, but mostly under a million, under $5 million. Let’s see. We’re going to give it 30 more seconds and then we’re going to keep going. Excellent. Okay. So let’s see. Almost half, more than half, we’ve got under $5 million. But we’ve got quite a few big campaigns too going on. So excellent, excellent. So let’s keep going.

So here’s a basic campaign timeline so you can see how the campaign lays out over two or three years. We’ve put this timeline together for you. And during the pre-campaign planning period, you’re going to determine a working goal, of course, which is what you test in the feasibility study. Now, the first checkpoint here, where the arrow is, is once you’ve started to talk to your donors in the feasibility study and gotten a sense of their willingness to give big gifts. Now, you can see the big red arrow pointing to the end of the feasibility study here, but before the campaign planning phase.

And that’s where you’re going to adjust your working goal the first time. Now, the second time, the second checkpoint is after most of the largest gifts have been solicited, but before the campaign kickoff. So once again, you’re going to have the opportunity to reevaluate and adjust your working goal. So when you understand how and when to adjust your campaign goal, either up or down and it does go both ways, you’re going to be more confident because your goal will accurately reflect what’s possible and the success of your campaign is going to be assured. Okay, Andrea, take it home with truth number three.

Andrea: Yes, indeed. I certainly will. You know, this doesn’t mean that every well-designed campaign raises all the money that you need for the project of your dreams. It means that every well-designed campaign will meet or exceed the publicly announced goal. And that’s a big thing to keep in mind. You do not want your campaign to fail publicly. You really don’t. So that’s why we keep shifting. The goal stays flexible, a working goal until we’re ready. And you can adjust the goal so that you can be both successful strategically and be wise at the same time. I mean, these really are just some tried and true tricks of the fundraising trade, of the capital campaign trade. And once you understand them, they seem obvious. But putting them all together into well-organized system, that takes some doing

So well-designed and executed capital campaigns really never fail. That’s because you build this fail safe checkpoints into your campaign design. It’s so super important. All right. Those are the three truths you need. Leadership level donors are closer than you think. You don’t need a money board to be successful. And well-designed and executed campaigns never fail.

Amy: All right.

Andrea: Important truths.

Amy: Oh, yes. They are important truths. All right. So now we’re going to take a few minutes for questions. So Steven, I don’t know if you want to kick them off or if you want to get right to however you want to do it.

Steven: Yeah. Well, first, I just want to say thank you to both of you for taking an hour out of both of your day, sharing your expertise for free, by the way, and I definitely want to give you the opportunity to plug your toolkit, because I believe in it, and it’s really awesome at least from what I’ve seen. If you want to real quick tell people about your toolkit. I know you got a spot at the end. But I want to make sure you guys have time.

Amy: Well, people can find out about it by getting probably the most important tool we’re giving away for free. It’s a full step-by-step checklist, excuse me, step-by-step checklist of your entire campaign. So if you just go to a, we’ll give you that timeline that we showed and a very detailed checklist for your campaign. So that’s the first step.

And just super, super quickly, we’ll show you that it has seven phases in the campaign, and we go through a practical step-by-step checklist and worksheets and tools for your whole campaign. And just for being a fan of Bloomerang, we’re going to give anybody on the call who is interested, a $1000 discount off the toolkit. But we really want to answer questions. So if you, you know, start with the, but for the thousand dollar discount, they would hit “slash go”. But start with the freebies and then we’ll talk later if you want to talk more about the toolkit.

Steven: Cool. Check it out. I’ve seen all the resources in there, and both are free and paid, and it is definitely worth it, really good stuff in there. Okay. So we got a lot of really interesting questions here. A lot of people ask this question and I wrote this question down as you were talking, “How do you get a wealthy campaign committee if your board doesn’t have a lot of wealth?” Right. So what do you do in that situation of maybe the resources aren’t there, but you do want to put together that campaign committee.

Andrea: Yeah. So let me take a crack at that.

Amy: Andrea, you want to start?

Andrea: Sure. I’ll start. I mean, you know, just because your board members don’t have wealth themselves, doesn’t mean that they don’t know people who have wealth, right? I mean, that’s point number one. So you don’t go by looking to people outside. You go by building from your strengths. So it’s like the daycare center that I talked about. They didn’t have any really wealthy people on their board, but those grandparents who were on that board knew a lot of people in that community. They socialized with them.

They could connect to them and say, “Listen, we’re starting a campaign for the daycare center to build a new facility. I hope this is something that you’ll be willing to serve on the steering committee of.” Right. You know how important this is in our community. And lo and behold, by the time they finished with their steering committee, they had, you know, four or five of the largest donors in town who were willing to help with the campaign.

So you have to work from where you are. You have to work from where your connections are. Perhaps your executive director or development director has been an active and involved in the community, and I encourage that. You will know some of the people who have wealth. And you can’t make the assumption that just because they don’t serve on your board doesn’t mean they don’t want to help. That’s simply not true. If you’re doing something that’s extraordinary, a big step forward in your organization’s life and growth, and if that’s going to make a big difference to the community, some of those wealthy people are going to be willing to help you. So it’s easier than you think. You just have to identify them and ask. I mean, that’s the secret of life. Is it not?

Steven: Yes. That says a lot. Along the same lines, and maybe, Andrea, you can speak to this as well. This is from a BP here in the chat. Your NYC buddy from before. What about the time commitment associated with being on that committee? Now, people are busy. People are working. How do you maybe get over that as an objection? Or maybe you can headed off at the path. What so you think?

Andrea: Right. So campaigns are structured, I like to think about them like those old paper chains that people used to put on their Christmas trees. You have a structure, a committee structure that where each committee comes together just for a very specific amounts of time. So the campaign planning committee may only come together for three meetings, for example. Your campaign steering committee may only meet every quarter, right? You’re not going to put together one committee that is going to be responsible for the entire campaign.

The people responsible for moving the entire campaign is going to be a small core committee who are people who are closely connected. And then you will build other structures, other committee structures that aren’t going to burn people out. Right? The people who have wealth and power aren’t going to come to a meeting a week for 18 months. You know that and I know that. But they may be willing to come to, you know, for three meetings over three or four weeks to help develop the campaign plan. And then, they may be willing to go and conduct two or three solicitations during the period of the campaign.

Steven: That makes sense. Here’s one from Heather. And Amy, I think this question came in when you were talking about wealth screening and prospect research. Sounds like Heather’s done wealth screening, but hasn’t really identified a lot of donors or potential donors with capacity. What do you maybe do when maybe a community, or maybe just people in your sphere of influence don’t seem to have that capacity, at least on the surface level from the wealth screening return?

Amy: Yeah. So, you know, the reality is, sometimes you’re going to find from your pre-campaign planning or your feasibility study that you’re not actually either ready to do a campaign yet, or that you can’t raise the amount of money that you hoped originally to raise. And so, either you are in a position of needing to scale back your plans while you develop more relationships, or you put the campaign on hold while you develop those relationships.

I think, you know, not every organization is ready for a campaign the minute that the idea blooms into place. Often, we’ll work with organizations. And, actually, Andrea’s organization Capital Campaign Masters is fully in the business of helping organizations get ready for campaigns. And so, that means that maybe you don’t either have relationships yet with the right people, or have strong enough relationships with your current donors. Andrea, do you want to add anything to that?

Andrea: Yeah, thank you. Thank you. I agree with that, Amy. And, you know, I think often we’re just beginning and going into the campaign process is likely going to surface people that you hadn’t even thought of, or is it likely to surface money that you didn’t know was there. So I’ll just give you a quick story because it’s fresh on my mind.

Every once in a while a little campaign calls me for pre-campaign services. I worked with a little organization in Texas, they were going to do a little bitty, bitty campaign, and they thought all they could raise was $300,000. Right? Little, bitty campaign. The community had like 1200 people in it. They swore up and down, they couldn’t raise more money than that. I said, “Listen, you are not doing yourself any service. Your project is going to cost $500,000. You have to at least shoot for that between now and when you go public.” Right? So finally, took, I really had to convince them that to have the courage to do that. They did that.

Yesterday, I checked in, this is months later, I checked in with the guy who spearheaded that campaign. I said, “Hey, Gary, how did you do?” He said, “We’re about to cross $600,000.”

Steven: Wow.

Andrea: So in part, it’s courage. Had they found that they couldn’t really identify the money, they could have pulled back their campaign goal before they went public. That goes back to this fail safe point.

Steven: I love it. I’m glad both of you said that, because it seems like we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. And what I’m hearing from both of you is, “It’s okay. It’s okay to scale back. It’s okay to change the goal. It’s okay to hit the pause button if you find out. Right? So don’t feel so bad, right?

Andrea: And you shouldn’t start with timid ideas. Right? Big ideas tend to raise bigger money. They really do. So courage in the early stages of your campaign is important, right? You can’t start timid. Start big, understanding that it’s right if you have to scale back. That’s okay.

Steven: I love it. So you both talked about consultant. I mean, you both are a consultants, so you kind of gave away a secret formula here towards the end. Is a consultant an integral part of a capital campaign? Do you need to get a consultant? If so, how do you choose one?

Amy: Let me start this one, Andrea, and then you can add a little bit. Okay?

Andrea: Sure.

Amy: So one of the things that we’re doing by creating this capital campaign toolkit is really changing the model on how organizations approach capital campaigns. And so, for all history, right? When organizations think that they’re going into a capital campaign, the first thing that the board and usually the staff say is, “We need to hire a campaign consultant,” because, you know, organizations usually only do a campaign once every 10 years. So probably staff, board members either haven’t been through a full campaign, or they’ve only been through one. And so, the first place to start is with a consultant. And they have been in the past fully dependent on a consultant from start to finish of a campaign.

Well, with this toolkit, we are changing the model of how organizations can approach campaigns because the world is changing, and capital campaigns, it’s time for them to change too. And so, while we truly believe there are still roles for capital campaign consultants to play in your campaigns, we’re looking at it as more of an à la carte model. So you might need a consultant for a feasibility study, or solicitation training, or for some coaching. But with this capital campaign toolkit, it puts the staff and board of organizations in the driver’s seat instead of the traditional campaign consultant. So we’re not saying that you don’t need consulting at all, but you’re going to use it in very different ways and in very strategic places. So Andrea, what would you like to add?

Andrea: I mean, it’s actually really, really exciting. What we’ve done is we’ve sort of codified the steps of a capital campaign and all the materials for a campaign for people to actually take and adapt and use, download and use. It will be helpful for you to have an expert coach, for example, along the way. Someone you can call. Someone who you’d check in with every other week to make sure you’re doing what it is you should be doing. Someone you could go to for advice. But the day when you have a consultant traveling, you know, traveling for a day to get there and spending a whole day with you and traveling a day back, honestly, you don’t need to do that anymore.

Now, what we’re hoping is what we’re seeing really, is that both campaign consultants and organizations should be working off the same playbook. So you’re partners rather than a consultant on high telling you what to do. It’s a different model, a model that I think will work that fits better with where we are in the society and how we communicate, and puts you in the driver’s seat while still giving you the access to true expertise.

Steven: I love it. And that’s refreshing to hear from two consultants. So thanks for saying all those things.

Andrea: Yeah. I spend a long time in the consulting business. And I tell you by the end of it, I thought this model is not right anymore. It’s not what we need to be doing. Not all consultants are going to be happy to hear that. I have to say.

Steven: Right. That’s okay. They know where to find me.

Andrea: Right. Right, they know where to find me.

Steven: Well, we’re coming up on 2:00 o’clock, and I want to be respectful of everyone’s time, especially if folks haven’t had lunch yet. There’s a lot of good questions still in here. I know we didn’t get to all of them, but is it okay for folks to email you two? I know we got the email addresses on screen, so I’m assuming that’s okay.

Amy: Yes.

Andrea: I am . . .

Amy: Go ahead. Sorry, Andrea.

Andrea: I see some really good questions here. And I think I would be happy to answer some of those questions, you know, offline. So if you have a pressing question and want to email me or Amy, feel free to do that. You have the email addresses. Some of them are really important, like the difference between a, you know, the quiet phase and the public phase and I’m just sort of scanning here, lots of important questions.

Steven: Yeah, that’s a good one. Well, email these two because they’re obviously experts.

Andrea: Yeah. And we’ll be happy to answer that. And do take a look at the campaign toolkit. It’s a really, I’m so proud of what Amy and I spent a year building this. And I think it’s going to really shift the way you can access expertise and have it be much more effective. So it’s exciting.

Steven: Any final thoughts from the two of you? What should people do today? If maybe they’re in the midst of a campaign or thinking about getting started, what’s your final takeaway for folks?

Andrea: So I have to tell BPCC that this is Andrea, and I’m in New York City with the sirens. So [inaudible 00:57:51] in New York. You know, final takeaway, here’s what I’d suggest. Find courage to think when you’re planning your campaign and have the [inaudible 00:58:02] nimble enough to change the goal if you see going forward that the largest gifts you would hope for aren’t there. But that’s a good way to think and plan a campaign. Amy, how about you?

Amy: Yeah. I will second. Have courage. And thank you all for joining us today.

Andrea: Yes, thanks everybody.

Steven: That was really fun.

Amy: Steven, thanks so much for having us.

Steven: Oh, it was my pleasure. We owe you two the thanks. Thanks for sharing all your expertise with us. This was fun. I knew that was going to be a good one, and it did not disappoint me. So we are right at 2:00 o’clock, so we’ll call it a day there. Be sure to email these two if you didn’t get your questions answered. I’m sure they’d be more than happy to offer advice. And look for an email from me later on today. I’ll get the recording and the slides in your hands today in case you want to watch it again or maybe share it with a friend or a colleague.

We’ve got some good webinars coming up every Thursday. We’ve got a nice one coming up a week from today. We’ve got our buddy, Rachel Muir joining us to talk about her one hour board makeover. If you’re struggling with your board, maybe you’ve got a board member that’s driving you nuts, or you got some board members that aren’t donating, or they’re not pulling their weight, whatever it is, be on this webinar.

It’s a really good one. I’ve seen her give this presentation in person. It’s going to be a webinar debut for us in a week. It’s going to be a good one. Totally free, totally educational, 1:00 p.m. Eastern next Thursday. And if you’re doing okay with your board, that’s okay. Check out our webinar page and you may see some other topics that might be more pertinent to your interests. So check that out. We’d love to see you again on some of the Thursday.

So we’ll call it a day there. Have a good rest of your afternoon. If you’re listening to this recording, I hope you’re having a good day. Have a nice weekend, and we will talk to you all again soon. Bye now.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.