Ready to announce your capital campaign to the world? You might be. First, ask yourself these three questions:
- Can you see your campaign success right around the corner?
- Were your largest donors as generous as you had hoped?
- Have you already raised 60% or even 70% of your campaign goal from a relatively few donors?
If you answered YES to all three, then you’re probably ready to announce your campaign to the broader community.
Announcing Your Campaign: The Kick-Off
The campaign announcement — or “kick-off” as it’s often called — marks a shift in your campaign from carefully and thoughtfully approaching one donor at a time to inviting your broader community to get involved and close the remaining gap to the campaign.
How you go about announcing your campaign largely depends on what kind of organization is conducting the capital campaign:
If yours is an organization like a school or church — with a relatively narrow set of donors involved because of their immediate connection to the institution — then you’ll do it one way.
If your organization has a mission that serves the entire community and has a broad base of donors, then you’ll announce your campaign quite differently.
That said, however you choose to announce your campaign to the world, there are three key objectives to keep in mind.
3 Objectives When You Announce a Capital Campaign
In a bit, you’ll look at a few real-life examples of how different organizations announced their capital campaigns. You’ll see that they are quite different in size and scale and style. But don’t let that fool you — each of them accomplishes the same three objectives.
Objective 1: To Publicly Announce the Project and the Official Campaign Goal
During the entire long “quiet” phase of the campaign, smart campaign directors use a working goal for their campaign. That goal may go up or down before the campaign kicks off officially. If donors have been remarkably generous and have given more than anticipated, the organization might consider increasing the goal before it is officially announced.
On the other hand, of course, if some of the largest gifts didn’t materialize the way you had hoped, you might suggest reducing the official campaign goal prior to the public kick-off.
Objective 2: To Recognize and Celebrate the Largest Donors and Key Volunteers
Much of the work of the capital campaign has been done by the time it’s kicked off. And the kick-off event is a wonderful opportunity to highlight and celebrate the key volunteers and the lead donors.
Identifying and appreciating the people who are already involved builds confidence that the campaign will be successful.
Objective 3: To Highlight the Amount Still to be Raised and the Timeline for Completion
Few things are more effective than goals and deadlines. So, a critical component of every campaign kick-off is the announcement of how much has yet to be raised and a date by which that money will be raised.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Though this post focuses solely on the campaign kick-off event itself, plans for the public phase of the campaign should be in-place BEFORE the kick-off event. That’s because the very next day, you’ll want staff and volunteers to be able to hit the ground running to raise the rest of the campaign funds.
Examples of How to Announce a Capital Campaign
With those three objectives in mind, let’s look the way three very different real-world organizations successfully kicked-off their campaigns.
Example 1: A School’s Hot Chocolate Event in a Tent in a Cornfield
A small private school that served students with learning challenges was building a new facility. They had purchased a large piece land in the middle of farm country in central Pennsylvania. The new building would be the first of what would eventually become a campus.
Even with a small donor base, parents and grandparents had stepped up during the quiet phase. Because their base was so small, they delayed kicking off the campaign until they had raised nearly 90% of the goal.
The kick-off was in the fall and coincided with the start of construction. So it made sense to have their kick-off event right in the middle of the cornfield where the new school would be built.
On a beautiful, crisp fall day, the school community gathered under a tent with a sound system so everyone could hear. They served steaming hot chocolate and hot cider in very small hard-hat cups created for the event. And platters of fresh donuts and just-picked apples rounded out the refreshments. Drawings of the new building were on easels around the tent.
The construction company had obligingly moved a bulldozer into position near the tent. This provided excellent photo ops.
When everyone gathered, the campaign chair greeted everyone. She announced how much money had been raised as of that day and highlighted the people whose extraordinary work and generosity had brought the campaign to its current level.
Then the head of school stood and painted an inspiring verbal picture of what the building would mean to the current school community and students through the decade. At the end of his speech, he said, “but we’re not quite there yet and we need every one of you to help us get to the goal.
He introduced the head of the development committee who laid out in simple terms how the rest of the money would be raised and the projected date of the final celebration.
Amid good cheer and applause, the campaign chair made a toast to the future of the school. And after more hot cider and chocolate, the event drew to a close.
The event was photographed and an article appeared about it in the school newspaper. In addition, the local press was invited and an article about the school plans and the campaign kick-off appeared in the news the next day.
Example 2: A Hospital’s Hard-Hat Media Event
This organization opted to use a press-event to kick-off their campaign. The Hospital was the premiere healthcare provider in the community. Much of the cost of the new building was being covered by the hospital. But the Healthcare Foundation was raising $14,000,000 — a small but important component of the project.
The project was moving forward with or without the privately raised funds, so by the time the campaign was ready to be kicked off, the building was already well under construction.
Nonetheless, the new facility was going to be important to the community and there was good reason to believe that the community at large would support the campaign. The campaign committee elected to get the broadest media coverage possible through their kick-off.
The hospital planned a special hard-hat press event in the space that would become the main lobby of the new building. The space was under-roof but still quite raw. They brought in chairs and a sound system and arranged with the contractor for lighting.
In keeping with the news cycle, they held the event at 8:00 in the morning and served light breakfast refreshments.
To make the event special, they engaged a well-known area writer/actress to create a 10 minute one-woman-show about the stages of women’s health and the importance of a special place to serve those needs.
As with the earlier example, plans for the new facility were displayed on easels around the room. The speakers indicated the generous donors who had helped raise 65% of the campaign goal. And then, they highlighted the amount to be raised to take the campaign over the goal.
Because the event was scheduled at the right time, all of the community’s media outlets showed up. The next day, news about the new Women Health Center and the campaign was all over the community.
Example 3: A Nonprofit’s Gala that Served Double Duty
This organization provided shelter and support to homeless teens. Every year, they put on a highly successful ball that raised more than $100,000 from ticket sales, sponsorships and a lively auction.
The annual event was big and bold and full of high-spirited energy. The ball room of a big hotel in town was always packed. Most years, the proceeds went to the operating budget. But the year the campaign was to be announced, they decided to try something different.
A local corporation made a challenge gift of $500,000 to the campaign and wanted their gift announced at the gala. So, they turned that years’ gala into a campaign kick-off. They had already raised 60% of the campaign goal. And if the new challenge gift was fully matched the night of the gala, they’d be well on their way to completing the campaign.
Not wanting to short-change the operating revenue the event raised every year, they decided to apply the ticket sales and standard auction revenue to operating expenses, but to have a special section of the event dedicated to the campaign.
With the help of the corporation that made the challenge, they approached other corporations in town and asked them to be ready to step up with matching funds on the night of the gala. Several business leaders agreed.
When the challenge was announced by the corporate CEO, he asked for others to help match is gift. The number went up and up and by the end of the evening the entire match was committed.
They highlighted the amount still to be raised from the community, set a timeline for completing the campaign and urged everyone at the event to sign up to help raise the rest of the money.
Between press releases and media coverage on the night of the event, they got wonderful coverage and the glow of excitement generated by the event lead to a very successful final phase of the campaign.
Different Campaign Announcement Strategies — All Successful
Though these three organizations and events were quite different, their campaign announcements all accomplished the same key objectives.
- They announced the project and the official campaign goal.
- They celebrated the volunteers and donors who have taken the campaign so far already.
- They highlighted the gap to goal and the timeline for completing the campaign.
Whatever style you choose, your campaign kick-off will announce your final campaign goal to your community. And it will usher in the public phase of your campaign — and the celebration that follows your campaign’s success!