Early Stages of a Capital Campaign

Sitting in synagogueThere are two synagogues who are in early stages of a capital campaign.  Synagogue A has a building built for 800 families with a membership of 400.  Synagogue B has a building built for 400 families with a membership of 800.  Yes, this is actually happening within twenty miles of each other. And, both are beloved within their communities.

Without getting into the causes of population shifts, the fact remains that both need to raise a substantial amount of money to rework their physical spaces to match their current needs.  The similarities are more numerous than the differences; I suspect that both will have to raise approximately the same amount of money.  Both have had campaigns in the not-so-distant past that were not as successful as they had hoped.  A and B both have prospects who have the capacity and a history of major gifts but are not used to giving in this way to their congregations.    And, both have to overcome the fears that come with large campaigns.

Are their chances of success the same?  A capital campaign is a capital campaign.  The process may alter slightly depending on the scale, but there still needs to be:

  • A determination of how much needs to be raised;
  • A way to determine how much can be raised; and
  • A consistent plan to achieving the goal including:
    • Prospect research;
    • A system for ratings and assignments;
    • Volunteer engagement to cultivate and solicit gifts;
    • Management to assure a cadence of accountability (Mersky, Jaffe & Associates is delighted to act in this capacity) to ensure that people do what they say they are going to do;
    • Donation tracking; and
    • A program of stewardship—donor acknowledgment and recognition.

And, this is not a comprehensive list….

The path each synagogue can, and probably will, take to achieve their similar goals will feel different.  And while I have a personal investment in both and I am hoping for the best, it has yet to be seen how successful they will be.  Of course, we don’t usually recommend hope as a nonprofit development strategy.

The reality is that each gift that the two synagogues will receive will be accompanied by hope and faith.  Not just because they are religious organizations, but because that is what accompanies all gifts.  When donors pledge money, they believe in the organization’s ability to achieve the goals set out in the case statement and that the nonprofit will be fiscally responsible in every respect.   And that is something organizations of all shapes and sizes should remember when embarking on an ambitious endeavor of a capital campaign.