Successful Capital Campaigns Help With Marketing And Communications

David A. Mersky imageA student at a small college whom we counsel, sat with me in the office of the director of institutional advancement. I asked him what his story was. I wanted to know what brought him to this college. What did he aspire to do with his education.

Jose was the first Hispanic student ever to enroll in American College of the Building Arts. He came with a bachelor’s degree in outdoor education and half a dozen years of working with young people caught up in the judicial system as well as veterans returned from overseas deployments and other marginalized members of society. He wanted to learn how to apply the artisanship of timber framing and carpentry to the discipline of experiential education so that the people whose lives he touched would develop an enhanced sense of self-worth and become contributing members of society.

I was inspired by his story and the next evening I told it to 200 supporters of the College who had gathered to celebrate the public announcement of its first-ever capital campaign designed to build the new campus. The group was inspired by Jose’s story and electrified by the fact that in less than six months and with only 23 gifts, we had raised $6.2 million—47% of the goal. That night we identified 27 new prospective donors and began a disciplined plan of follow up and engagement. This was according to our marketing plan.

As in the case of the College, all capital campaigns rely—if they are to be successful—upon a clear message, effectively delivered to the right person or segment of the community, and with a clear call to action. In some cases the message is written, in the form of letter, emails, brochures or even video’s or slide presentations. In other cases, the message is delivered verbally—either face-to-face to an individual or couple, or even to a group of prospects or donors.

Successful capital campaigns help with marketing and communications by ensuring there is a focused effort. And, the lessons learned during the campaign can be applied year-round to all of the operations of the organization. Among the key aspects of marketing, common to the capital campaign as well as the day-to-day operation of any organization, are:

  • Identifying the target audience—whether an audience of one or a thousand and one.
  • Gathering information about the audience so that you know them and their needs and aspirations which enables you to focus your message.
  • Interesting the prospect or donor based upon your understanding of their concerns in what you are trying to accomplish—your organization’s vision.
  • Involving each and every prospect or donor in ways which are meaningful to them and, secondarily, supportive of your organization.

Donor stewardship is as much a component of marketing as the management and enhancement of the relationship. If we do this not only with our capital campaign or endowment fund donors, but also our annual fund supporters, then our results—increased donations and retention of donors from one year to the next—will be assured.

That is a guarantee upon which you can count when you apply the principles of sound marketing to the work of your organization.

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