Nearing the Finish Line: Planning for Your Campaign’s Community Phase

Amy Schiffman
January 25, 2018

Welcome to Episode 11 in our 12-part series on capital campaign development. Last week we spoke about the campaign quiet phase and talked about the make-or-break nature of the work during this time. Once you have raised 80 to 90% of your campaign’s goal, you are likely ready to launch the community (or public) phase of your campaign. During which time your organization can begin to widely publicize the campaign with the hope that smaller gifts will help you complete the campaign.

Earlier on in the campaign planning process you will have developed a gift table (sometimes referred to as a gift or giving pyramid). This table, often created as a simple excel document, allows you to represent the number of gifts you need at established giving levels in order to reach your goal. Go back to the table now and be sure that you have created a version that represents your campaign’s actual fundraising success rather than the initial version you created. This will help you to plan for the number of gifts you still need to get to the finish line, and at what level. Typically, the community phase of the campaign is focused on gifts under $25,000, but this depends on the size and nature of the nonprofit and its campaign goal.

Community (or Public) Campaign Strategy Development

Once you have a sense of the size and number of gifts you seek during this phase, you can determine the best strategy by which to achieve them. Some organizations look for a matching gift or challenge grant in order to build excitement and motivation for giving. Then, they widely publicize the opportunity to double (or more) the impact of the donor’s gift. Other nonprofits organize a recognition campaign that may not be as individualized as a customized “naming” plaque on a room or wall, but instead create opportunities for multiple donors to be involved at a low cost to the organization. These include “brick” or “paver” campaigns (ranging from $500 to $5000 per brick or paver), children’s handprints on walls, or other creative means by which to thank and involve dozens, or even hundreds of donors. The means by which a nonprofit should publicize these opportunities is important as well – this campaign should be prominently featured on an organization’s website, should be mailed (either via snail-mail or email – or both) to the organization’s non-donor (those who have not yet made gifts to the capital campaign) database, sent out via e-blast and featured in the organizational newsletter. Unlike the silent phase, we want the world to know how to get involved in the community phase of the campaign!

Don’t forget that many gifts at this level may still require a face to face ask and benefit from individualized attention from your leadership. So don’t go into “transactional mode” just yet. At the same time, you might be organizing a direct mail campaign to promote your match or brick campaign, your leadership should continue to meet one on one with donors at the upper end of the community phase gift pyramid. And multi-year payment options may still be a good opportunity for those at the $10,000 or $25,000 gift level to pledge more than they would if they were asked to pay out the gift in one year (if your cash position allows for this).

Parlor meetings are also a wonderful opportunity to achieve gifts during the community phase. Group meetings create excitement around the campaign and allow people to share ideas and thoughts about the new (or renovated) institution.

The Quiet Phase Means You Are Almost There

Don’t forget that a campaign that goes public (i.e., announces the building or renovation of a new facility or space to the rest of the world) too early might suffer serious consequences. These include a lack of interest in the project or a mistaken assumption that the organization has all the funds it needs to complete the project. Contrary to what might seem reasonable, once a campaign goes public, very few donors commit at a leadership level.

Next week I will compete this series by discussing preparations for your ground-breaking and/or community celebration. Please join me for our final episode and please comment with updates on your own campaign progress. In the meantime, enjoy this week’s freebie and please, contact us with any questions about your campaign.