This month, we’ll be musing about capital campaigns. They are tremendously important fundraising initiatives that can truly move an organization to a new level of effectiveness. While a successful effort needs a great plan, visionary volunteers, motivated and effective staff, cultivated and enthusiastic donor prospects, a well articulated case and supportive infrastructure, there’s an intangible that is rarely on the readiness checklist: institutional morale.
Capital campaigns are hard work. The payoff has the potential to be transformative, but they are risky and they can be draining and discouraging for volunteers and staff. Given that we know it’s going to be a rocky road with unexpected setbacks and disappointments, it’s important that the team begin the journey with a positive and enthusiastic attitude. Before beginning a campaign, volunteers and staff should:
- Share a vision for the campaign
- How much our community will benefit once we are successful
- Create a sense of teamwork
- No matter how much or how little each person does everyone has an important role to play and success will be generously shared with all.
- Understand relative roles and responsibilities
- Volunteer leaders and staff have equally important but very distinct campaign functions. As staff, we must remember to give the glory to our volunteers.
- Agree on how the team will articulate the case
- It’s not a problem-solving campaign (we want to get rid of our debt); it’s an opportunity campaign (look at everything we can do with funds we will free up).
- Refrain from criticizing the deficiencies of the past including past leaders
- No explanation needed here!
- Create a shared covenant about how to resolve inevitable and unforeseeable conflicts
- Agree to disagree graciously when disagreements arise. My first boss had a fiery temperament. Once, at the end of the day, she yelled passionately about something that had gone wrong for which several of us were responsible. When she finished, she said with great affection for us all “Let’s go out for a drink. I’m buying.” This is a great, if dramatic, example of airing disagreements and then moving on.
All of us at Armstrong McGuire have had clients who are anxious about fundraising, especially capital campaigns. My advice is to make sure you have a great attitude going into a campaign. It will cheer volunteers and staff, encourage donors and make the effort much more rewarding.
Pollyanna wasn’t all wrong.