Capital Campaign Case Study | Washington City Mission


In October 2019, Dr. Sally Mounts, the Chief Development Officer for City Mission, traveled to Dallas for a crucial meeting with DickersonBakker. At that time, City Mission was burdened by a significant debt, and the prospects for expanding their mission appeared grim. The organization was in desperate need of relief from this financial burden, and the situation appeared dire. During her visit, Sally emphasized the urgency of launching a debt reduction campaign aiming to raise nearly $3 million. This campaign was seen as a prerequisite for City Mission to even contemplate a critical mission expansion, particularly the construction of a women’s shelter, which had been identified as an urgent need within the community.

This strategic meeting marked a pivotal moment in City Mission’s efforts to address their financial challenges and fulfill their mission to serve the community effectively.


In 2014, City Mission embarked on a capital campaign to build a shelter for homeless veterans. Unfortunately, a devastating fire in June 2015 destroyed the four men’s dormitories, kitchen, dining facility, medical clinic, program offices, training rooms, and chapel. Since that time, City Mission had spent more than $11 million dollars to rebuild the campus and meet the needs of a growing opioid and homelessness crisis in Pennsylvania. The use of federal New Market Tax Credits enabled City Mission to finish construction, continue uninterrupted services, and expand to meet the growing needs of the homelessness crisis. The destruction caused by the fire created a mandate for quick funds to rebuild lost shelter beds and facilities. At that time, $3.4 million dollars of debt was assumed to fully meet the needs of clients. With the current numbers of homeless men, women, and children continuing to grow in the community, the debt service was preventing City Mission from providing critical ministry to our neighbors in crisis. Relinquishing the debt was top priority so the mission could continue to effectively get clients off the streets, out of addiction, and onto a path of healing, independence, and hope.

The Plan

In partnership with DickersonBakker, City Mission launched a 24-month debt reduction campaign beginning in January 2020. The Finish Strong Campaign secured pledge commitment for up to a three year period to assure the debt could be retired when due in spring of 2024. A successful Campaign would ensure that the impact on the region accelerates to meet the needs of its homeless neighbors and to be certain the impact and sustainability of the missions remains as strong as ever.

Pre Campaign Planning

The DickersonBakker consulting team spent two months in advance of the launch of their debt reduction campaign –Finish Strong – conducting interviews on-site with the Board, a few key stakeholders, and meeting with the City Mission team. We gained an understanding of their debt, the structure for repayment in spring of 2024, and developed a 24-month game plan to successfully secure the funds needed to assure their debt was retired in full.

The Campaign

A 24-month campaign was launched in January of 2020. The steering committee was recruited and trained while campaign materials were being developed. Just three months into the campaign – April of 2020 – the pandemic hit full force and the campaign was paused for a three month period. The campaign resumed in August of 2020. The campaign strategically focused on all higher-level gifts to reach the least amount of active donors possible. The steering committee established a personal solicitation list and it included a campaign through the Chamber of Commerce. The initiative saw 100% giving from the board, steering committee, and leadership staff at City Mission.


By the end of the 24-month campaign, including the three month pause, the Finish Strong Campaign had secured the funds needed to pay off the pledge in full by spring of 2024 and had raised enough support to conduct a feasibility study and initial architect renderings for the much-needed women’s shelter construction.

The debt burden was lifted from the mission.

The successful Finish Strong Campaign provided hope for the mission to be in a position to launch the longer-term goal of constructing a women’s shelter to meet the unmet needs for women across the area.

The funds are currently in the bank and will be allocated to relinquish the debt in full when it becomes due in spring of 2024.



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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