One Capital Campaign Norm You Should Pay Attention to and Why

One Capital Campaign Norm You Should Pay Attention to and Why


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


Don’t go public until you have 75-80% of the money.

Think about the actual campaign experience in the early days of a campaign. You’ve raised 24, then 40, then 50% of the money. It’s coming much easier than you expected. Sure, some prospects are saying NO, and others are blanching at the ask amount before they give something less.

But overall, the experience is positive. People love you. They love hearing about the project. And they are giving money! Lots of money!

As difficult as it has been to screw up your courage to ask, the success has been both exciting and rewarding.

So, your instinct is to go public. Tell the world. Shout it from the rooftops.

People love us! We’re winning! It’s not as hard as I thought it would be!


Instead, this is an instinct you should R  E  S  I  S  T.


Calm down. Pat yourself on the back quietly. (Because you have done a good job – so far.) But take a deep breath. 100 percent success is anything but certain.

What “Don’t go public until you have 75-80% of the money” really means is “Don’t go public until you are reasonably certain that you can finish.

It’s not uncommon for the first 75% of the goal to be raised from about 50 prospects and about 20 gifts. But these same campaigns often depend on 200 prospects and 80 gifts to raise the rest. The problem with announcing at 50% is that you easily have 90% of the actual work still ahead of you. Can you make it? Will you make it?

The moment you take your campaign public is your last chance to change the CAMPAIGN GOAL. Perhaps you need to increase it because of the early success you’ve had – that’s a happy thing. But perhaps, it becomes clear that you are not going to make it. That the goal is unreachable given the donors you have access to. Or maybe you just get tired. Emotionally exhausted.

One campaign I worked on got to 75% and announced a revised goal at 80% of the original. That allowed them to project a successful campaign without actually having to solicit the other three-quarters of their prospect list. They were tired. And successful in reaching their announced goal.

Is going public and not making it a big deal? In a word – yes. Giving is emotional, and you want the overall experience to be emotionally positive for everyone – donors, volunteers, board members, staff – everyone.

Think about planning a dinner party for twelve and having food enough for fifteen versus only having enough food for ten. How do you feel? Walk in a door five minutes early for an important meeting versus five minutes late. How do you feel? Come in under budget versus coming in over budget. How do you feel?

Raise $850,000 against a public goal of $800,000 versus a public goal of $1,000,000. How do you feel?

Donors will feel the same way. You can become an organization remembered as surpassing its goals or an organization that comes up short. And that impression is hard to shake later.

So, resist the temptation to go public too soon. Instead, turn around and look forward. Do you have the donors left to raise the rest? Do you have enough prospects to bring the campaign home?

If not, you have several choices. You could extend the timeline. You could reduce the goal. You could “phase” the campaign – raise some now and save some to be raised next time. You could do all of these things.

That is – if you resisted the temptation to go public after 50%.





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