The Oscar Goes To…. Best Capital Campaign

I love movies. I mean I really love movies. If I could do it all over again, I would attend film school and work in the industry. One of my colleagues tells people, “April’s Superbowl is the Oscars,” which is true. I watch the Superbowl but just for the halftime show and commercials. I have been known to go to see a movie during the Superbowl as the theaters are empty.

On Oscar night I attended my friend’s annual Oscar party where women who love movies use ballots to vote on every category and critique the formal wear on the red carpet with no holds barred. Such fun!

Preparing for, running, and exceeding a capital campaign goal is like winning an Oscar – not just nominated – but winning! When filming a movie, there is always the option of another take, but nonprofits only have one chance to launch a successful campaign. There are specific steps to both a winning a capital campaign and to an Oscar winning film. In both, you must complete each step before moving to the next.

Pre-production (Campaign Readiness)
  • Create and test your case for support—does your vision meet the community’s needs and inspire your donors to invest?
  • Interview donors, partners, and prospective investors
  • Conduct focus groups and survey larger segments of donors and partners
  • Understand your capacity to take on the rigors of a campaign—ensure person power is in place and systems, policies and procedures are positioned to support the campaign.
  • Create gift range chart and assess prospective donors at all gift levels
  • Complete architectural renderings
  • Create campaign budget
Production (Quiet Phase)
  • Form a campaign leadership team
  • Recruit, train, solicit and support volunteer solicitors
  • Invite the board and staff (the family) to make the first investments
  • Solicit 70% of campaign goal from high level lead donors
  • Keep early investors well-informed of your progress
  • Recruit challenge gifts for public phase
  • Create public phase marketing plan and materials
  • Cultivate public phase prospective donors
Post-production (Public Phase)
  • Celebrate quiet phase donors
  • Strategically calendar challenge gift opportunities
  • Finish any outstanding lead gift solicitations
  • Solicit gifts throughout the rest of the gift chart
  • Build awareness of campaign success and its impact
Distribution (Building & Stewardship)
  • Building, campus, or renovation starts—groundbreaking celebration
  • Thank and steward all campaign donors
  • Thank all campaign volunteers
  • Collect all pledge payments
  • Invite community to attend ribbon cutting and tour new building
  • Convert campaign donors into annual donors

Until a movie is ready to be released, the general public does not know the movie is in production. Only when a film is ready to hit the big screen do we see trailers for upcoming movies. The success of a movie is rated by box office sales and Rotten Tomato reviews. Likewise, the campaign readiness and quiet phases of a capital campaign must be completed before you can announce the campaign to the community. After the building is built, the general audience reviews the success by the impact the organization is making after the campaign.

Will your capital campaign win best picture or just be nominated?

April Anthony is a Senior Advisor with Armstrong McGuire who specializes in fundraising, interim work, capital campaigns, executive searches, strategic planning, retreat facilitation, Art of the Ask training, and board development. Learn more about April and check out her other musings in her bio.

Check out our recent blogs on capital campaigns below, and a short video featuring Managing Director Shannon Williams.

Practice to Perform | Armstrong McGuire

Recipe for a Successful Capital Campaign | Armstrong McGuire

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