PMA Consulting, LLC

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The Return of the Capital Campaign


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If recent inquiries at Patton McDowell & Associates are any indication, the ‘capital campaign’ is back in a big way, with organizations of all sizes considering opportunities to raise substantial dollars to fulfill mission-serving projects of sizable scope. And it isn’t surprising – many organizations tabled their ambitious projects during the downturn and are eager to get back to dreaming big.

We hear some variation on the same two questions:

  1. What’s changed about raising capital dollars following the downturn?
  2. Is now a good time to be considering a capital campaign?

Organizations are smart to be asking these questions before rushing in to a feasibility effort – half-baked ideas are likely to be identified as such by donors who see your campaign as an investment. But how can an organization tell if it’s ready to even begin considering a campaign. Consider PMA’s Three P’s of Campaign Planning:

  •  Passion – Are your board, staff and lead volunteers passionate about the impact your capital campaign will have on your organization and the community? Passion is magnetic, and without it, your organization may be hard pressed to draft others to your cause. It’s okay for your stakeholders to have reservations about campaign, but if they aren’t yet sold on what those dollars will do, consider building that consensus first.
  • Project Planning – More than ever, the “what” of your campaign is critical – what will the dollars do? If it is a bricks & mortar effort, what will the facility be? And more crucially, how will the new facility move the needle on mission? Just as annual campaigns have become razor focused on meeting mission, so to must your capital ambition be tied back to meeting community need and advancing mission. How can your project be phased? Are there different versions based on the funding available to you? Building flexibility into your planning is essential.
  • Process – What has changed about raising capital dollars is the process of constructing the campaign for success, and this is highly subjective and based on the strength of resources of each organization. In general, greater attention needs to be paid to developing campaign leadership, to modeling sources of funding and creating a compelling case for support. While these have always been critical components of campaign, the downturn and resultant fundraising environment requires fresh approaches.

With the Three P’s in alignment, an organization is ready to advance to the feasibility stage in which an organization invites the community to provide feedback on the proposed project and a goal is determined. But rather than leap to this stage, PMA suggests a careful assessment of stakeholder passion, project planning and fundraising process to help ensure campaign success.