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Plan for the unplanned when creating a capital campaign strategy

By June 2, 2016October 11th, 2021Steier Tips

The whistle blows and it’s halftime. The sideline reporter asks the coach headed to the locker room, “What adjustments do you need to make in the second half?” This same question applies when evaluating the progress of your capital campaign. The ability to adapt to changing circumstances can mean the difference between falling short or getting past the goal line.


There are foundational strategies that must be included in any game plan. Those include a well-thought-out case for support, a strong leadership team, an inside-out fundraising strategy and communications targeting your key audiences.


“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results,” Winston Churchill said.

No game plan survives implementation. Monitoring the progress of your campaign allows you to adapt your plan to new circumstances and take advantage of new opportunities. Here are three examples of campaign flexibility that helped our clients become Steier Group success stories:

  • Our firm conducted a planning study in a Gulf state where the local economy was tied directly to the price of oil, which was over $75 per barrel at the time. Shortly after the campaign kicked off, oil dropped below $30 per barrel, and unemployment rose sharply. We extended the pledge period from three to five years and rigorously emphasized flexibility in methods of giving. These adjustments were simple, but essential for our client to reach goal.
  • In many campaigns, the level of involvement can vary drastically between volunteers. Some will be all-stars, while others never get off the bench. Our firm recently hit goal at a campaign that had an unusually high number of volunteers on the “injured reserve list.” Our campaign manager corrected course by reassigning key prospects to the star players, adding small group appeals to the solicitation plan, and personally taking on more than 50 of the donor assignments himself.
  • A diocesan client was quickly approaching goal. With more than 30 parishes yet to participate in the final wave of the campaign, leadership became concerned that the last wave of parishes would not give with the same urgency if the goal was already met. Our on-site team adjusted the communications plan to encourage parishes in the final wave to match the participation levels of parishes in the previous waves. The switch in messaging emphasized the shared responsibility of all parishes in a unified diocese and that “your participation is more important than the amount of the gift.” The adjustment paid off – parishes in the final wave matched the participation milestones of the previous wave and the campaign raised more than 130 percent of the goal.

Maximizing your fundraising potential requires a customized game plan. And if that plan does not provide room for needed flexibility, you may be relying on a “Hail Mary” to get past the goal line.

I encourage you to contact me if you have any questions regarding best practices and the professional services of the Steier Group.