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Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE

About Linda

Capital Campaign Planning Study (Part 6)

This is Part 6 of a series I'm writing on capital campaign readiness. In earlier installments of this series we’ve talked about all the essential ingredients your organization needs to consider in its internal readiness. Today I'll explain how that internal readiness is assessed during a study.

In a Nutshell

This is Part 6 of a multiweek series on capital campaigns by Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE. In Part 1, Linda launched the series with the basic questions, What is a capital campaign, and when do you need one? In Part 2, she discussed the infrastructure needs for a capital campaign. In  Part 3, she discussed human resources needed to support your campaign. In Part 4, Linda introduced the topic of developing your case for support and went deeper into the case statements in Part 5. In this installment, Linda looks at how internal readiness is assessed during a study. In Part 7 she'll discuss how the external readiness for a campaign is assessed. Linda is the author of two popular books on capital campaigns published by CharityChannel Press, Are You Ready for a Capital Campaign? Assessing Your Nonprofit's Ability to Run a Major Fundraising Campaign and Capital Campaigns: Everything You NEED to Know.

The Capital Campaign Planning Study—Internal Assessment

In this installment I'll explain how that internal readiness is assessed during a study. In Part 7 we will discuss how the external readiness for a campaign is assessed.

There are several areas an internal assessment should address—organizational structure, software, staffing, board issues, policies, and procedures. Sometimes this internal assessment involves a full-blown development audit, other times it is done as the first step in the planning study. Sometimes, development staff is reluctant to suggest an audit for fear they will not “pass.”

Engaging a consultant to do an audit of the development office should not be looked at as a “witch hunt;” the consultant is not there to find a reason to get rid of staff, but is there to do an honest assessment and make recommendations that will make your organization stronger and prepare it for the campaign. A development audit is not something your organization can do on its own. For the same reason you would not attempt to do its financial audit on its own, the development audit needs an outside expert to study the development program and prepare an objective report.

Want to Learn More?

Want to learn more about capital campaign planning study? Pick up a copy of Are You Ready for a Capital Campaign? Assessing Your Nonprofit's Ability to Run a Major Fundraising Campaign, by Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE.Linda goes into much more detail on capital campaign readiness in her workbook, Are You Ready for a Capital Campaign? Assessing Your Nonprofit's Ability to Run a Major Fundraising Campaign, published by CharityChannel Press. You can order it from the CharityChannel Press bookstore,, Barnes & Noble bookstore, or at a bookstore near you.

There are, however, some guidelines that you can use to do a preliminary evaluation of its program. Often the consultant will start with a questionnaire to be completed by staff and board members and a review of the entire development program. This is usually followed with interviews with development staff, CEO, board members and sometimes other staff and volunteers.

Areas usually addressed in the audit or internal assessment include:

  • Development communications—newsletters, solicitation letters, website, etc.
  • Research methods and results
  • Basic information on the organization’s structure (is it a 501 (c)(3), is it registered with proper state and local authorities, etc.)
  • The role of the board—board organizational charts, position descriptions, committee descriptions etc.
  • Staffing in the development office and assignment of duties
  • Where does the development office fit into the overall organizational chart?
  • Results of various fundraising programs—such as special events, direct mail, telephone programs, face to face solicitation
  • Is there a planned giving program in place and how successful is it?
  • Have you done capital campaigns before and what was the success of those campaigns?
  • Software system, information recording and reporting
  • Stewardship acknowledgment and recognition of gifts
  • The strength of your organization's financial position
  • Public awareness of the organization
  • The role of the CEO in fundraising

Some of the key areas that the consultant will be analyzing in regard to the organizations readiness to launch a campaign are:

  • Does the staff have time to manage a campaign or are they involved in other tasks, development or non-development related. Warning signs such as an organizations staff spending all its time on special events, or development staff that are spending part of its time on development and part on program or other areas of the organization are of concern when preparing for a campaign.
  • The importance given to the development function within the organization—a development officer that does not report to the CEO or an organization that does not spend money on providing the development office with the necessary tools to perform their job, or is reluctant to budget for continuing education for development staff is another sign of trouble.
  • The size and structure if the board are important keys to success. A small or ineffectual board may be a sign that the community will be reluctant to support a campaign or that the board will not have the necessary contacts to even get interviews with key community leaders.
  • It is essential to have good systems in place. The campaign may be the first time an organization has had to record multi-year pledges and a system that allows for proper pledge recording and coding will be needed. If the organization does not have a good software system in place, one should be purchased prior to launching the campaign.

The internal assessment will take anywhere from several weeks to several months depending on the complexity of the organization and the depth to which the consultant assesses each aspect of the development program.

For an organization that has never done a campaign before, a complete development audit may be in order. If you feel you have a fairly strong development program or when there is not sufficient time to engage in a full-blown audit sometimes and abbreviated version is done during the study process, and a full development audit may take place after the study is completed.

Whichever method us used to complete this task, it is essential that some type of internal assessment of your ability to run a campaign be completed before moving on to the external assessment.


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