Capital/Endowment Campaign Management

Capital Campaigns- Laying the Groundwork

Capital Campaigns are rarely, if ever, invoked to raise a small amount of money. Rather, they are designed to raise amounts that go above and beyond the regular call for support that an organization’s constituency is used to receiving. There are two main reasons for this: one, for the amount of effort it takes to erect a Capital Campaign, it is not worth the organization’s time to yield only a small amount of return; and two, the ideal Capital Campaign carries with it an emotional charge that resonates with people close to the organization, describing a major need that requires a one-time commitment in excess of, say, a donor’s more modest Annual Campaign donation. Groups are prone to ‘commitment fatigue’ and if Capital Campaigns come along too often or without the associated sense of urgency, their effectiveness will become diluted over time and put the organization’s future at risk. Depending on resources, it is a good idea to conduct some type of research – be it an informal opinion poll of your community or a comprehensive feasibility study – around the goals of a proposed Capital Campaign before its launch.

The good news is that it is relatively straightforward to predict when a capital asset will be in need of repairs or need to be purchased, and the smart organization plans years in advance of that date to appropriately time the Capital Campaign. Every Capital Campaign begins as part of the annual and long-term planning process undertaken by the Board of Directors and the development team.

An organization’s Capital Campaign target donation amount completely depends on the resources that the organization has at its disposal at the time of the Campaign’s launch. Capital Campaigns rely heavily on significantly-sized gifts from a fewer number of donors than an Annual Campaign does, and very rarely does any one person or foundation, new to an organization, give such a major gift. Capital Campaigns ‘capitalize’ on the good will and energy you have cultivated in your donor base over time, prior to this big request. But there’s nothing more emotionally and operationally damaging to an organization than setting a Capital goal higher than the constituency of supporters could ever reach, and following that, never completing the project that the organization set out to complete. The resources have to match the ambition.

Because Capital Campaigns deal in physical assets, in-kind donations can be particularly helpful. In-kind donations are non-cash gifts, of products or goods, donated by vendors in exchange for recognition and tax benefits. (Note: donated ‘services’ are not tax-deductible). For example, a congregation raising funds to construct a new temple might approach a local lumber provider about donating the wood required to construct the roof.

Capital Campaigns provide great marketing opportunities for your solicitors. In return for large donations to the cause, organizations often offer naming rights to a space within the soon-to-be-built facility as a thank you. Other newly constructed facilities have a wall, plaque, or commemorative area on the grounds recognizing the donors who made the addition possible. Perpetual recognition is a persuasive tool in the solicitor’s belt when cultivating major gifts for a Capital project and should be considered by every Board at these times. Many donors will give out of a sense of fidelity to the mission, but nonetheless, everyone likes to be celebrated for that commitment. Plus, the organization that does a good job of publicly recognizing its top contributors is sowing the seeds for future constituents to step up and take their place at the top of the list the next time around.