Capital campaigns are comprised of two very different but equally significant parts: the private mathematics of the gift chart (fundraising) and the public mechanics of momentum (good will).

As the graphic below demonstrates, campaigns often break down into thirds. In a perfect world and in a conundrum-free campaign, your gift chart and giving would show one third of your gifts given by your top ten donors, one third by the next one hundred donors, and the remaining third by the rest of your donor base.

Some years ago at a national seminar, a man asked me which is more important in the overall development/advancement campaign process, fundraising, or public relations (the generation of good will). Great questions require great, or at least good answers. In a teaching format, I often answer a question first with another question. I believe this helps those asking grasp what the real question is, allowing deep learning to take place. Many times, they end up answering their own question.

So here was my response: “Which is more important to a bird in flight, its right wing or its left wing?” The man immediately complained that I didn’t answer his question. But I did answer his question with this further reply: “For the bird, it depends on the wind, the weather, the path of flight (up or down), if the bird is tired, etc.” Similar factors can have an impact on a campaign. Is it early or late in a campaign? Is the communication strategy clear? Are you addressing all the appropriate target audiences? Is the mission and vision of the organization foremost in the mind of the donors?

Just so you don’t accuse me of dodging the question, here is my answer in plain English. Both fundraising and public relations are very important for capital campaign success. The two factors, however, will have differing degrees of importance, depending upon what stage you are in the campaign timeline (the quiet/leadership phase or the public phase). Your organization should communicate differently to your top one hundred donors than the rest of your donor file. The message will remain the same for both fundraising and goodwill, but your methodology will vary. Public relations through personal visits versus indirect contact through mail, email, and telephone build a stronger foundation for fundraising. Good news is communicated to your entire donor base, but bad news (campaign delays, no’s on large requests, etc.) is usually communicated to those who have already made large investments.

Communicate with your major donors like investors, not like customers or participants. If you had eggs and bacon this morning for breakfast, here’s an analogy for you. The hen was a participant in your breakfast, but the pig was an investor. You must give the right information to the right donor segments to maintain good will in your campaign. This is where outside consulting help is a great investment. After hundreds of successful campaigns, we have been there and done that. We know how to help you effectively communicate the right message to the right audience at the right time. Conundrum-free campaigns carefully plan for both fundraising and good will throughout your capital campaign (two, three, four, or five years).

If you want to learn more about how to structure your campaign to raise more money plus goodwill, contact Pat at pmclaughlin@timothygroup.com.

About the Author: Pat McLaughlin President/Founder – Pat started The Timothy Group in 1990 to serve Christian ministries as they raise money to advance their missions. TTG has assisted more 1,800 Christian organizations around the world with capital, annual, and endowment campaigns. More than 25,000 of Pat’s books, Major Donor Game Plan, The C Factor: The Common Cure for your Capital Campaign Conundrums, and Haggai & Friends have helped fundraisers understand the art and science of major donor engagement. Pat makes more than one hundred major donor visits annually and provides counsel to multiple capital campaigns.

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