Has your capital campaign stalled? Does progress feel slow or strained?

Perhaps your early numbers looked great, with a million-dollar commitment and a couple of other whopping big gifts. You may have raised half of your campaign goal or even more in a relatively short time. You were excited and so were your board and steering committee. Your best solicitors were motivated to help solicit that next level of donors.

And more gifts did come in. But because they weren’t as big, the momentum seemed to wane. And somewhere along the campaign road, your progress stalled.

We’ve seldom seen a campaign that didn’t at least have some scary ebbs and flows. And sometimes campaigns really do stall out.

This post will help you know what to do should that happen to you.

Stalled Campaign? First, Diagnose the Situation

First, figure out if your campaign really has stalled or if your anxiety has gotten the better of you and your campaign is just in a natural ebb period.

Put Your Anxiety Aside and Look at the Numbers

Your primary campaign planning tools are your gift range chart and your depth chart. It’s time to take a close look at them. Mark your progress and see how many gifts you identified earlier are still in play.

If you planned your campaign thoroughly, you will have planned on having multiple solicitations for each gift on your gift range chart. Look carefully at:

  • how many solicitations have happened
  • how many have been closed
  • how many are still in progress
  • how many are waiting to happen

See if you can chart a clear path to your goal.

Remember — the gifts that will get you to your goal are not likely to come from people you don’t yet know. They will come from the people already on your list. So, take a close and unbiased look at that pipeline.

3 Options if Your Capital Campaign Stalls

After you’ve taken a close look and analyzed your progress and potential, you are likely to see one of three situations.

1. You Have a Reasonable Path to Goal

If you see a reasonable path to the goal, you’ll simply double down on making sure that every solicitation is done in the best way possible (either in-person or virtually). Sometimes donor timelines simply don’t match your expectations, so you may have to be more persistent and more patient than is easy.

Often, when you look at the path to goal, you’ll have a number of scenarios that show a path with assumptions. For example:

If you get Gift A, then the path forward looks one way. If you don’t get Gift A, the path will look quite different.

The more paths to success you can see, the less cause for concern and the more you’ve just got to buckle down to get the work of soliciting gifts done.

2. The Path to Goal isn’t so Clear

If the path to goal doesn’t seem certain but may still be possible if one or two outstanding solicitations come in, you should dig down into those critical gifts to see what you can do to increase the likelihood that they will come in.

Share the situation with your campaign lead gift committee or steering committee. Show them the path forward. Find out who among them might help with those all-important solicitations.

3. You Don’t See a Path to the Goal

Most often, when a campaign seems stalled, you’ll fall into situation one or two above. However, sometimes campaigns really do grind to a halt and you can’t see a path forward.

Perhaps one of the large gifts you were counting on didn’t come through. Or maybe you didn’t do a thorough job of laying out your gift range chart and depth chart in the campaign planning process.

Maybe you were relying on hope and prayer rather than strategy and analysis. We have found that hope and prayer are wonderful provided they accompany careful campaign strategy and analysis. But on their own, they often yield disappointing results.

Whatever the reason, your campaign really may be stalled (or even stopped). That being the case, you have two options:

  1. You can lower the goal OR extend the timeline.
  2. You can both lower the goal AND extend the campaign timeline.

To figure out which option is best, you’ll have to carefully analyze the potential. Pull together your campaign team and work with your campaign advisor or campaign consultant to determine what might be possible based on:

  • the numbers of donors
  • the likelihood that they will give
  • and a realistic assessment of what they might give

Without that analysis, you won’t be in a credible position to recommend the best way forward.

Changing Your Goal / Extending Your Timeline

Any change in goal or extension of the timeline must be based on a plan that has a high likelihood of success. Because, though you can lower the goal and extend the timeline once, you will not be able to do again without threatening the credibility of your organization and your campaign — and, of course, your own professional reputation.

So, sharpen your pencils, get out your gift range chart and depth charts, and take a good hard look at what’s going on with your campaign. Even if you dread that exercise, you’ll find that once you do it, the way forward will present itself and your confidence will rise.


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