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Recently, Andrea and I were invited to lead a 2-day workshop for members of the Boys and Girls Clubs network that are considering or beginning capital campaigns. We met some incredible people, including leaders of Clubs from around the country, as well as Boys and Girls Clubs development staff members and consultants.

We thought tapping into their knowledge and sharing it with our community would be valuable for all organizations entering into or considering a capital campaign.

Here are five tips shared by members of the Boys and Girls Clubs’ Directors of Resource Development, Club Consulting. Special thanks to Danielle Hegedus, Lisa Hunter, Christine Destry, and Amy Sexton for sharing their wisdom and expertise.

1. Plan, Plan, Plan and Plan Some More

“A successful campaign requires planning— serious planning. And that plan needs to be followed through!” Lisa Hunter says, “The most successful campaigns have a plan and strategy outlined that includes timelines, range of gift charts, segmented donor data research, and plans to identify and cultivate donors prior to the ‘ask’.”

Further, Hunter advises that, “Feasibility studies, research, systems, and policies must all be in place before an organization enters into a campaign.” And here’s her warning: “Organizations that jump into a campaign without a solid structure in place and without a good study that helps to identify realistic outcomes will almost never achieve the end goal.”

Christine Destry adds, “Internal preparation is a key part of planning as well. So in addition to planning, the infrastructure and mindset needed to build and sustain the fundraising momentum for a campaign must be solidified”.

Yes! We couldn’t agree more! The Capital Campaign Toolkit walks you through the steps you need to create a campaign plan in an easy to follow format. There’s no need to guess at what should be included in your campaign plan or the planning process.

2. Make Sure Board Members Have Personal Stories of Emotional Connection

“Beyond a deep understanding of the community, board members need to have a personal and emotional connection to the mission. While they may have a general understanding of the Club programming, there is often a disconnect.” Destry explains, “Board members are best prepared when they have stories that connect them emotionally to the Club. This enables them to share why they are on the board in the first place.”

This is true for all nonprofits. You want board members talking about your cause and organization, and it’s always easier for them when it relates to a personal story. Help your board members find and learn to articulate their stories by asking them why they care and why they serve (your organization).

3. Don’t Forget About the Rest of Your Fundraising Efforts

Capital campaign planning and execution can be all consuming, but Amy Sexton warns to not forget about the rest of your fundraising efforts, which she considers a “recipe for disaster.” Her advice? “Ensure you have an airtight, multi-year RD (resource development) plan in place, as well as staffing that supports all functions outside of the campaign (or inside if you’re considering a full comprehensive campaign).”

In order to ensure your annual fund doesn’t take a dip during your campaign, be sure to ask all campaign donors to give a gift, over and above, their normal annual gift. That will keep your annual fund front and center during your campaign.

4. Ensure Staff Member and Volunteers Have Clear Expectations

Amy Sexton says, “Organizations must ensure all staff, board members and volunteers have a firm understanding of expectations before entering into a study or campaign talks. For example, who will be leading the campaign, and will the board members be required to be on the campaign committee?” Many questions need to be addressed.

We agree! Campaigns can be confusing and overwhelming. Ensuring everyone is on the same page as to what is expected of them will help you lead your campaign to fruition.

5. Tap into Your Network

There is a huge well of information and support out there that organizations can tap into.

Amy Sexton suggests, “Talk to your colleagues! Find out who has run a campaign recently near your budget size? What were their wins and what were their areas of missed opportunity?” Questions like these offer valuable insight. She reminds us that a capital campaign is a fantastic time to network. It’s short sighted to miss out on the opportunity to connect with your peers.

Taking it a step further, Danielle Hegedus adds, “Don’t be afraid to invite ‘big fish’ to participate. You never know where soliciting advice could lead.”

Go even further and invite volunteers with campaign experience in your community to come in and speak with your board. Set up a panel of three board members (from other organizations) which have recently completed successful campaigns. Plant questions with your board members in advance to get the conversation started.

These 5 Capital Campaign Tips Apply to Organizations of Every Level

Although it might seem strange to compare your organization with a big, national nonprofit, each Club operates independently. Some are urban and others are rural. Some are large and other clubs are small. These tips apply to organizations with tons of fundraising experience and those just getting started.

We thank the Boys and Girls Clubs for sharing these tips.

Which tip speaks to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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