Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How to Run a Successful Capital Campaign

Talking Points
by Stephen Wertheimer

Note: The following are points of departure for more discussion and analysis. They represent key concepts in the management of capital campaigns. Further discussion on each of the topics raised here can be had by contacting the writer, Stephen Wertheimer, at or 561-362-4020.

The Capital Campaign:

In the Beginning

Four critical elements

Case: Does our objective present a convincing reason for a thoughtful prospect to make a generous gift?

Prospects: Are there enough prospects with means sufficient to give at the amounts required to reach the goal?

Leadership: Are there leaders ready to do what it takes to cultivate and ask prospects for major financial gifts?

Support: Is there an administrative support system in place to help the volunteers successful? Is the chief executive officer ready to reach out to prospects and ask for gifts?

Set goals that are realistic manner

Define the programmatic outcome of the campaign, set metric

Determine if the campaign/goal is for a one-off or part of a long term development program

(development program, develop concept)

Seek counsel, especially if no prior campaign experience



Campaign management and services (writing, prospect research, etc.)

Determine what role/relationship with annual fund

Establish policy on naming opportunities

Establish policy on gift acceptance (cash, stock, pledge pay period, real estate, insurance, etc.

Running the Campaign

Seek Board commitment first – All Give At Top Level

Create a powerful assessment/rating/evaluation committee

Identify the top 100 prospects in rank order

Identify “enabler” who can begin cultivation/solicitation process

Create a powerful campaign executive committee

Begin solicitation in sequential order, not a collection

Rule One: 90 percent of goal comes from less than 10 percent of prospects; most of that will come from top ten gifts

Take time: campaign schedule is a combination of solicitation schedules for 10-100 key prospects.

Rule Two: Wait for the time when prospect can make best decision, not to meet an arbitrary calendar deadline

Expect that the campaign can run for twelve to eighteen months; avoid campaign fatigue

Do not make campaign public until goal is in sight, usually when between two-thirds to halfway to goal; Rule Three: publicity does not win campaigns

Have good briefings for solicitor/cultivators, arm them with informative, attractive, not flashy written and visual materials; do not go Hollywood; avoid gimmicks (internet, social media – not suitable for capital giving process)

Create cultivation events and dynamics, e. g., site visits, principals/leaders/clients/personalities meet-and-greet

Celebrating Victory

Establish a solid stewardship program: thank donors, show them what they made possible, and bring them closer to the organization

Create a business-like pledge payment collection program

Evaluate all outcomes: what worked, what failed, what was still undone, who was never solicited and why, who was discovered as a prospect not on original roster

Consider non-board campaign executive committee members and other campaign leaders for further assignment, e.g., board

Strengthen support system, per records, research, follow-up development (estate planned gifts, annual fund up-grade, special “mini-campaigns” for needs that emerge later); create standing capital development committee (or as sub-committee of such regular development committee) to swing into action promptly as needs arise

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