Just joining us? Learn how much money should you have pledged before you go live with your capital campaign? Learn the 4 steps for pre-campaign planning, the 5 steps of a capital campaign, and why you can’t just get 1,000 $1K gifts. Learn the answers in the first 2 parts of this interview. If you are thinking of starting a capital campaign, join us for Andrea Kihlstedt’s session at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit, on September 28th. Now-
Mazarine Treyz: So for those of our listeners who are thinking of launching their first capital campaign, what tools should they have in their toolbox or what people should they have on board before beginning?
Andrea Kihlstedt: Well, to launch your first capital campaign, you certainly need your board to be engaged and involved. You need to have your campaign arise from some strategic planning process so that the board is engaged with thinking about what it is you’re going to do and why you’re going to do it. Right? What’s the importance of what you’re going to do? Then I would create what I think of as a core committee, a small committee of a couple of board members and perhaps a couple of other community members to identify the people in the community who would help at a very early stage. You would work with them to help clarify the goals.
During that time, you also need to be sure that your fundraising systems and programs are set up so that when you actually go into the campaign, you can manage all of the gifts that come in and you can manage the information. Because as you know, it’s a problem when organizations can’t do that and can’t do it well, right?
As gifts come in, you need to be able to thank people accurately. You need to be able to keep records accurately. You need to be able to manage pledge payments effectively. You need to work with your financial people to make sure that they know how they’re going to be accounting for your campaign. There’s lots of internal stuff that you need to have in place, and then you will gradually build out your campaign volunteer committees and staff.
MT: That makes sense to me. So I’ve heard it said that universities should always be doing capital campaigns, because the urgency runs the fundraising. Do you agree, disagree?
AK: Well, I think the reality is that universities are always doing capital campaigns. Universities think about capital campaigns in a slightly different way than other organizations. They are always in one phase or another of a capital campaign. They do what is called in the business, comprehensive campaign, in which they count everything that comes into the institution over a period of years, and they cluster it together using a big campaign goal as a marketing tool.
Now, for those of you listening who are in smaller organizations, understand that the university model is probably not the model for you. They can do things that you, in a smaller organization, could never do. They make use of campaigns and the campaign structure and visibility to light fires under their alumni reunion years. They have a development staff that is fairly robust and well trained where they have built relationships with their donors for a great many years. If you’re a smaller organization that does not have a history of major gifts fundraising and does not have a robust alumni structure, you do not want to do the kind of comprehensive campaigns that universities do. I’m actually happy to have a chance to say that, because there’s a lot of confusion about that.
MT: Right. So universities are just constantly doing it, whether or not they should be. But it’s called a comprehensive campaign.
AK: Yeah, I think they should be. I have no problem with that. They’re just a different animal. That kind of fundraising is not a good model for smaller organizations.
MT: Because universities have thousands of people, even hundreds of people working on this at one time. Oftentimes in small organizations it’s just us, right?
AK: Well, and they have a robust alumni class structure that brings alumni back, that builds relationships with alumni. They use the campaign to motivate alumni giving because they count everything. They often are divided up into various schools and colleges and they chunk out their goals accordingly. I mean, those are big and complicated fundraising adventures. I’m not knocking them, believe me. I think what they do is totally appropriate for who they are. The point that I want to make is that very few organizations other than colleges and universities are in a position to do that, and it’s not uncommon for people to think that they should adopt the university model. I have found it not to be effective.
MT: What do you wish more people would ask about capital campaigns?
AK: I would wish that they would ask, how do we prepare well in advance to increase our chances of success? That’s what I would wish. I would wish that as they think about a capital campaign, that they really learn everything they can learn about capital campaign fundraising, and in fact about major gifts fundraising, and that they do as much as they can do to begin to build these critical relationships.
Because you have to build them over time. So people who know that they have to raise money for a building in a year or two should start right now looking at the amazing resources we have in the field. People should go on, sign on for my website, Capital Campaign Masters. It is a treasure trove of material, and we continue to create it and to put it out there. I would encourage people to sign onto the Veritus Group blog, which is all about major gifts fundraising. They do a fantastic job of major gifts fundraising. The more people understand about major gifts fundraising before they do a campaign, and the better they prepare themselves for that, the more successful they’re going to be.
MT: Well, actually Jeff Schreifels of the Veritus Group is going to be speaking at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit as well on how to do major gifts.
AK: Okay, fantastic. Excellent. Well, he’s a pro, and I don’t read a whole lot on fundraising these days. But I do read their blog quite often. They write so well and they’re so knowledgeable about major gifts fundraising. So I encourage people to read what Jeff and his partner write. It’s very effective.
MT: Andrea, what will you be teaching at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit?
AK: I’m teaching how to get ready for a campaign, how to do this pre-campaign planning work. This is what makes all the difference between a successful campaign and a failed campaign.
Really no organization should undertake a capital campaign that doesn’t have a very good chance of succeeding. It is damaging to an organization to do that.
I will teach you one of the most important and under-taught subjects in the field, which is what to do before you hire a consultant.
MT: Who should come to your session?
AK: If a capital campaign is a glimmer in the eye of your executive director or your board members, then you should take this session. If anybody has said, gee, maybe we need to do a capital campaign some year, you should take my session.
MT: I’m so grateful to you, Andrea, for being here today. Can you tell people how to get in touch with you if they have more questions or if they want to chat with you?
MT: Andrea, thank you so much again for being interviewed today. I learned a lot about capital campaigns, and I’m just so grateful that you’re going to be sharing all of this with our attendees at the leadership summit. They’re going to learn, really, from someone who has 30 years of experience and knows how to do it right.
AK: Okay, Mazarine. Thank you so much, and I look forward to seeing you all in my session at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit.
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