Regardless of where you are in the capital campaign process:

  • Just thinking about it,
  • Feasibility study stage, or
  • Well on your way,

I imagine you’ve had conversations (ad nauseum, perhaps) with your board and leadership team about if and how to proceed.

If you’re still in the discussions phase or not sure you’ve made the right choice, this post is for you.

Capital Campaigns in the Times of COVID

As you know, COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon. And the economic repercussions could last for years. So, how do you decide how to proceed with your campaign when there are so many unknowns?

There’s a fairly simple, straightforward answer: Talk to your key donors.

As you know, if you’ve put together a gift range chart, it’s highly likely that there are less than twenty donors, and possibly as few as ten, who could make or break your campaign. If they are “full steam ahead” you’re good to go.

Of course, it’s probably not that simple.

After all, when was the last time ten or even twenty people agreed on anything? But here are some suggestions and guidelines to get everyone moving in the same direction (i.e., towards your campaign goal).

Start with A, B, C Scenarios

In conjunction with your campaign leadership, outline what your organization and your community look like in the following scenarios:

Scenario A — You raise all the money you need (and more) for your project, programs and services.

Scenario B — You don’t quite reach your goal, but you get most of the way there.

Scenario C — You abandon your campaign plans and don’t raise the money.

Schedule Meetings with Top Campaign Prospects and Donors

Schedule time to review the above scenarios with your top prospects and donors to the campaign. Yes, include those who have already pledged.

Find out if prospects and donors are (still) on board to help get you to scenario A. If most are on board, you can continue with your campaign… full steam ahead!

However, if most of your key prospects and donors don’t feel they can commit at this time, you may need to reconsider.

Speaking to your top donors will keep one lone, loud-mouthed board member from derailing your campaign. Unfortunately, that can happen in a quiet board room (or Zoom call) when one board member’s voice is heard above all the rest.

Base your decision on facts. Are your key prospects and donors still on board with your plans? If so, full steam ahead!

A Strong Argument for “Full Steam Ahead”

Many nonprofits are scaling their campaigns back. This could be your chance to stand out in a less crowded field.

Don’t miss this opportunity to share your strong vision and tell your organization’s story. If you want to change your community or the world, there’s no better time than now.

3 Ways to Move Forward without “Full Steam Ahead”

If you learn your key donors and prospects aren’t quite as on board as you had hoped, try these three strategies to move forward anyway.

  1. Adjust the goal
    If you have not yet publicly announced a campaign goal and kicked off the public phase of your campaign, you can still adjust your goal. Make a careful assessment of what will be possible, discuss it with your campaign committee and board, and then adjust the goal accordingly.
  2. Lengthen the timeline
    You can extend the timeline by six months or a year. But be sure you have a good plan to use that time wisely so that by the end, you will get to your goal. If you’ve lost ground due to staff and donors being distracted due to the pandemic, this might be a good approach.
  3. Close the gap
    Are you toward the end of your campaign and struggling to close the gap to your goal? Go back and speak with your lead donors to see if they can help. They might issue a challenge gift or provide an additional gift. This is also the time to revisit prospects who haven’t yet committed to ask them to help get you across the finish line.

You should move ahead assuming COVID-19 hasn’t eliminated the need for your campaign.

If the pandemic and resulting economic fallout has increased the need for your programs and services, thus strengthening the need for your organization and your campaign, don’t be shy about talking to your donors regarding the importance of your organization and your campaign.

Many Donors Are Seeking Ways to Help

Many donors are looking for ways to help in these difficult times. If you have a sound plan and a strong case, they will be likely to step up. Unless, of course, you don’t ask!

If you need help planning for and assessing those key donor conversations, the experienced team of advisors at the Capital Campaign Toolkit is ready to work with you. Sign up for a free strategy session today to learn if you should stop, yield, or go full steam ahead with your campaign.


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