Are Campaign Planning Studies Only for Brick and Mortar Fundraising?

Campaign Planning Studies

Over the years we’ve encountered more than a few organizations that have an outdated view of capital campaigns, thinking major campaigns can only support brick and mortar expansions. There is no denying the fact that capital campaigns are often successfully conducted for new and expanded buildings. But is that new building the ingredient for success, or is it what the building will allow your organization to do?

Let’s face it, people understand buildings. When running a campaign for a new or expanded building, it is very easy to see when the project goals have been attained. But, when an organization’s future plans include a path to greater capacity without funding bigger and better facilities, it is more difficult to demonstrate success to your donors.

Should a capital campaign support only brick and mortar objectives? Certainly not. We have often conducted planning studies and directed fund-raising campaigns that target program and service growth through increased funding for endowment, or operating funds. These non-traditional approaches to capital campaigns require more pre-campaign planning and careful study. Too often, the typical capital fund-raising campaign relies on the inherent appeal of new facilities and less so on careful long-term organizational planning to make a strong appeal.

We’ve been pleasantly surprised to observe, during two recent client engagements, that our clients’ constituents are saying that they prefer supporting programs and endowments over funding new facilities. These donors would often say that buildings are not unimportant, but in their view it was the people and the programs that they are more interested in supporting.

Conducting a major gifts fund-raising campaign for anything other than a building requires a greater focus on the organization’s strategic planning that creates the case for support. The organization must better define their business model and its anticipated and various revenue streams through pro forma financial statements. The organization must define the impact not only of future programs but also how funding the organization’s strategic plan will meet the needs of donors and constituents.

Conducting a fund-raising campaign for programs and endowments is not only possible, more and more organizations are doing it. The success of these efforts often requires more planning than traditional capital campaigns. The institution must have a current market-based strategic plan and case for support that brings the prospective donor to a quick understanding of why an endowment is the best way to fund a targeted percentage of your program objectives.

Anyone who is contemplating a capital campaign for something other than bricks and mortar will quickly realize the irreplaceable role of the campaign planning study.

Finally, let’s dispel any remaining myths about the essence of a capital campaign. Our definition of a capital campaign has more to do with the construction of the campaign and less to do with the intended use of those funds. We define a capital campaign as:

an effort to raise a specific amount of money, for a specific purpose, over a specific period of time.

Each element of this formula is integral to the whole, and begins to lay the foundation for a corps of “self-motivated” volunteers and donors that will make your campaign a success.

The campaign principle helps the prospective volunteer and donor to define the task at hand and to take action, so your campaign operates through personal influence and persuasion, rather than coercion. The campaign principle:

  • A specific dollar goal provides a measure of success — so everyone knows when the job has been successfully completed. With a goal, you can also determine how much each prospect should be asked to contribute.
  • A specific project, purpose, or cause gives the enterprise a mental, emotional and spiritual focus — something that’s worth working for.
  • Finally, a specific timetable creates a sense of urgency and allows the campaign to build and sustain momentum. As much as everyone is plagued by deadlines, it can’t be denied that they help to maintain a “critical mass” of interest, involvement and commitment to the task.


click here for pdf version: FRM55

For more on The Campaign Planning Study, Foundation of a Successful Campaign, access Goettler Series Volume 2