This post is step four of a four-step roadmap for your capital campaign planning.
In our work helping organizations prepare for capital campaigns, we often see a curious disconnect when it comes to board members’ understanding of the campaign.
Board members care deeply about your organization.
They dutifully come to meetings and review reports and vote on the budget. They help shape a plan for the future and are excited about the prospects of expanding the program and serving more people.
But when it comes to raising
the money needed to make that plan a reality, they have only a vague sense of how to do it.
Most often, their thoughts go to making a nice fundraising brochure. Or perhaps planning a fundraising event or two.
And as you well know, brochures and events do not add up to a successful capital campaign.
Your Board Can’t Imagine a Successful Capital Campaign
Capital campaigns are special in the fundraising world for two reasons.
Reason one: Campaigns happen only occasionally
First, organizations do them only every once in a while, perhaps only every 10 to 15 years. So, unlike annual fundraising which every board member has experience with, very few board members have organized or managed a capital campaign.
Even those board members who have been involved in a campaign before, have probably only worked on one small segment of it.
So your board members probably have little or no experience with capital campaign fundraising. It’s no wonder they think brochures and galas. That’s what they know.
Reason two: Campaigns rely on really big gifts
The other reason your board members don’t understand is that capital campaigns rely extensively on very big gifts — gifts that are probably far larger than your organization may have gotten before. And if your organization doesn’t have a “fundraising board,” there may be no one on your board who has any idea of how to raise gifts of $500,000 or more.
Your board members may be fully committed and well meaning, but if they don’t have deep philanthropic pockets they’ll have trouble imagining where those really big gifts will come from or how their organization might get them.
And so, there’s a big disconnect.
Your board members are eager to see the organization grow and become even more successful. But unless they can understand and imagine a successful capital capital campaign, they’re likely to resist and sit on the sidelines.
And that’s what we often hear. “My board members are wonderful, committed people, but they’re not stepping up for the capital campaign.”
And can you blame them? It’s hard to step up if you can’t imagine the possibility of success.
How to Help Your Board Grasp the Capital Campaign Concept
If you want your board to get excited about a capital campaign, you’ve got to bring them along and help them understand what it will take to be successful.
Here are three things you can do to help your board to really “get it.”
Develop a Gift Range Chart
A gift range chart that shows the pattern of gifts you’ll need to reach your goal has a way of clarifying what it’ll take to have a successful capital campaign in a way that nothing else does.
Take a close look at gift range charts. Even if you’re at the early stages of campaign planning, take the time to develop a gift range chart for your goal. But sure to mark it draft and date it. And then share it with your board members.
Looking at those numbers and a reasonable pattern of what gifts you’ll need has a remarkable way of getting people to understand. They might find it daunting, but they’ll probably stop thinking about mailing brochures and organizing events.
Find the Money and Power in Your Community
Block out 45 minutes at a board meeting — plan a special meeting if you must — to do a power mapping exercise. It’ll get your board members thinking about where the money and power are in your community.
The book of board training exercises I co-wrote with Andy Robinson has a very good power mapping exercise to use with your board. Download this exercise here:
You’ll get two important things out of this exercise.
- First, your board members will start to realize that they know people with money and power, or at least, they know who those people are.
- Second, you’ll get a great and important list of the people in your community who have money and their connections to your board!
This is a terrific exercise to help you get ready for a capital campaign, but really, you should do it every year or two whether or not you’re headed for a campaign!
Bring in an Expert
Once you have a gift range chart and you’ve done some power mapping, then you can ask a capital campaign expert to come and talk to your board about capital campaign fundraising.
If your community has a capital campaign consultant who lives there, ask them. If not, find out what consultants do work in your community, and invite them.
And if you strike out on those, go to your local college or university and find out who knows about capital campaigns and ask them to come and talk to your board.
Or bring in some board members of other organizations to chat with your board members about their own capital campaign experience.
You shouldn’t have to pay for someone to do that, though if you want to go a step farther with a full blown capital campaign workshop, you’ll have to spend a bit of money.
Training Takes Time
Don’t expect your board members to become comfortable with capital campaign fundraising overnight.
That won’t happen.
You’ll have to start getting them ready in the early days of your campaign planning and keep working with them for some time.
If you respect their need to understand and help them learn, you’ll find that they will get on board!