We recently got a call from a school in in the northeast. They wanted to do a capital campaign. And their ideal project was $3 million.

The only concern they had was they only feel like they could raise a million and a half. Now, here’s the question: What should they do?

Early in my career this was the time that I would go back to my long-standing mentor, capital campaign mentor, Bob Pierpont. And I would ask him, “Bob, what should we do?” And he inevitably would say, “That’s a great question to go ask the donors.”

It’s a simple thing, but asking your donors what projects they get excited about and how they would conceive it is important. And asking them, there’s an old fundraising adage that says, “When you ask a donor for money, you get advice. And when you ask for advice you get money.”

Now, in this process the way to ask the donors, the way to connect with those donors is often through what’s called a Campaign Planning Study or a Campaign Feasibility Study. These studies are an opportunity to go and meet with your donors, ask them for their advice and their perspective on how they would frame a project itself.

Now, when Dickerson Bakker goes out and does a study we look at three primary areas related to a capital campaign.

The first is Case. How does the case, this is the argument that your organization is making for why donors should give very, very large gifts to your project.

What is the case to your organization? And when we’re looking at the case itself it is a question of, “How does the donor  feel about your organization?” “How does the donor feel about the project that you’re building?” And are they excited about it? Do they feel a passion for the direction you’re taking the organization?

Those are elements you need to know in order to frame that project.

The second element is Capacity. And when we’re looking at capacity, capacity is all about your donor communities ability to fund the project. Do you have, particularly the largest donors, do you have those donors that are able to give to your project?

Now, one thing a lot of people don’t recognize is that in most campaigns 50% of the goal is often given by fewer than 15 donations, 15 gifts. And so those gifts have to be really large in order to make that work.

And so, a key part of the feasibility study is to go and ask questions and be able to meet with donors and be able to do assessments to be able to identify, “Do you have the capacity to identify, especially those large gifts?”

The third element that we look at in a feasibility study is Leadership. In any community there seems to be people, who if he or she were to beat the drum, others are gonna come marching.

Who are those people in your community? Who are the best people to lead your capital campaign to success? And specifically we’re looking for individuals who have – they are positive, glass half full people. They are well respected and well known in the community. They have the capacity, most often, to give large gifts themselves. And they’re not afraid to go connect with their friends.

And that’s what the feasibility study looks like. It looks at your case, your capacity and your leadership to be able to answer some of the key questions your organization has.

So, taking Bob’s advice and going and asking the donors what they think actually can help you in your organization make really sound decisions so that when you do launch your capital campaign you can do it in a way that maximizes success.

Let’s talk more about your capital campaign potential. Contact us >>