The Timing of a Capital Campaign

Nonprofit timing imageAre you considering starting a capital campaign? If so, then you should understand that there is an, often, underestimated aspect of any campaign – time. While timing may seem as if it is a minor aspect of a campaign that one person can quickly determine on a spreadsheet, the truth is that unless the entire community agrees upon the way in which you handle all aspects of timing – you cannot accomplish your goals.

Yes, the entire community. From staff to solicitors, donors to the board, committee members to the bank must agree that you can and will achieve your goals within a set amount of time. A few examples:

Donors Timing, when concerning donors, can be focused on knowing when to ask and when they can give. Is a particular couple better as a donor in the public phase of the effort or an early ask during the quiet phase because they tend to give over a longer period of time? Did the person just get a yearly bonus or did a spouse just lose his job? Your in-depth understanding of timing in the lives of prospective donors helps people feel good about giving. And those positive feelings help increase donations.

Staff Offering the staff the time to succeed will allow them to do just that. Will the organization’s paid employees be adding this to their overburdened list of responsibilities without taking anything off? Something has to drop off or be delegated if you are going to provide these essential people with the time and energy necessary to raise a large sum. Is the ED willing to go out and ask for money? Then perhaps someone else is willing to take on the staff reviews. Is the Development Director focusing his or her efforts on prospect research? Maybe a volunteer can take on more of the details of the upcoming special events. Just don’t expect the staff to add this additional work into their spare time because you will be disappointed.

Solicitors For solicitors, timing is about being timely. Each person needs to make well-timed calls, set meetings, write thank you notes and submit their experiences in writing. Lack of follow-through or obvious disorganization is more than bad form – it will substantially lower the amount you can raise. A donor could easily ask, “If they can’t get the ask right, how can they spend X millions of dollars wisely.”

How do you determine the timing in each case? Well, in reality, it does start with a spreadsheet. But that is only the starting point for buy-ins from all your various stakeholders. The group dynamic can be frustrating, but without the community consensus and a disciplined focus on timing, there is no chance of fulfilling your capital campaign dreams.