Successful Capital Campaigns Improve Long-Range Planning

David A. Mersky imageSuccessful capital campaigns not only raise money…but also help with long-range planning

Recently, I sat in the conference room at a client’s office. We are deep in the weeds of a capital campaign. The campaign has the keys to success:

  • An appealing case
  • Competent agency management
  • A reasonable objective
  • A friendly, well-informed constituency
  • Timeliness
  • Numerous points of contact
  • An adequate scale of giving

But, the success of this campaign’s success was assured before we wrote the case, before we established the objective, before we established the scale of giving.

All of the key elements were developed through a long-range, strategic planning process.

  • First, we gathered a large, diverse, philanthropically inclined leadership team who collectively articulated the agency’s mission and an aspirational vision.
  • Then we developed a situation analysis which assessed the agency’s internal strengths and weaknesses as well as analyzed the external opportunities and threats.

The strategic planning task force then defined areas of critical concern so that they could develop time based tactical plans to move the agency to achieve its vision.

As we facilitated the process, we helped these volunteer and professional leaders understand that strategic planning is a most unnatural discipline. We live, after all, in a world where “actions speak louder than words.” In fact, time spent planning is time spent not selling, not reducing costs, not putting out fires. Particularly in America, we have an obsessive focus on the short-term which sacrifices future innovation and growth and forces an emphasis on high priority, near term goals.

We helped the leadership of our client understand that a well-conceived strategic planning process with the right people at the table was a vital prerequisite to a successful capital campaign. Such a process improves good resource allocation decisions and produces a proactive, long-term growth orientation.

We helped them understand that there were obstacles to good planning such as a

  • failure to do your homework
  • failure to communicate importance of planning
  • failure to integrate short/long range plans
  • belief that a plan is static and inflexible
  • belief there is no time for planning/doing

The key questions that a good strategic plan are intended to answer include:

  • Where do we stand now?
  • What will the future be like?
  • Where should we be heading?
  • How can we get there?
  • Who is going to do it and by when?
  • How much will it cost? What is covered?
  • What are the results?
  • What changes need to be made?

And, the outcomes of the strategic planning process should include the development of a shared vision, the identification critical areas of concern, the production of a situation analysis and the articulation of quantifiable five year goals.

While all of the other outcomes of a successful capital campaign result from the effort, successful capital campaigns improve long-range planning which is a necessary precursor to the campaign. In fact, the campaign is an outcome of the planning process and sets up the organization for many years of effective achievement of extraordinary endeavor.

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