Is this you?
Tiny NGO? One staffer? No resources?
And now the board intends to shoot you out of a cannon with an ill-prepared capital campaign?
Survive the circus by following these tips:
1. Borrow from a big buddy.
Find a more established competitor that has run a capital campaign, call them for advice and find out how it went.
Go one step further and invite them to present to your board on what they did right, what went wrong, and unexpected challenges that came up. We all know that the outsider’s opinion is often more highly valued, with the added plus of bringing an objective voice to the room.
Even if the information sounds foreboding, at least it will help manage expectations as your own campaign gets under way.
2. Get creative with prospecting.
If you can’t afford a prospect research database, at about $1,400 per year, check with your local library branch to see if they have a subscription to one. Some good ones I have tried over the years include:
- Imagine Canada’s Grant Connect. They have some of the most flexible filters, but you may need a deluxe version to be able to export into Excel. Good for Canadian foundation searches.
- Prospect Research Online. Great for individuals, companies and foundations, but not a tonne of detail included. Provides both American and Canadian funders.
- Big Online. Clunky search function, but the deluxe version has a cool feature that shows you board members for each funder, and the other boards they are connected to.
There are many more databases out there and each one has its own quirks, so ask specific questions about which kinds of funders you can search (corporate, individual, foundation) and how easy it is to filter and export information. Alternately, if you only have a few key prospects in mind, then consider hiring a researcher to get the job done right.
3. Hire a pro.
Don’t bring on some giant consultancy firm full-time – just pay by the hour for what you really need. Consider a pro for help writing a campaign plan and case, filling in your gift chart, and training the board on how to do a prospect meeting or ask.
4. Get a decent database.
If you’re still using recipe cards to track your donors and prospects, take off that apron and consider getting some real customer relationship management (CRM) software.
SalesForce will give your charity free access with minimal strings attached. Others have first-year-free offers, but you’re on the hook after that. Don’t buy anything too fancy upfront and consider cloud-based CRM that plays nicely with other systems you might already have in place, such as gift-processing or email marketing software.
Try these tips and there’s no reason you can’t pull off a successful capital campaign. Even if you don’t hit goal, you will have established a great platform to launch your next fundraising initiative. Good luck!