Capital campaigns accomplish much more than money. The very idea that you could raise lots of money inspires you to think from abundance and to imagine how your organization might have more impact.

And, as our friend Nick Fellers reminds us, increased impact drives fundraising results. Not the other way around!

Bigger thinking provides all kinds of opportunities.

You will build stronger relationships with your community leaders. And, if you plan your campaign properly, you will draw your major donors in close. But even if your campaign arose from a specific need, such as a new facility, you can use your campaign to do much more than that!

  • You might invest in much needed infrastructure.
  • You might train staff and volunteers to raise money.
  • You might build your development team.
  • You might weed out and then strengthen your board.

A capital campaign is a lot like a Trojan Horse.

The Trojan Horse Story

Do you remember the Trojan Horse story? Let me refresh your history.

Way back — like the tenth century BC — the Greeks had been fruitlessly fighting the Trojans for 10 years. Odysseus was leading the Greek troops. He was known to be wise, courageous and wiley. And he came up with a plan that led to victory for the Greeks.

The Greeks were camped outside the walls of Troy. The wily Odysseus had his men build a very large wooden horse on wheels.

The horse had a hidden trap door and Odysseus and some of his bravest men hid inside the horse.

The remaining Greek forces rolled the horse outside the gates of Troy and then pretended to sail away.

The Trojans believed the wooden horse to be an acknowledgement of their victory and pulled the horse inside the gates. That night, Odysseus and his brave men crept out of the horse, opened the gates and the Greeks sacked the city of Troy, thus becoming victorious.

Now, I’m not a fan of war or sacking cities. But I do believe that if you are wily, like Odysseus, you can accomplish things for your organization through your capital campaign that you have been trying unsuccessfully to do for many years.

Using a Capital Campaign as a Trojan Horse

Let’s look at some of the items you might pack into your campaign’s Trojan Horse.

1. Use a Campaign to Strengthen Your Board

When you plan a capital campaign, some board members may be uncomfortable with the idea of fundraising and they may decide to step down. While they may not articulate the campaign as a reason for leaving, it probably plays a role.

You may lose 2 or 3 board members in the ramp up to your campaign. And often, those members will be the ones who are least comfortable with fundraising.

Rather than panicking at the idea that your board members are leaving, you can see it as an opportunity. In fact, you may have wished quietly for years that those board members would step down. And now, with a campaign in sight, they do!

Don’t rush to fill those board seats. You have an opportunity identify and find far stronger board members and you might do that through your campaign.

Instead of rushing, identify three or four people who would be ideal but who may seem out of range. Invite those people to serve on a campaign planning committee — a short term assignment. That will give you a chance to observe them carefully. And, it will give them an opportunity to get to know you and your organization.

If they seem like a good fit, you can consider them for board roles when the time is right. But in the meantime, they will work for you on your campaign.

2. Invest in Development Through Your Campaign

Your campaign will have a budget of its own — separate from your annual operating budget. And the money that funds that budget will be raised through the campaign.

I can see you being wily already!

You may have pushed to hire new staff members in your development department for years but encountered resistance because it was going to increase the operating budget and the immediate returns on that investment were not assured.

Enter your campaign Trojan horse. In the belly of that campaign horse is lovely big budget, some of which is allocated to increased staffing and development systems.

Most campaign budgets are projected over three years, so you can spend money to raise money. And the money raised through your campaign is probably so much bigger than your annual budget that staff and board members will not resist the increased investment.

If you hire staff through your campaign budget and you want to keep those staff members on long after the campaign, you might budget in a wily way, apportioning the staff expense to the campaign budget in gradually decreasing amounts. Perhaps 100% to the campaign budget in year one, two-thirds in year two and one-third in year three.

Gradually, as your annual fundraising revenue increases, your annual operating budget will pick up the added expense.

Final Thoughts

People think a campaign is just a way to raise lots of money. But in reality, it’s brim full of opportunities to transform your organization.

What other wily, Trojan Horse strategies might you use in your campaign? Share your comment below.


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