by Dan Johnson, CFRE
At the risk of overstating a decent analogy, allow me to suggest that a quality capital campaign feasibility study and a good insurance policy have a lot in common.
Capital campaigns mark true moments of both inspiration and reality-thinking. On one hand, campaigns inspire agencies as leaders are recruited, themes are chosen, donors are motivated and buildings come into being.
On the other hand, before inspiration can be applied, reality has to be examined and dealt with. Do we need to build now? Will our people support this — now? Will the new construction be seen as justified given our intended mission and ministry? How much income can we raise and how long will it take?
What if your local insurance agent could set up a plan (or process) that would nearly always guarantee your success answering all these questions and then stand behind a dollar amount should you decide to pursue the effort?
This is where engaging the help of consultants is truly invaluable. They might not be free, but you really can’t afford not to use such advisers. Their job is to help you systematically analyze all the issues before you pursue the dollars you need. They coordinate a calendar of activities over a few months, designed to address the key questions. They help you recruit and organize a fully engaged core of leaders (sometimes they help you find people who love your agency more than you knew). As third-party participants, consultants will even ask selected numbers of your constituents, if and how much, they might give to your effort.
Finally, they produce a report, with their stamp of approval, which will support your decision to either — start or not start a capital campaign.
The largest donor, in the first capital campaign I directed, told me that as an entrepreneur he would never start a new business endeavor without a quality feasibility study. “It’s the best insurance policy I can have to justify the risk”.
He understood (and here’s where the analogy does break down) that insurance policies guarantee payments for losses and feasibility studies do not. Even so, I am convinced, as he was, that you, your CEO and your Board of Directors will find that the first step in inspiring a successful campaign comes when you realistically ask, “Is this feasible,” and then professionally test for the answer.
Dan Johnson is the Advancement Officer at Lutheran Ministries Media in Fort Wayne, Ind.