Before beginning a major fundraising project, it is important for every nonprofit board to prepare adequately. A certain amount of self-assessment is critical to that process. However, the risk is that an organization might always be “getting ready to get ready” because they lack the follow-through to get started. Read on to learn how to manage your time during a capital campaign.
It is true that a major capital campaign alters the life of your organization. Such a transition is never easy, and there must be some short-term sacrifices for the long-term gains. Even so, in our experience at CDS, many nonprofits overestimate the burden that a capital campaign will place on their organization. One specific point often raised by senior staff members is the amount of time they will need to put into a campaign. They tend to have a vision of years of frenzied activity, with other duties falling by the wayside. In reality, a successful capital campaign is a methodical, well-orchestrated, efficient process.
How to Manage Your Time During a Capital Campaign
Recruit a Campaign Director
One of the major benefits of retaining a full-time resident fundraising consulting firm to direct a capital campaign is that the group gains a seasoned campaign director. This person orchestrates all of the campaign activities in the most efficient manner and streamlines them into the normal operations of the group. The resident campaign director should be a top-notch professional in their own right. They must be capable of putting the CEO’s directives into action, particularly in the development arena. Having an experienced campaign director in place ensures the most efficient use of everyone’s time.
The Campaign Director’s Role
Projecting how much a capital campaign might impact an executive director’s time depends on a number of factors, including, for example:
- The nature of the organization
- The choice of daily versus full-time fundraising consultants
- The presence of in-house development staff
- The involvement of board members
- The executive director’s management style
The full-time presence of an experienced campaign director ensures that the CEO doesn’t have to handle the campaign minutiae. Their time can instead be devoted to strategic issues. A competent resident campaign director will also need little more than concise decisions from the executive director before taking the issue off the executive’s plate.
Even with this expert assistance, many nonprofit executives still find difficulty squeezing a few more hours out of their schedule. This speaks to the organization’s overall commitment to the campaign. Raising capital dollars is the key to strategic growth for most nonprofit organizations. The board of directors and senior staff must recognize that and make development part of their core duties. If an organization is embarking on a capital campaign, it may be wise for the board to formally direct 5% of the executive director’s time to the impending development effort. This gives the executive some firm ground on which to stand as he or she examines their time-management priorities. It is not a bad idea for the executive to have a similar mandate from the board for fundraising in general. The CEO’s commitment to development should not begin and end with capital campaigns.
Assist Your Campaign Chair
The other individual who often cites concerns over their time commitment is the potential campaign chair. Every campaign director has heard a prospective campaign chair beg off by saying they do not have the time. Should that deter the organization from pursuing that individual? Absolutely not! The fact that they are busy is evidence that they are the right choice. A busy person is recognized as someone who can get things done.
Instead, this is an invitation for the campaign director to spell out the many ways in which they will lighten the chairperson’s workload. Many community leaders are used to helping poorly organized campaigns, where they are asked to commit their spare time toward the management of the campaign, in addition to their role as a leader. A successful capital campaign has a clear division of duties, with the most laborious tasks falling on the resident campaign professional. Campaign directors orchestrate campaign activity. Campaign leaders lead by their example of generosity and commitment to he mission of the organization.
A good resident campaign director will:
- Draft correspondence
- Write speeches
- Conduct prospect research
- Put together proposals
- Assemble meetings
- Write agendas
As with the CEO, the campaign chair should only have to provide those things that only they can provide: leadership, leverage, and strategic decisions. Share the campaign chairperson’s workload among your campaign committee. Like a pyramid, the chairperson can be responsible for soliciting and recruiting their campaign committee members. Those individuals will in turn be responsible for the next, larger tier of supporters. Throughout all of this, the campaign director acts as a staff person to each of the volunteers and sub-committees.
Capital campaigns are major projects and the time they require should be considered sacrosanct by the staff and volunteer leadership of an organization. However, with the presence of a skilled resident fundraising counsel, that time commitment can be handled in a focused and efficient manner, without impinging on the mission of the organization. The organization will not only earn respect for their fundraising success, but also for the professional and mature way in which they pursue their development efforts.