Crossing the Finish Line: How One School Created a Campaign within a Campaign to Raise the Final Million
By Jay Angeletti
Following the excitement of the initial lead gifts, a campaign launch, and early success, it’s easy to reach a plateau or even stall in the later years of a major fundraising campaign. That’s when it’s most important to identify creative strategies to engage new prospects, close gifts, and cross the finish line of the campaign.
During their largest fundraising campaign, one school seized the moment of their Head of School retiring as an opportunity to launch a “campaign within a campaign” in her honor, re-energizing the stalled campaign with new momentum.
Greens Farms Academy (GFA) is an innovative, independent PreK-12 co-ed day school located in Greens Farms, CT. In 2012, the school embarked on the $21 million Lead with Excellence campaign to raise needed resources for capital projects and endowment. In 2017, with 85% of the goal raised, longtime – and greatly admired – Head of School Janet Hartwell announced her retirement. Janet’s wonderful legacy provided the platform to celebrate the school’s journey and its future. Janet was a strong proponent of the school’s endowment for financial aid and faculty development. As such, GFA’s Advancement Office launched the Year of Celebration with a goal of raising $2 million for the endowment to honor Janet’s legacy and round out the campaign.
The Year of Celebration included special events, donor receptions, and communications specific to Janet’s legacy and the importance of the school’s endowment. This effectively allowed GFA to return to some of the campaign’s lead donors and ask them to make one more commitment in honor of Janet. Many donors took pride in propelling GFA across the finish line of the campaign they had helped to launch years earlier. It also helped to expand the prospect pool by re-engaging past parents who wanted to be part of honoring Janet.
“We asked all families to do something extraordinary,” says Jennifer Klein, Director of Institutional Advancement and External Affairs. “We asked for their annual gift, but also to do something on top of it and give to the Janet Harwell Fund, even if they had already given to the campaign.” And families delivered. Together, the school raised $2.7 million for the Janet Harwell Fund, exceeding the campaign’s $21 million goal, making it one of the largest campaigns in the school’s history.
Fueled by the generosity and loyalty of the school’s community, Lead with Excellence transformed GFA’s campus, providing new, state-of-the-art facilities for its outstanding academic, arts, and athletic programs. In addition, the endowment increased significantly to over $44 million, including $3.5 million in new funds.
Just like GFA, a campaign within a campaign may be what your school needs to succeed in the final leg of a campaign. Below are a few ways you can use this concept to your advantage:
Highlight something special. Just as GFA highlighted Janet’s announcement in its year of Celebration, find something that marks a moment of great change or celebration at the organization, such as an anniversary or other special event. Has nothing come to mind? Create an opportunity with a challenge gift. Often, to help a campaign reach the finish line, major donors will consider giving a matching gift to motivate others. Whether it’s a single donor or a group of influential donors (such as a board gift, a class gift, etc.), secure a commitment specific to the campaign and ask donors to make a new contribution that will be matched by the challenge donors.
Shake things up. Use the campaign within a campaign to reach out to people in a different way than you had earlier in the campaign. Deploy a multi-channel outreach plan, host special receptions for those who have already given to the campaign and ask for their recommendations for reaching new people. This is a chance to re-imagine how you are connecting with people.
Think of the campaign within a campaign as a new effort. Take the same steps you did at the start of the campaign, but with a refined scope and focus. Create a gift table that shows what’s left to raise or how much you seek to raise in this new initiative. Include prospects at each gift level – including those who have already committed to the campaign and who may be approached again. Recruit a new, focused, and time-limited special Committee that includes new volunteers who haven’t been involved with the campaign yet.
Clarify the impact. A targeted campaign to finish out a larger campaign is the perfect opportunity to show your donors what their money is providing. Some of the projects may already be underway; show your donors projects in the works with hard hat tours and site visits. This will help them feel the impact of their dollars and consider increasing their involvement.
Revisit old leads. With much of the campaign already completed, prospects who may have been hesitant in the beginning of the campaign may be inspired by the campaign’s proven success and excited about the idea of helping to reach the goal. Revisit these prospects with the campaign within a campaign in mind and show them what has been accomplished. Make them feel essential to finishing the project – “we need everyone to come together to make this transformative change – and we can’t do it without you.”