You may think that capital campaign fundraising always takes years and is full of drudgery. These three stories will show you another picture of the magic of capital campaign strategy.

Fundraising in the Time of COVID

In May of 2020, it was becoming clear that COVID-19 and the global pandemic wasn’t going away any time soon. Nonprofit organizations were drowning in chaos. Their leaders didn’t know if they should continue with their fundraising despite the pandemic or lay off their development staff and hunker down to wait for what was next.

For those of us at the Capital Campaign Toolkit, laying off fundraising staff and pulling back on asking donors for gifts didn’t make sense. Most of the organizations with whom we were working needed more support, not less, in such perilous times.

Enter the “Mini-Campaign”

Our deep experience in the fundraising world taught us that when the times get tough, donors want to help. So we decided to offer a special Mini-Campaign program to help organizations apply the capital campaign model over a short, intense 8-week period and raise even more money than they imagined they could.

In a few short days after announcing the program, 12 organizations signed up. We created two cohorts, each with six participating organizations. We met with the two groups each week for eight weeks.

What was the goal?

To help the participating organizations raise $100,000 or more in roughly 8 weeks by applying the powerful lessons of capital campaign fundraising.

After eight weeks, the program drew to a close with a celebratory graduation ceremony. Of the twelve organizations, ten had either reached (or surpassed) their goals or were on track to do so in the near future.

Here are three stories that share the benefit of this model of immediate, short-term funding on a grand scale.

Story 1: A Tailored Fundraising System Achieves Big Results

Founded in 2005, San Luis Obispo Classical Academy is a private, alternative school in California’s central coast that provides classical education to more than 600 PK – 12th grade students.

Cozy Faber, SLO Classical Academy’s Development Director, was facing a “do or die” $165,000 goal to prepare the school for eventual reopening. When she learned about the Mini-Campaign program through the Capital Campaign Toolkit’s weekly Toolkit Talks, she assumed that her board would not approve the spend.

But when she and her board learned more about the content, materials and support that came along with the investment, they decided to sign up, expecting they would raise a few thousand dollars through the program.

Cozy, a diligent student, absorbed the explicit and implicit lessons from the program’s instructors and guest lecturers. Soon she realized that her fundraising ideas aligned with the Toolkit’s philosophies, but that she was lacking a system.

Using the language, tools, and practice she received through the program, Cozy developed her own fundraising system. According to Cozy:

Their perspective was refreshing and motivating. The Toolkit’s fundraising approach isn’t purely about the budget. It’s donor-centered. It’s about finding and engaging with people who want to support your mission and helping them change the world by making a donation.

Cozy’s new fundraising method — based on the foundation provided by the Mini-Campaign program — has shifted how she thinks about asking. It’s helped her connect with donors, two of whom were so moved by their conversations that they vowed to personally help the school reach their goal if the campaign was unsuccessful:

Adapting this philosophy has made it easier to approach people because I have less anxiety. I’m just listening and creating the space for people to jump on board, and only if they want to. More volunteers are saying “yes” because they feel like this is the type of donor engagement they can do.

Cozy also credits her positive experience with the program to the other members of the Mini-Campaign cohort. Connecting with other fundraising professionals in a non-competitive, safe and honest venue was an energizing and engaging surprise:

There’s no other place for fundraisers to go for that sort of interaction, that access to information and experience. And it was immediate! A learning opportunity that is as much about giving as it is about receiving is unique.

Cozy says the Mini-Campaign program “clearly paid for itself.” The program has also increased her confidence and credibility among her organization’s leadership.

In the end, SLO Classical Academy’s Mini-Campaign exceeded its overall goal of $165,000 by more than $20,000. In addition, they secured scores of new donors encouraged increased engagement among volunteers.

Story 2: Strategic Fundraising — Not a Hope and a Prayer

Gateway Pet Guardians in East St. Louis, MO strives to create a community of healthy pets and empowered pet owners with the goal of keeping pets and people together. This 16-year old organization provides equitable access to pet resources; facilitates adoptions and removes barriers to pet ownership.

Jill Henke, Gateway Pet Guardians’ Development Director, considered the Mini-Campaign program a perfectly-timed opportunity to raise immediate funds, as well as a rare investment in professional development for her team. She even encouraged her Executive Director to participate in the program as well.

Together, they learned (and put into practice) intentional and strategic fundraising. Jill eplains:

Our organization sometimes relies on magic to fundraise. When you do good work, people give, but that only works up to a point. There has to be a plan and a strategy, for a mature development program.

Well before working with the Toolkit, Jill was determined to bring strategy, process and metrics to her fundraising program. The Mini-Campaign provided her with the tools — plus the time and discipline — to take a holistic look at her fundraising program, identify the areas of opportunity, and build a strategic plan to set and achieve an ambitious goal.

The added structure of the Mini-Campaign program gave Jill the courage to successfully approach recent donors to support this effort:

I realized how much fun fundraising is with the right tools, the right team and the appropriate resources.

With the additional $100,000+ raised, the organization is enjoying greater financial security. They recently celebrated the grand opening of their new building and a soft launch to the public phase of their campaign.

With only $50,000 left to raise, a $25,000 pending gift, and many $1,000 to 5,000 prospective donors identified, Jill is feeling renewed energy, commitment and confidence, despite the lingering effects of COVID-19:

Taking the time to recognize what we’ve accomplished is rewarding and invigorating for us. We’re looking forward to talking to our remaining donors and sharing all of our successes with them.

Story 3: Strong Fundraising Materials and a Good Team Matter

Founded in 1955, Friends Publishing Corporation is the non-profit publisher of Friends Journal, a monthly magazine with the mission of communicating Quaker experience in order to connect and deepen spiritual lives.

Sara Waxman is dedicated to growing into her new role as Friends Publishing Corporation’s Development Director. She first learned about the Mini-Campaign program while taking a major gifts course led by Amy Eisenstein, co-founder of the Capital Campaign Toolkit.

The eight-week Mini-Campaign program equipped Sara with practical tools and connections with other fundraisers, increasing her confidence and providing formal and informal learning opportunities at every turn.

Among the skills she walked away with, Sara says the program helped her distill the value and impact of the organization in their case for support, a critical first step in raising the money necessary for their Relief Fund.

The materials provided with the Mini-Campaign program made a world of difference for Sara:

All of the [Mini-Campaign] materials are extremely helpful. They are structured so you can see where you’re headed, and the weekly meetings keep you accountable to completing each step.

In addition to the material support, Sara greatly enjoyed the communal aspects of the program — including the weekly 90-minute update with the five other organizations in her cohort.

Working in this group structure, Sara connected with seasoned fundraisers across multiple sectors and the country. They formed a tight-knit group (and a few continuing friendships) providing each other with encouragement, advice and varied perspectives on fundraising.

It was inspiring, interacting with them and enjoying their energy. Fundraising is all about how you talk to people — how naturally and honestly. There was a lot to emulate in this group.

It never felt like we were competing with each other, and we weren’t competing for donors. They helped me organize my thoughts and we became a team to discuss ideas or seek feedback.

Sara is now preparing for the final stage of her Mini-Campaign — saying thank you to their donors and volunteers:

We’re looking forward to taking the time to show our gratitude in a generous, authentic way.

Immediate “Mini-Campaign” Funding is a Promising New Model

We’ve always known that capital campaigns work so well because of the way they’re structured. We were curious to see if we could get organizations to walk through the process in a truncated fashion, so we stripped away everything but the essentials and pulled them together in a clear, step-by-step format. And it worked!

The Mini-Campaign’s condensed timetable provids laser-focus and accountability. All participants did what they needed to do to meet their fundraising goals. As an additional bonus, working with a group created energy and inspiration — and a good dose of fun, too!

Participants in the Mini-Campaign program shared their excitement and surprises, and the groups worked together to alleviate their frustrations and inspire one another.

Everyone (re)learned the most important lesson in the fundraising business:

If you are raising money for something that will have real impact for the community you serve, if you can articulate that clearly AND if you have the courage to ask your donors for help, your fundraising WILL succeed.

Although there’s a great deal to know about raising money, when you boil it down to the basics, that’s the most essential part.

New Mini-Campaign Cohorts Are Starting Soon

We’re getting ready to launch the next Mini-Campaign program later this month. Once again, we will combine structure and accountability with encouragement and community. This has proven to be a winning formula that provided an unparalleled ROI for our past participants.

Raise $100,000 in 8 Weeks through a Mini-Campaign »

Want to raise a lot of money quickly for a burst of funding? Click the link above to learn more about the Mini-Campaign model. Space in the program is limited, so register soon!


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