Capital Campaign Case Study | Buffalo City Mission


Every nonprofit organization faces its own unique set of challenges, but some pain points are all too familiar. Buffalo City Mission, a nonprofit dedicated to providing critical services for the homeless and impoverished, found itself struggling with outdated facilities, inefficient operations, and a lack of close relationships with its donors. Like many organizations in the nonprofit sector, BCM was eager to make a positive impact but found itself held back by a variety of obstacles.

BCM’s main building for men was not only outdated, but it also lacked the warmth and dignity essential for the people it served. With 96 men sleeping in cramped bunk beds, hygiene and sanitation became major concerns. The building’s limitations also extended to the staff, with no dedicated space for the development office, forcing them to work in a separate location. This physical disconnect made it even more challenging for the organization to build and maintain strong relationships with its donor base.

The organization’s marketing efforts were spread thin, attempting to cover all aspects of its operations. While the team possessed an aptitude for sales, their underperforming database hindered their overall efficiency. For every dollar they raised, they were losing $2.15, creating a “leaky bucket” scenario that left them struggling to make a meaningful impact.

BCM knew it needed to launch a capital campaign to address its facility’s shortcomings and improve its services. However, BCM also recognized the lack of close relationships with donors that were necessary for a successful campaign. This realization highlighted the need for the organization to deepen its connections with supporters in conjunction with its fundraising efforts.


BCM has a vision to incorporate a strategic approach to maximize its fundraising potential. By launching a major gifts program in tandem with a capital campaign, BCM aims to carefully segment its donor base, identifying who to approach for capital gifts, who to encourage for increased donations to both campaigns, and who to engage for future capital gifts. This approach is reinforced by the essential use of donor portfolios to ensure targeted and effective outreach.

To further support this vision, BCM has developed tools and strategies that have consistently yielded positive results, with the two campaigns complimenting each other and driving funds to new heights. This success has enabled the organization to hire two additional major gifts staff members, strengthening its capacity to build and maintain strong relationships with donors.

The Plan

Our consulting team recognized the need for a more intentional approach to facility design. Unlike many rescue missions that retrofit existing buildings, BCM sought to create a space tailored specifically to the unique journey of its clients. With a deep understanding of its mission, the organization embarked on a plan to construct a purpose-built facility from scratch, designed to inspire hope and restore dignity for those it serves.

Pre Campaign Planning

To determine just how much was needed to construct a flagship downtown facility, BCM engaged a downtown architectural firm. The initial price tag was $15 Million Dollars.

The next step was to engage DickersonBakker to conduct an independent Feasibility Study among the Mission’s constituency. The results of the Study indicated that BCM could realistically expect to raise $4.5 Million Dollars. Despite this discouraging news, the big thing BCM had going for them was its Associate Executive Director of Development, Aubrey Calhoun, and its Executive Director, Stuart Harper. These two individuals were committed to doing whatever they needed to do to raise the funds.

DickersonBakker provided a preliminary plan to show how the funding goal could be achieved. The firm brought in a trusted alliance, Kevin Foster, who is the managing principal of Capital for Compassion to talk to BCM about applying for an Affordable Housing Program Grant and New Market Tax Credits. Another unique aspect about this campaign is that DickersonBakker managed a Major Gifts Program alongside the Capital Campaign.

Between the tenacity of the BCM team, bringing in Capital for Compassion, adding in Dickerson Bakker’s Major Gift Fund Development Program, and especially, seeking God’s blessing, a blueprint was in place for raising the large goal of $15 Million Dollars.

The Campaign

BCM’s campaign was an ambitious undertaking, backed by unwavering commitment and significant investments to make a lasting impact. The organization spent over one million dollars and hosted two galas, demonstrating its focus on achieving results rather than pinching pennies.

A strong partnership with its consultant, Shawn Saunders, played a crucial role in guiding the campaign to success. Shawn’s expertise not only assisted Calhoun in crafting tailored communications to major donors, but also supported the team by creating key performance indicators, dashboards, building portfolios, providing hands-on major gift training through going on visits, and making calls to help them in the “art of the ask.”

BCM’s commitment to “doing whatever it takes” was evident in its approach to creating transformational donor experiences. BCM organized a range of events, including discovery tours, leadership briefings, groundbreakings, and press conferences, to engage and inspire its supporters. These events unified the community and evolved into a powerful movement that redefined the organization’s potential for impact.


As an immediate result, its annual fund giving increased by over a million dollars compared to the previous year, highlighting the success of building a major gifts program alongside the capital campaign and positioning BCM for continued growth.

The new facility, designed to meet the specific needs of its clients, has had a profound impact on the community by elevating its capacity to serve the homeless and impoverished.

In addition, BCM experienced significant organizational growth elevating Aubery Calhoun from Chief Development Officer to the role of Chief Executive Officer. This change reflected her strong leadership and commitment to the organization's mission.

These outcomes serve as a testament to the power of a well-executed campaign and a strong organizational vision. By embracing innovation, fostering relationships, and prioritizing the needs of its clients, BCM has created a sustainable and impactful organization poised for continued success in the years to come.


“DickersonBakker’s expertise of working with other rescue missions and nonprofit organizations really took us to the next level. If you’re looking for a way to strengthen your organization with your annual giving and then leading into a capital campaign, the DickersonBakker team is really the organization that you need to reach out to.”
Aubrey Calhoun, Associate Executive Director at Buffalo City Mission


No doubt you’ve heard it said that successful major gift fund development is “all about relationships”. We couldn’t agree more. At the same time, however, it just isn’t that simple. Real success in major gift fundraising is about strategically managing relationships with high-value donors in order to maximize their understanding of, interest in, involvement with, and commitment to your organization and its underlying mission. Even the word “relationships” is ambiguous. Major donors don’t have “relationships” with organizations. They have relationships with people in the organization. Too many put too much emphasis on the relationship with the development officer and overlook the importance of others. Relationships between your organization and its major donors actually have multiple dimensions, each increasingly important as you advance to higher tiers of giving.

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The case statement, also known as the “case for support,” provides a glimpse into the heart of a non-profit organization and is a vital part of any major gift fundraising effort. With over twenty years experience working with major donors we know what they are looking for in an offer. We will work with you to craft a compelling and professional case for support and guide you through the development of additional collateral materials needed to effectively present your case. We will also spend time in the field with your team to help them hone their presentation skills and train them in the “Art of the Close”.

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Of all the building blocks needed to create a major gift program, none is more important than the people you have in place on your major gift leadership team. Having the right people in the right roles is a critical part of the Keystone Solution™ and we will work with you to ensure that your staff and volunteers are well-trained and appropriately gifted for their roles. If necessary, we will work with you to recruit additional members to your major gift leadership team.

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Any good fisherman knows that you can’t catch a big fish if you’ve got your line in the wrong pond. The future success of any major gift fund-raising program is built upon the organization’s ability to attract new donors to support its mission. To ensure on-going growth, a wide base of dynamic support is necessary, which presumes that a significant number of new major donors must be acquired and subsequently nurtured and elevated to rising giving levels. Using both “high-tech” and “high-touch” approaches we will work with your organization to identify a pool of best major gift prospects for your major gift program and to segment them into prioritized lists. As part of our prospecting services, we are also able to provide Donor Research Services to help you realize the major gift potential in your donor database and circles of influence.

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Successful major gift fundraising is both an art and a science. The art is in the relationships, but the science is in the systems. Someone once said, “Motivation is what gets you started; good habits are what keep you going.” Putting good major gift development policies and procedures in place and getting into the habit of living by them is a critical part of making a program sustainable. Dickerson, Bakker & Associates will work with your organization to implement best practices within your major gift development department to ensure that the improvements we put in place will continue not just beyond our term of service but can be consistently applied even if you have a turnover of staff.

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An organization’s brand is perhaps its most important asset. Most people think of brand superficially—considering only those aspects encompassing the “look and feel” of an organization (e.g. name, logo, etc.). Those brand marks are just outward expressions of your brand, however. At a deeper level, BRAND represents a promise to your constituents of those quintessential qualities that define who you are, what you do, and what you stand for as an organization. Doubt about the integrity of an organization’s brand promise almost always has a detrimental effect on giving, regardless of the effectiveness or competency of the fund development staff. Establishing and adhering to a clear focused brand is foundational in your ability to communicate who you are, what you do, where you are going, and how you will get there.

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CULTURE refers to the collective attitudes that characterize and impact the ways that an organization’s people will perceive one another and work together. A “development-friendly” culture provides a fertile soil for giving to flourish. Dickerson, Bakker & Associates has identified six ingredients that together comprise a vibrant, development-friendly culture, and—if consistently applied—will significantly improve your organization’s ability to consistently garner high-level investments from major donors.

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While mainstream donors may be satisfied with a simple understanding of what an organization does, major donors are more interested in what an organization achieves, or—more specifically—will achieve with the money they invest. Major donors want to know how their investment is helping bring about positive change in the lives of people. Major donors increasingly condition giving upon delivery of impact metrics, often requesting information on outcomes even before investing. Organizations that are serious about achieving success in major gift development will therefore do best when they embrace a culture that supports and encourages outcomes thinking.

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