Resuming a capital campaign

Some organizations were in the middle of a campaign when recession hit and wonder, now what? How does one know if it’s time to re-engage and, if so, how does we one go about it?

Restarting a campaign in a good way assumes that an organization has done its homework—i.e. maintained open communication and strengthened relationships with current and prospective donors and volunteers—in the interim.

Even then, resuming the process isn’t simply a matter of picking up where one left off. Consider “patience” and “diligence” virtues. At the same time, assuming your case was strong at the outset, your needs cannot be put on hold indefinitely without, in some regard, compromising the service you’re able to offer.

Here are several steps we recommend:

1. Re-engage with those who have already contributed. Let them know the campaign is back on track. Invite and answer their questions. Use these visits to check the pulse of the constituency. Are your stakeholders still committed to the project?

2. Study the original campaign plan in the light of several important questions: Is the case still strong and accurate? Is the original campaign goal still realistic? Do we need an updated feasibility study? How many of our major gift prospects are dependent on the economy? Has there been turnover in key staff or board positions? If so, allow sufficient time to bring new members up to speed and gain their support.

3. Reassemble the campaign cabinet. Begin with the volunteers that were already in place, but respect that, in the meantime, other commitments will most likely have taken priority for some original members. Additional recruitment and training may be necessary; these steps will take time.

4. Adjust the process as necessary. Be creative in the types of gifts you allow donors to consider and respect their timeframe. Longer pledge periods may be helpful for some. Others may need to wait longer than desired before making an initial gift to allow assets that have depleted in value to recover.

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