Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE
Capital Campaign Events and PR (Part 5)
While a capital campaign should not depend on events to raise the needed money for the project, capital campaign events and PR are important. Volunteers and donors need to be cultivated, inspired, and recognized throughout the process.
Some typical events that will take place in your campaign are:
- Cultivation breakfasts, luncheons, dinner, cocktail parties
- Kickoff event
- Groundbreaking event
- Dedication and open house
As we discussed in an earlier article, many donors need more information before they can make a decision to support the campaign. Often of this cultivation will be one-on-one and will be handled through the solicitation committees. However often it makes sense to do a series of cultivation events designed to bring in small groups of people, usually with a common interest, to provide information about the project. Some examples of cultivation events would be a series of “cottage meetings” held by a community library, where a library volunteer and/or donors invites a group if their friends and neighbors into their homes for an information session where they can earn more about the library’s building plans and the campaign. Or, a church could hold a series of information meetings, again hosted in the homes of some of their parishioners who will gather to hear from the pastor about the vision for the church and how the campaign will allow the church to achieve its vision. Or, the board members and campaign cabinet for a human service agency might each invite ten of their friends to come into the organization's facility for a luncheon at which the executive director and campaign chair will talk about the campaign and the project. Or, a group of business people might be invited in for an information breakfast meeting at which the organization’s leadership can talk about the campaign and explain the needs for this campaign. Usually at these events, various media will be used to tell the story—posters with architectural drawings, a PowerPoint presentation, and information packets, perhaps even a live preview of the campaign website or a video presentation.
Generally, the key event in a campaign is the kickoff event, which usually the campaign’s major event. The primary focus of the kickoff event is to announce the campaign, but other key components of the event are to recognize donors who have already given and to inspire new donors to the campaign. Kickoff events can range from a formal black tie dinner, to a cocktail party, or a series of luncheons in different regions. Regardless of the venue, it is important to remember that the kickoff event should not happen until about 60 to 80 percent of the goal has been raised. Announcing a campaign prematurely can be the “kiss of death” for the campaign. Donors will feel the campaign is not going well and will not reach its goals if that goal seems too distant. On the other hand if the goal is too close to being reached, donors will think the organization does not need their pledge since success is imminent. A tentative event date can be set early on in the campaign planning process, but should be confirmed when it is apparent that the campaign is on track with pledges and gifts. The kickoff event should be included in the campaign budget, as there is usually no charge for attending the event. The plan is to get as many key donors to attend the event as possible. Donors who have already come on board should be recognized at the kickoff including board, staff and leadership donors. This sets the pace for future donors to get involved. A poster with all the donor names, listing in the program book, or even, unveiling the donor recognition plaque with the lead donor’s names already engraved can be inspiring to those who have not yet made their pledge, but want to be included in the campaign and recognized in the final donor recognition. Leadership donors might be asked to talk about why they have invested in this project. A testimonial by someone who has received services from the organization is also an inspiring way to motivate donors. Whatever type of event the organization chooses, it should always be upbeat and inspirational.
The groundbreaking is another event the organization can celebrate. For some organizations, ground isn’t broken until the campaign has been completed, and in these cases the groundbreaking and victory celebration can be one in the same. For other organizations, groundbreaking is started during the campaign and then the dedication and open house become the victory celebration. The timing of the project and the events should be carefully coordinated in the overall campaign calendar. An event committee is responsible for coordinating all the campaign events.
The public relations committee of the campaign cabinet is responsible for all the various public relations for the campaign. These may include:
- Campaign theme and logo
- Campaign printed materials including brochures, letterhead and envelopes, response envelopes, letters of intent, fact sheets, and question and answer sheets
- Campaign video and/or Power Point
- Press Releases
- Campaign website which may include a webcam tracking construction progress
- Press conferences
- Campaign speeches
- Promotional Items
The PR Committee usually works with the consultant to design the theme and logo. The brochures and other campaign materials are developed based on the case for support and need to be done early enough in the campaign so the various committees can use them in their work. Like campaign events, it is important not to release information about the campaign too early in the process. Often pre-campaign publicity is planned to focus on the organization's programs and services without mentioning the actual campaign, but simply to promote awareness of the organization so that when the campaign is launched publicly, there will be sufficient public interest in the project to assure a successful campaign.