Capital Campaign Focus: Need or Benefit?
We work every day with nonprofit leaders seeking to raise millions of dollars for infrastructure and the question often arises, “How do we best position our capital campaign with potential donors? Do we focus on needs or benefits?”
In essence, these leaders are asking what the organization’s Case for Support should be. We believe a nonprofit’s Case for Support is akin to an investment strategy that beautifully outlines the potential donor’s Return on Investment (ROI). A good investment strategy doesn’t focus on the needs of the company. Rather, it focuses on how investing in the company will benefit the investor.
Identifying Need Versus Benefit
We had a client in Kentucky with a serious problem: an ice storm in late-spring fell a tree onto a housing unit for troubled teenage girls. The house was destroyed. Thank goodness no one was hurt, but rebuilding the house would cost approximately $2 million.
Right around the same time, a nonprofit home healthcare agency in New Mexico approached us. The executive director and her board were losing market share to for-profit agencies, so they needed to diversify. Their community didn’t have a dedicated hospice house. People who needed inpatient hospice care had to make a one-hour drive down a two-lane mountain road! The director wanted to build a six-bed hospice house that would cost over $3 million.
Both organizations had needs that could be quantified. In Kentucky, an ice storm left 30 young women sleeping on cots in the gym. These ladies had horrific pasts – abandonment, sexual and physical abuse, drug addiction – and now they had lost the one home that made them feel safe. In New Mexico, hospice patients and their caregivers had to make a long and sometimes dangerous drive to receive care or visit a loved one.
Benefits Drive Successful Campaigns
In the end, both organizations successfully met their fundraising goals. Not because of the needs of the organization; however, but because we helped each of them construct a Case for Support that showed the potential donor (investor) how his/her gift (investment) would help the community (ROI).
In Kentucky, our Case focused on helping their young women become happy and productive. In New Mexico, we were ensuring that terminally ill patients and their loved ones had positive end-of-life experiences. These benefits are what drove these campaigns to successful completion.
Is a Capital Campaign in Your Future?
If a capital campaign is in your nonprofit’s future, focus on the benefits of the project rather than the needs of the organization. Philanthropists will typically invest more in your vision for tomorrow rather than your problems of today.