What is a Virtual Capital Campaign? How does it differ from a traditional campaign? Is it really possible to raise a substantial amount of money virtually?
Let's jump in...
Before I address these questions, I would like to start with a simple Capital Campaign explanation. A capital campaign is a strategy to raise a substantial amount of money during a set time-frame for a specific program and purpose. Historically capital campaigns follow a very similar pattern. This includes identifying a need, creating a case-for-support, and recruiting volunteer leadership. Additional steps include identifying, cultivating, and asking major donors for support. The basic structure of capital campaigns has remained consistent since the 1600s. Capital Campaigns was a face-to-face strategy.
After COVID-19, non-profits have had to adjust the way they fundraise and interact with donors by doing things virtually. This includes capital campaigns. A question board members and even seasoned fundraisers often ask themselves if a virtual capital campaign really works?
Today I would like to share with you several ideas you can incorporate into a virtual capital campaign.
Virtual Volunteer Teams:
An important component of successful capital campaigns is the volunteer campaign leadership team. In the past, this team would meet regularly in the board room to discuss the campaign strategy and progress. However, the problem with these meetings is they were often hard to coordinate and get all of the right people in the room all at once. One benefit of a virtual capital campaign is that meetings can now be held virtually at the volunteers' convenience. Also, virtual meetings can save a substantial amount of travel time. ( Having lived in Houston for many years, I can't stress the importance of avoiding rush hour traffic). Check out my previous blog on engaging volunteers virtually.
Virtual Feasibility Study:
Feasibility Study's are an important part of Capital Campaigns. Feasibility studies are used to educate donors and the community, seek advice from your stakeholders, determine if your capital campaign goal is feasible, and identify potential problems in the campaign structure or process.
Historically this process involved scheduling dozens of face-to-face meetings with donors, which were very time-consuming and expensive (if a consultant was involved in the process). An additional benefit of a virtual capital campaign is much of this process can now be done virtually. As a result, the amount of time needed for the feasibility study and the cost will decrease as interviewers can schedule more meetings in a day with stakeholders.
Virtual Donor Cultivation:
When fundraisers first started focusing on virtually cultivating donors, I have to admit I was skeptical. A part of my hesitation on the new way of fundraising is because it went against everything I have learned over the last 16 years. I have always been taught fundraising must be face-to-face interaction. What I have learned is donor cultivation can occur and is successful virtually. Including virtual interactions with your donors is an important part of a virtual capital campaign. In virtual capital campaigns, the focus should always be on the interaction's quality, not the communication mode. This is true of attending virtual networking events as well.
In some ways, virtual asks are must like your traditional face-to-face solicitation. Your location matters. Because this a virtual event, you will need to find a quiet place with a good internet connection to have a conversation with the donor. Keep it conversational and a two-way conversation. Come to the meeting with an outline of topics to discuss and a plan to make the ask. Be flexible. No two virtual events are the same. Similarly, you never know when a guest will arrive, a dog bark, or the internet goes out. However, you don't need to be afraid of making your next virtual ask with simple preparation.