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Season 2, Episode 19

If you’re considering a capital campaign, or if you just want to raise more money, it’s time to strengthen your resolve and muster the courage to ask for gifts. Campaign fundraising experts Amy Eisenstein and Andrea Kihlstedt share practical ways to build your fundraising courage.

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This episode was recorded as part of a live webinar held Monday, December 20, 2021. To participate in future webinars, register at ToolkitTalks.com.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
That we are in a business that takes courage. We particularly in the capital campaign business are in a business that takes courage because our kind of fundraising, capital campaign kind of fundraising, is not just a matter of sending out thousands of letters and then sitting there and hope people send you gifts. That doesn’t take all a lot of courage or nowhere near as much courage as the kind of fundraising capital campaign requires, which is that you actually identify and build a relationship with people and figure out how much you can ask them for a more significant project and actually go and have conversations with them about making larger gifts to your organization. That does take courage. It does even for people seasoned like Amy and me, even for those of you on the call who are seasoned.

I’ll bet if you’re being honest about it, you get some little squeamies in your stomach when you’re getting ready to talk to your larger donors and ask for a large gift. So the question is not how can we get rid of that anxiety, it’s part and parcel of this business. And it sort of puts us at our best in a way, but the question is, how can we move through it? What can we do to move through it? So just is cycling back one more time to the mini-campaign. What we do in the mini-campaign program is that we provide a peer group for people to count on, to call on, to get support from, as they face their fears. And many of them are first time fundraisers in this kind of fundraising, and they do get to face their fears. So finding a peer group and setting up a peer group for yourself is a great way to help you get over your anxieties about fundraising if you asked me.

It Takes Courage to Fundraise

Amy Eisenstein:
And Jacquelyn in the chat said, even before you started talking, it takes courage to fundraise. And I think that’s the bottom line, is it does take courage to fundraise. You know as I’m listening to you talk about taking courage to do capital campaign fundraising specifically that’s the business we’re in and the biggest type of fundraising that there is, usually the biggest fundraising endeavor that an organization embarks on. I think it does take a lot of courage, but if you reflect back on any big milestone that you’ve overcome in life, it always takes courage to do something new, to try something different. We can start with riding a bike. It takes courage, but you want to learn to ride a bike. It takes courage to ask somebody out on a date and if you’ve been married, it started with the first date.

And that took courage to ask somebody out on a first date. Forget the marriage proposal, you know each other by then, hopefully that’s not as risky. The first date, that’s a real risk. But you build up that relationship. Anytime you’ve moved cities or moved to a new job or done any major thing in your life, it took courage and capital campaigns are no different. So I’m curious in the chat box, why don’t you think of a time where you displayed courage? Think back on a moment in your life where you really, you were scared of doing something or it was risky and you overcame it, like, what did you do to overcome it? What did you do to push past the fear and do it anyways? Because I think that that there are many moments in any capital campaign or fundraising in general, where you do have to try new things.

You have to go past your comfort zone, you have to push outside the box, you have to talk to new people, you have to talk to them in different ways. You have to ask for things that you’ve never asked for, or that you’ve never asked that person for. So I think it’s a really important conversation. All right, let’s see, Miriam says, “We presented our guided feasibility study to the core committee and the board last week, it went well. Now we need to completely retool the goal and changed the scope of the campaign.” I don’t know why without an annual fund, but okay. It took courage. Yes, leaving my journalism career after 20 years and going into fundraising, cold that did take courage.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
That took courage. Indeed, indeed. Most is worth doing, take courage.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah. And Amy’s pointing out in the chat that it takes a team, you’re not on your own in terms of this courage, but I think it takes group and individual courage. It takes courage as a group to agree to move ahead with the project like this. But it does take a lot of individual courage. There’s a lot of individuals making these decisions and making these asks. Yeah. All right, Andrea, so let me just invite everybody once again, to put in questions, maybe everybody’s burned out from the end of the year. Are you all fried from the end of the year fundraising? There’s no questions, you can’t even think of what to ask?

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yeah, no, I think that’s fine, Amy. We can have a gentler and kinder Toolkit talk. We don’t always have to be so wired. You and I get so wired about this. We’re just always going 50 miles an hour. And I think sometimes it’s good to actually reflect. I mean, Amy thinking about courage, the reality is that it took courage to start the Toolkit. That this was not an obvious thing to do. And we spent a lot of… We made a real decision that we were going to make a commitment to put together a new way for people to get capital campaign services.

And in the beginning when we really didn’t know what the model was, and we would sit there kind of spending hours and days, we would go off on retreats trying to figure it out. And both of us had other commitments and other obligations, and it took courage to do that. How did we get past that, Amy?

Amy Eisenstein:
Yes.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
It’s interesting to think about, because it’s all the same thing. How do you push yourself into doing something that doesn’t feel like it’s tried and true, that doesn’t feel like you’ve done it. Like, you really know how to do it. And how do you make it okay? I think this is the core of the question. How do you make it okay to try something that you may not be fully confident in and know that if it doesn’t work the first time you can tinker with it and play with it and that people will be kind and supportive? If you just try. If you try something new and that it’s not like you try something new and then you’re done, they’re never going to talk to you again. I think that we can get in that frame of mind, we become a lot more courageous.

Amy Eisenstein:
That’s right. Everything’s a calculated risk in life. I mean, you look at what is the potential end result of a campaign, and how does our organization, how does our community, how are our clients better off when we’re done? And even though we’ve never done it before, there are models, there is a roadmap, there is a guide. And so we’re not totally on our own, left hanging in the wind, but there is a model and we take calculated risks and we do a feasibility study to make a plan and guide the way and pave the path so that it’s not a 100% all risk and no reward, but the reward is there. I like some of the comments in the chat box. And Jacqueline’s saying pray and do it. I mean, you combine some prayer with some planning. I don’t like to rely just on prayer, but yeah, you make a plan. You pray on it and you go for it.

Leap and the Net Will Appear

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yeah. Marevich has posted something in the Q and A. She says, “I have this mantra. Leap and the net shall appear.” I think there’s a whole lot to be said for that. Here’s why I think that works actually. I think it works because most of us are actually quite creative and we are able to create solutions once the stakes get high enough. So when we leap, the stakes get high and then we figure out, all right, here are the various ways in which we can create the solutions. So I think that in some, it’s not like the net just appears, it’s like you weave the net. You weave the net so that it catches you.

And I think you have to give yourself the sort of the understanding that you or the creative force, that can take a big leap of faith, that can jump out and make something happen, because you have some confidence that you will be able to be creative enough and to be thoughtful and planful enough so that you could find the way forward. And that really is the way Amy and I created the Toolkit. It wasn’t that we knew what we were doing. We knew a lot about fundraising. We knew a lot about Catholic campaigns. We didn’t really know what the model should be, but we had confidence in ourselves. And one another that we could, we could adapt the model as we began to understand what the realities were that we could take in information and change and adapt the model until it works. And that’s really what we’ve done. I mean, that’s been an interesting lesson in courage, Amy.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah. I think one of the things you always point out, Andrea is I’m such a planner. I set a lot of goals and so I set a big goal each year. And with the Toolkit, year one was create a model and see if it works. And then by gosh and by golly, it did work. So year two was set up systems. Now, that we know the model works. Now, we set up the systems. And year three are other things. So, what is the big goal? I think the analogy and the visual of weaving the net as you leap is such a powerful one. Heidi’s saying she made a list of pros and cons. She talked to experts and then figured if they could do it, she can do it.

And I think to a large extent that that’s true. There’s people who have gone down this capital campaign road or building a business road. For us, it’s building a business. For you, it’s building a capital campaign. You make a list of your strengths, your weaknesses that you’re going to get stronger at before you embark. You make a list of the pros and cons. You talk to a lot of people and then you go. And it’s okay if you don’t get every step along the way right. You pivot, you turn, you backtrack, you move ahead. It’s beautiful.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
So I just want to welcome James Moses Peter, who has joined us now. It was on my screen where you are from, and now I’ve missed it. Sudan, I think. Is that right, from Sudan? Somebody’s on the call from Sudan. Isn’t that spectacular? Australia and Sudan, it always makes me happy. When I think about courage, actually, I think about the many countries in which there are so many people in such dire circumstance and what courage it must take to live in some of these refugee camps or to be taking a trek across a whole country with children. The courage and the resilience and the remarkable human qualities it takes to do that. And if people can do that, honestly asking people for a gift and as we sit in our comfortable offices, that’s nothing.

We should remember that on the scale of one to a 100, our sense of courage is down at the bottom. And when we think we’re worried and afraid, we should take seriously the real kinds of courage that many people in the world are being asked to display, are being forced to display. And that’s remarkable. Nancy, Sharon, you have, I think that’s just right. In the Q and A, you say you two are offering an encouraging outline of being with courage and ambiguity. And I think that’s right on the money. That it takes courage not to know the answer. It takes courage to do something if you’re not sure of the answer.

And, of course, that’s what happens when you ask someone for a big gift. If you go to someone who’s never given you a $100,000 before, and you ask them for a $100,000, that’s ambiguity. You need to be ready to respond or to listen or to… I mean, I think that there is something powerful in that idea that we create as we go. And if we have confidence in our ability and skills to create, then we can be more courageous. That sounds a little woo, woo, but I think it really is true actually. Amy, someone asked when we created the Toolkit, they asked, I think we’re coming on our third year of —

Amy Eisenstein:
Fourth year. We just finished our third year.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Oh my goodness. Can you believe it? And we started working on it a good year before that, right?

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
So.

Advice on Starting a Capital Campaign Plan

Amy Eisenstein:
So, yes. The Toolkit has been officially in business. We’re just finishing celebrating our third year anniversary and we’re going into our fourth year, but we’ve been working on it for a long time. All right, Miriam’s asking, do you have any suggestions on starting a campaign plan so the board and campaign committees will follow it? What are the key documents that should be included in the plan? So Miriam here’s the thing. If you slap down a campaign plan in front of a committee that’s, they’re volunteers, they’re not full time, it’s impossible to follow. And honestly, one of the reasons that we’ve designed the Toolkit the way we did, which is really step-by-step, we broke the campaign down into seven phases.

And each phase has between five and 10 steps in it, because it is really hard to predict or project two years out or three years out. So what I would put in front of the campaign committee is, here’s a broad sweeping plan, but over the next two months, this is what we’re focused on. And that’s what they can focus on over the next three months, or these are the next two steps, but even the best development directors can’t look at the whole plan. It’s good to know it’s there. But to me, it’s really about step-by-step. What are they expected to do next? What’s coming down the pike? What do they need to prepare for? What can they do?

The key documents, we can rattle off some of the key documents that are in the plan. A good capital campaign plan starts with your campaign objectives, your gift range chart, donor recognition plan, communications plan, a budget, a timeline. But those things are all in the Toolkit, which you, Miriam who’s asking the question as a paying member of the Toolkit has access to, it is listed. There’s a campaign plan checklist and all the associated documents. And I’m happy to point you to that. Andrea, do you want to say anything about having the board and the campaign committee follow the plan?

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yes. Yeah, Miriam, there are only a few things that most board members can grasp and can hold onto. And it is your job or the job of the key development people to put them out so clearly and simply, that board members can get them. And one of them is the timeline. When are you planning to go public and how much money do you have to raise before you go public? So a clear sense, not month by month or week by week of the timeline, but the big outlines of your campaign. Your board should understand those and how it fits together. And we find that a big calendar or a wall chart helps with that, or showing a PowerPoint that really shows, okay, here’s where we are, here’s where we want to go public. We want to raise X number of dollars by then. And then we have so much money left to raise by such and such a time.

That’s a simple something people can grasp. The other thing that I think is really helpful and your board should understand is the gift card chart. How many gifts do you need at what levels? And your board should have that and understand it. And the third thing that boards often grab onto is the donor recognition plan. How are you going to recognize donors, particularly if it’s a building and your naming spaces in your building? Beyond that all the rest of it needs to happen, but I’m not sure your board needs to, unless they’re interested. I don’t know that they need to be in intimate with the details of it. It needs to be there, but get your board to understand the big pictures and to sort of internalize the big pictures. And do that at a board meeting, have a board member on the development committee or on the campaign committee present it to the board. That’s what I would say.

Amy Eisenstein:
So Andrea, in the chat, Ashley, it seems like a follow up question to Miriam’s. Ashley’s asking, how long do you plan for the leadership or silent phase of the campaign? I’ve heard mixed opinions. And I think you mean how long does it last? I think that’s the question, Ashley, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but Andrea, you want to start with that?

Andrea Kihlstedt:
How long is what?

Amy Eisenstein:
The silent phase.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
It varies from organization to organization. So it depends on… Some organizations go into a campaign knowing just where their largest gifts are going to be. In fact, already having some commitments on those largest gifts. And for them, it may not take as long to get a significant part of the way to the campaign launch. The easier question to ask is not how long that’s going to take, but how much money do you have to raise before you go public? And these days we generally encourage organizations to raise at least 60, maybe 70, for some organizations with small base, even 75 or 80% of the campaign goal should be raised before you go public. Then it depends on, all right, have you already identified your lead donors? Are they actively involved in the campaign? Will it fairly easy to solicit them? If so, your quiet phase may be shorter. If not your quiet phase may take a year, two years, because you have all that cultivation there. So that’s the way we would think about it. As with many quick campaign questions, the answer is depends, right?

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah. I think though, what has always struck me about our timeline, when I look at the timeline that we have for the Capital Campaign Toolkit for all campaigns. And it does vary. That if you’re thinking about 70% of your money being raised or 75% of your money being raised in the quiet phase, it probably takes 75% of your two to three year campaign period. It’s not quick. And I think a misconception is that the public for phase is the long phase, but if you’re only raising 20, 25, 30% of your campaign goal, that should be the shorter phase. Does it always work perfectly aligned like that?

No, but you know in people’s heads, you have this long quiet phase and that’s just not, I’m sorry, public phase, and really, you have to raise the bulk of your money in the silent phase. So that’s as long as it takes. If it’s a year, if it’s six months, if it’s 18 months, that’s how long it takes. so I just have to read this chat and John sent it just to us. Thanks for the courage message. I put you on mute, called the donor who has not answered my previous messages, and she just gave $5,000. Thanks for the courage to call again. Yay, John. Excellent. All right.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Isn’t it amazing what courage we’ll do, really? So here’s another way to think about courage, Amy, that courage is fueled by commitment. That if you feel strongly enough about what your organization is doing or about why you want to do something, the reason behind why you want to do something, then it’s easier to just simply move past your discomfort. And one of the ways to get courage is to spend some time, an hour or two actually going and looking at and being reminded of the power of your programs. If it’s a school, go and wander around among the students in the classrooms. If it’s an animal shelter, go and take a look at the animals and remind yourself of why you’re doing the work. And that will do wonders. I mean, any organization, go to the heart of your mission and remind yourself in a tangible real way of what’s important about it, why it matters and why you care. That’ll help you. It won’t make you stop being anxious, but it’ll help you get over your anxiety.

Having Courage at a New Organization, and Courage to Ask

Amy Eisenstein:
Somebody anonymously is asking, can you talk about courage and being in a new organization that hasn’t really done much asking in fundraising and how to present to the board and staff that capital campaigns will require asking? I mean, it is always hard to be new at an organization. I think it takes courage to go to a new job. It takes courage for the organization to take a risk and hire a new person. It takes courage for donors and nonprofits staff to get to know one another and trust one another. And so I think that sometimes courage comes in waves from success and experience. So the question is, can you start to demonstrate to your board by helping them be successful? And you starting to have some successes in asking, that this is the way that the organization is going, and if they want to have a capital campaign, it will require asking.

So the question is, can you take two board members who are willing and maybe have some experience asking and give them some easy successes? Maybe one of the things we’ve suggested many times and we’ve spoken about is having board members practice asking on each other. And it’s not a fake ask. It’s a real ask, but it’s practice in the sense that they give each other feedback afterwards, but have two or three board members ask the rest of the board members. And then afterwards, I mean, it’s a real ask they’re expected to give and then say, “What felt good about that? What felt awkward about it? What should we do differently or better.” And have them practice that way. What else do you want to add, Andrea?

Andrea Kihlstedt:
I think that is so important and telling people that you’re practicing asking them, even though it’s a real ask, does a couple of things. I mean, it not only makes it okay for you to make a mistake, but it gets them on your side. And the other of it is that if people are helping you learn, they want you to succeed. And I’ve told this group before, I’m sure, that I sometimes coach or advise young artists who are trying to raise money, young musicians or artists, I’m interested in the arts and I will often say to them when they, they ask me for advice and I talk to them about fundraising and about asking.

And I always end by saying, “Listen, if you can get the courage to come and ask me for a gift, you have to come and you have to actually ask me for a gift. You can’t just come and fumble around. You have to ask me for a gift. I said, if you do that, I will give you a gift.” I say that’s my commitment to you.” And then I watch and see what happens. And it’s amazing to me that only about half of them have the courage to come and ask, even though the outcome is already decided. And if they come and they do a good job and they ask me for a gift, if I can I say yes to whatever it is they’re asking for. It’s easy money. So it’s interesting to just how hard it is to face people you know, and to do that. And when you get over it, it works. It’s like, “John, all you had to do is find the courage to pick up the phone again.”

Boosting Your Annual Appeal While in a Campaign

Amy Eisenstein:
And I love that you did it right in the middle of this call, John. You know what? When the courage strikes you, do it. Don’t wait. The courage may leave. All right, Barbara’s asking a good question about year end. And I’m guessing that year end fundraising is on everybody’s mind. So Barbara says, “We are just starting the public phase of our campaign, and you’re four sixths of the way towards your goal. That’s very specific, but we’re feeling a real hit to our annual appeal with most of the donors.” The phrase you used is low hanging fruit, but we’re really trying and fundraising to get away from that phrase. These are people, they’re individuals, they’re not low hanging fruit. So any suggestions for boosting the annual appeal as we approach the end of the year?

So, I mean, I don’t know how you’ve asked the four sixth of your donors or you’ve gotten to your goal. Presumably, you’ve told all of your donors that you hope that they will continue to give at or above their regular annual fund levels and their gift to the campaign should be over and above what they normally give for the annual fund, because you have to keep running your annual fund. You have to keep operating your programs and services, even as you build towards a campaign.

And so at this stage of your campaign as you get ready to go into the public phase of your campaign, you may be doing more or bulk solicitations in writing and email and things, direct mail, but all correspondence, whether it’s in person or written or however it is, all solicitations should acknowledge both the annual will fund and the capital fund and say, “Listen, we can’t do one without the other.” If the annual fund collapses, then our capital campaign doesn’t matter, because we won’t be here to do it. And any capital gifts, we’re asking every donor to really consider that their capital gift is a special one-time gift over and above what they normally give for their annual funds, so that we can continue to serve the needs of our clients in the way that they do.

So that’s how I suggest approaching it. It sounds like you need to go back to some of your donors that you’ve already asked for gifts, because it sounds like maybe you didn’t do that. And so go back to them and say, “Listen, you gave the most generous capital gift and I want to make sure that we at least acknowledge or ask you also for an annual fund gift, because you’ve been such a generous annual fund donor.” And so it may take a little backpedaling, but I think that that sounds like what you probably need to do.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yeah, I think that’s great advice, Amy. I mean, I think if I were in Barbara’s position, I’d probably look at the top 20 campaign donors through the last year, the people who have given you the largest gifts. And I would gather up my courage and I would call every one of them or Zoom with every one of them or sit down with every one of them and say, here’s what we are, last year you have given… I would look at their giving pattern for the last 10 years. You have given us $1,000 a year, every year and this year because of your campaign gift, we didn’t have an annual gift from you.

This year we’re hoping that you can also give a generous annual gift. And you’ll be amazed. People understand that. They really do. Or the other piece of it is that sometimes somebody will say, “Well, listen, I just gave you $100,000 campaign, just take $2,000 out of that and apply it to the annual appeal.” Well, okay. That’s fine. Your capital campaign went down 2,000 and your annual appeal went up 2,000.

Amy Eisenstein:
Listen, I mean, I think some of those things need to be worked out in your donor recognition policies. I mean, Miriam’s bringing a good point up in the chat. She’s saying, “Does the campaign goal include the annual fund or not?” And sometimes it does. And sometimes it doesn’t. There’s no right or wrong. You just need to make a decision whether, and sometimes people call that a comprehensive campaign where the annual fund is included in the campaign goal. Other times it’s separated out and you have very clear distinct goals, one for the annual fund, and one for the capital campaign.

Like I said, there’s no right or wrong, you have to decide what works at your organization. There are pros and cons to both, but it needs to be clear. And you need to be clear about how you’re recognizing donors, so that if you have a donor who gave a 100,000 to the campaign and says, “I want to be recognized for my $100,000 gift.” And if you pull 5,000 out for the annual fund, does it count? You just need to have some policies around that and make decisions about that. There’s no way-

Andrea Kihlstedt:
There’s not a right or a wrong, I got to say there are preferences.

Amy Eisenstein:
Go ahead.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
There are personal preferences and I have one.

Amy Eisenstein:
Oh, go ahead, Andrea.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
My personal preference is that the annual fundraising goal not be incorporated into the capital campaign goal. That’s my personal preference. It’s not right or it’s not wrong. I just find that it’s clearer and simpler, than when you lump everything together and donors get confused about what they’re giving or giving to. So that’s my preference. If somebody really wants to talk about that, I’d be happy to carry on that conversation more. Amy, I want to call out Ashley Wickham, who said and I didn’t see it earlier that she’s new to the group and excited to join us today. And Ashley, we’re always excited to have new people join us. As you probably have gathered. We have many people who come week after week after week, and it’s always nice to have new people to join us on this. All right, what’s next? Let’s see here. Carol, should we go leap… Let me go with Carol. Carol, this is a pretty long question, but I’m going to see if I can tackle it.

Reigniting Capital Campaign Excitement

Andrea Kihlstedt:
She’s involved in performing arts organization planning. They were thinking about a capital campaign for a new performing arts space, then the pandemic hit and they had to stop having performances and put the idea on hold. And now thinking now it’s not the time to ask people for money, starting to think about picking it up, but doesn’t have the zing of pre-pandemic. Let’s see. Andrea’s commented about building courage by revisiting the mission by walking around. This gave me insight. Much of the performing arts activity was on hold too. And with it though on the ground realization of the mission. So it helps me understand why there’s less zing. How could I maybe help relight the excitement? I think that’s a wonderful question, Carol.

And I think most any organization had to kind of stop, any performing arts organization has faced that. Some for various reasons end up having some resources, some money, but the question I think is now, can we really start having performances again and what have we missed did not have been performances? And I think that’s worth a lot of conversation with your donors. I think the whole question about why live performance matters and what you can do. Can you begin to have small live performances? Can you have a strong enough vision about what might exist and what can exist in the performing arts world to re-envision that. We are working with several performing arts organizations, including a big one in Canada actually. And I think they just approved the largest campaign that they ever launched. So —

Amy Eisenstein:
A 100 million plus.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yeah, 110. I don’t know, a lot. It’s a great big campaign. So I think there are performing arts organizations that are using this opportunity to retool their vision, to excite people with the understanding that live performance matters, how much we’ve missed it matters. I’d probably start having conversations about that. How much have you missed live performance? What does it mean to you? What can we be doing? What’s the role in the society? And what kind of a performance space will suit our needs now? Then you’re going to get some kind of a buzz. Remember, the fundraising is only about making a vision real. And you have an opportunity post-COVID to say, “Let us look at our vision. Let us look at what’s important about this.” So you have an exciting opportunity. We’d be happy to hear from you. We’d like performing arts centers.

Amy Eisenstein:
All right. Sharonda’s asking a great question. She says, “We don’t know if we need a capital campaign. We don’t need a building, but I would imagine that some software, hardware could be considered capital.” So that’s super interesting Sharonda. Thank you. I bet a lot of people are wondering, what is a capital campaign? Do we need a building? And the answer is no. You don’t need a building to do a capital campaign. Not all capital campaigns have buildings. We like to think of capital campaigns more as capacity campaigns. Does the effort increase your capacity to serve the needs of the community that you serve, of the people you serve?

Now generally, you wouldn’t do a capital campaign. A capital campaign by definition is a big once in a while fundraising effort, every 10 or maybe even 20 years. So when you say some software or hardware, to me that doesn’t invoke a capital campaign, maybe a mini-campaign. I don’t know if you need $20,000 or a $100,000 or $50,000. So that might be perfect for our Mini-Campaign Boot Camp. But to me, a capital campaign really transforms your organization. So when you say some software or hardware, that doesn’t sound transformational. Of course, I don’t know any of the details of the campaign, but when you’re thinking about a campaign, there’s a lot of things that you’re raising money for. It’s new programs and services. It could definitely be software and hardware and technology and updating infrastructure and capacity.

So you don’t need a building, but I want you to think bigger. What’s the end goal? What’s the case for support? It’s not about hardware, but what does that hardware enable you to do? Does it transform your programs and services? Does it get you to the next level of service? If it does, it’s a capital campaign. Otherwise, maybe it’s part of your annual fund. Maybe it’s a special mini-campaign effort. Okay.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yeah. Amy’s made a good comment on that. And the issue is, how your finance people determine budgeting is quite different from the way we think about capital. They’re just different use of the language. They’re both appropriate. They just keep in mind that the finance people are going to be doing it one way and the capital campaign people are going to be doing it another. The other kinds of things you can raise money for a capacity campaign is you can raise money for startup programs for re-envisioning what you’re doing for evaluation and planning for anything that gets you thinking not just incrementally, but thinking about bigger or longer term growth. And it doesn’t need to be $10 million. You can do a campaign for a $1 million, that would boost your organization to the next level of operation. And honestly, everybody should do a capital campaign every five to 10 years. It’s good for you. It’s good because it gets you to exercise your courage, your courage muscles.

Amy Eisenstein:
Unless you’ve accomplished the mission at your organization, then growth is what the future of your organization is. And capital campaigns are about growth. Otherwise you’re stagnant. You’re staying where you are. All right, Ellen says, “We’re considering a capital campaign to raise funds for our aging population of individuals with disabilities.” Let’s see. Not easy to get our heads around, but relevant and necessary. I think that’s right. It’s always overwhelming to think about a capital campaign, any big effort. And a lot of times we do talk to people who haven’t quite figured out what the campaign objectives are or should be. Often they grow out of a strategic planning process.

So maybe Ellen, I’m not sure when the last time you did a strategic planning process at your organization, but you may discover what some of those campaign objectives and what the needs of the organization for the next five to 10 years are. So to me, I think that’s where I’d look, is to do some sort of either revisit of your strategic plan or maybe a new strategic plan as you think about heading into a campaign in the next 12 to 18 months.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Amy, did you see that Sharonda has said that she is the finance person?

Amy Eisenstein:
Yes, of course. I love it. Yes, that’s great. All right, listen, I want to encourage everybody and invite everybody who’s thinking about a campaign, whether you are two months off or 10 months off or a year and a half off, talk to us. I mean, honestly, that’s what we’re here for. We want to help you think through your individual scenarios, challenges, pickles, to give you courage. We want to ask you the questions and provide you with food for thought to give you courage to proceed with the campaign. Andrea’s right. If your organization hasn’t done a campaign in eight, 10 years, it’s time to start thinking about it. It’s the next stage of growth for organizations and we would love to support you through it, so.

Having the Courage to Think Bigger

Andrea Kihlstedt:
You know Amy, I just got an email from one of our clients who had set out to raise $10 million this year on actually a much a larger goal, but they set this year to raise $10 million and they’re just they’re going to do it. The last I heard they were $300,000 short and they were going to do it before the end of the year. They have what? 10 days left and they will do it. And I got an email from her saying, “It has been utterly remarkable. We never in a million years, for us raising a million dollars was such a… It was so remarkable before. And I never imagined that this would happen. That actually could do this.”

And what did it take? And just sort of thinking in my mind, there is no particular difference in the organization. It’s that they pulled their ideas together. They sharpened the vision of what it is the organization was going to accomplish. They came up with a plan about how they could actually move their mission forward more quickly. They did the things that you do in a capital campaign to actually go to people and ask them for help, for a clear vision of making a bigger difference in the world. And people responded. The very same people had been giving them at a much lower level, stepped up and gave them at a much higher level. And what’s the difference in that? Courage.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yes, yes.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Courage, the courage to think bigger, the courage to think that you can actually make a bigger difference in the world is the first part of the courage. And then once you can wrap your brain around that, and that’s not simple, by the way, I don’t mean to make light of that. If you’ve been running a nice little organization that operates at a nice little level, and you know how to do that and is stable, it’s no small thing to decide you are going to look seriously at what you could do to double the number of people you serve, or whatever suits your mission. That’s no small act of your mind to do that, even to think about that. But once you do it, then the next question is, all right, if we’re willing to think bigger, we’re willing to do that, then how do we go about raising the money to think bigger? And those two things fit together in capital campaign fundraising, which is why I have been in capital campaign fundraising all these years, like.

Amy Eisenstein:
Listen, if you’re thinking about that, I mean, it’s easier said than done. So that’s why we have our expert advisors to help our clients think through some of that. And somebody the other day was just asking me, well, when should I sign up with you? When is the right time to start with the Capital Campaign Toolkit? And I told her, six to 12 months before you’re ready to start asking for gifts. I mean, it does take a lot of planning. It does take a lot of thought. There needs to be… There’s a lot that goes into some of this pre-campaign planning, whenever you officially decide you’re starting the campaign, but from the day you really start asking, it might be six to 12 months that you’re doing some serious planning and feasibility study before you go into the quiet phase.

So if you’re thinking about it, now’s the time to start. Start making those plans. All right, Andrea, let’s provide some happy new years for everybody. And I think, listen, we’re going to take next week off, we’re going to take the holiday week off, and then we’ll see you back here in January. We’re super-excited about it. 2022, I can’t believe it!

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Hard to imagine. I think it’s going to be a great year actually.

Wrapping Up

Amy Eisenstein:
I hope it’s going to be a great year.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yes.

Amy Eisenstein:
All right, everybody —

Andrea Kihlstedt:
So thank you to all of us who have been here for a week after week after week with us. We totally so appreciate your being with us and joining us and wrangling with ideas. It is a privilege to work with you every week. So have a wonderful happy holiday, be safe and I hope you get a chance to spend time with your loved ones. Amy, it’s always fun to do this with you. I never tire of it. So thank you for being such a great partner and friend in all of this and-

Amy Eisenstein:
All right.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
… we will see you all next year.

Amy Eisenstein:
Excellent. All right, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year. See you next year, everybody.

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