Gail and I spend a good part of our time with clients helping them understand how capital campaigns differ from other kinds of fundraising efforts.
But let’s step back and ask an even more basic question…
What, exactly, is a capital campaign?
Our colleague Nick Fellers from The Suddes Group tackled that question in a recent blog post. We love Nick’s simple, quick definition!
He’s absolutely right when he says that capital campaigns can be summed up in these three simple concepts:
- Campaigns are about building relationships.
- A campaign is a defined initiative with a goal and a plan.
- Your campaign is a chance to tell your story.
Yes, capital campaigns are about raising money — a lot of money.
But if you limit your thinking to your monetary goal alone (or, as Nick puts it, “Committees!, Asking our friends for money!, and Kickoff events!”), it’s easy to lose sight of the reason you’re having the campaign in the first place:
To radically increase your capacity to serve.
Your campaign’s bottom line isn’t the end point. It’s the beginning point — and it will take your nonprofit to the next level of service.
To put it another way, it’s the tool you’re using to do even greater things for your community. Depending on your mission, your campaign may even be a step that allows you to save more lives — but at the very least, you’ll be changing even more lives for the better.
Now, isn’t that a more energizing way to think about campaigns?
Take your thinking even further
Let’s go a step further. Because in addition to increasing your impact on your mission, your capital campaign is also a tool your nonprofit can (and should) use to:
- Deepen your existing relationships and partnerships.
- Create new relationships with a wide variety of people, from reporters and CEO’s to retired volunteers and “average Joe’s.”
- Reconnect with your mission and vision.
- Forge your board and staff into a tight, cohesive, even more effective team.
Again, this sounds a lot better than seeing your capital campaign as an endless series of committee meetings, events, and asks, doesn’t it?
When it comes right down to it, capital campaigns are a fantastic example of why we work in the nonprofit world. Because, yes, the money we raise is essential, but it’s really not that important.
What’s most important are the relationships we build, the stories we tell, and the lives we change.
And that’s why capital campaigns are magic.
Challenge yourself to think differently about capital campaigns
Our challenge to you, then, is to take a step back and change how you’re thinking about your capital campaign. Take a “big picture” view of the impact your campaign will have, not just on your nonprofit’s bottom line, but also on its place in your community.
Consider the great work your organization will be able to do with the money you’re raising. And think about all of the fantastic, brilliant, dedicated people that this campaign will engage in your cause.
And after you’ve really internalized this powerful message, share it with the rest of your team!