Capital campaigns require traction, but all too often they slide this way and that without steady, organized energy.
Yes — traction.
Perhaps it’s the snow and ice outside my door that has me thinking about traction. But really, as you get ready for a capital campaign, that’s what you need.
Traction is the sense that the wheels are turning and the machinery is moving forward in a clear and unified direction.
In the early stages of planning a capital campaign, it’s often hard to get traction. People pull you in one way and another and often their well-intentioned efforts are not well-informed. But after more than three years of coaching dozens of organizations through the initial stages of planning a campaign, I’ve learned what it takes.
And it’s simpler (and more significant) than you might imagine.
Step 1: Recruit Willing Leaders
There’s no substitute for leaders who are willing to move forward. Commitment to something big like a capital campaign doesn’t happen in one jump. People become committed in steps.
- They start being willing to see what happens.
- Then they become engaged.
- Then they become enthusiastic.
- Finally, over some weeks, they become committed.
And as that transformation takes place, you start to gain traction.
Your key players — probably the Executive Director, Board Chair and Development Chair or other leaders — have to be willing to put their time and energy into developing a plan. They might be anxious, hesitant and confused.
Most people are on the fence in the early stages of campaign planning. The size and riskiness of a campaign make them understandably anxious.
But if they’re willing to help get the project moving, that’s the place to start. The next two steps provide the structure and confidence that helps move them from caution to commitment.
Step 2: Engage a Credible Expert
Because most people have not planned and managed big capital campaigns, board and staff members are often at a loss for the best way to move forward. And even if someone on the board has had some campaign experience, that’s generally not enough to make people confident.
An outside expert specifically brought in to advise will often have more credibility than anyone on the inside.
Sometimes a capital campaign consultant will do this early campaign planning work, but I have encountered many situations in which consultants moved too quickly through the planning process and into a feasibility study.
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Step 3: Schedule Planning Sessions
A series of scheduled meetings organized specifically to move the campaign plan forward is the final ingredient to get traction.
I’ve found that a meeting every other week works best. That leaves enough time to get work on the campaign plan done between meetings but still maintaining continuity and building energy.
In our work at Capital Campaign Masters, we use conference calls rather than in-person meetings. Surprisingly, we’ve found that they work remarkably well. Because they are not in person, they tend to be focused and task-oriented. They start and end on time. And with some effective facilitation, everyone participates.
Try This 3-Step Traction Formula
Recently, one of our coaching clients said to me, “You know Andrea, if it weren’t for these calls, we’d be getting absolutely nowhere.”
His comment made me realize that it’s the combination of willing leaders, credible experts and scheduled calls that works best. It gets people to move forward together with confidence even into a project that’s as big and daunting as a capital campaign.
You can use this same 3-step formula to gain traction for other projects as well. Try it and see what happens.
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Find out of Pre-Campaign Planning is right for your organization. Sign up for a FREE no-obligation strategy session now. You have nothing to lose, so give it a shot!