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June 13, 2018
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June 27, 2018

Should You Increase Your Capital Campaign Goal?

Here we are in the middle of the World Cup, so we’re thinking about goals!

There comes a time in every capital campaign when people start talking about increasing the goal. If this happens at your organization, please be careful! Raising the goal to a higher level is not an arbitrary decision. It carries as much weight as setting the original goal.

I can’t say vehemently enough that meeting your campaign goal is not an option. It’s imperative.

“Failed” campaigns stick with an organization for years. Even if you miss the goal by only a small amount, there’s something about not making goal that is regarded as a blight on an organization’s reputation. It’s bad for morale, it’s bad for public relations, and it’s really, really bad for your next campaign.

Increasing a goal, therefore, cannot be done at the risk of not meeting goal at all. For the most part, it’s simply better to “surpass” goal than to increase it and potentially miss it altogether.

Here are the typical times when the “shall we increase the goal?” conversion arises:

Early in the campaign when things are going really, really well.

Be careful! This is a trap we see nonprofit boards fall into all the time. The beginning of a campaign can be so exciting. After all, you’re working the top of your prospect list and talking to you nearest and dearest supporters. This is not the time to even consider raising your goal. The farther along your campaign path you travel, the smaller the gifts become and the more declines you receive. We’ve often seen nonprofits struggle to find the last $50,000 or $100,000 to close out a campaign after successfully raising millions.

At the half way point, when things continue to be going really well.

This is the same story as above. Don’t do it!

When you realize that the goal isn’t going to be enough to cover your capital expenses.

Obviously, you want to avoid this scenario. It doesn’t look great to have to go back to donors and tell them you miscalculated your building costs, or didn’t build in a large enough contingency. We’ve seen enough capital projects to tell you with confidence that it will go over budget. Know this and plan for it.

But, what if it does happen and you find yourself in need of more funds than anticipated? Can you increase the goal? Of course, you can. But do so only if you circle back around and do your due diligence again for the increased goal. This means you have to carefully assess the remaining potential in your prospect pool. The number cannot simply be the gap between what you’ve raised and what you need. It must be based in the reality of your resources and prospects.

At the very end of the campaign when it appears you’ll surpass the goal.

If it becomes clear that you’re going to way overshoot your goal, you can evaluate how the end-of-campaign story might play out. Your objective is determine what narrative will most motivate those final campaign donors. Will they be inspired by helping you push to a final, bigger overall goal? Remember, this is the time when most campaigns are in the “public phase,” seeking smaller gifts. You might simply want to set a short-term, smaller goal for that phase and not even worry about the big goal. For example, you can say to the public, “We’ve raised $3 million so far. Help us raise another $200,000 by August 1!”.

There are very few circumstances in which increasing the original goal makes sense. Evaluate your narrative and test how it will resonate with the remaining campaign prospects.

Remember, it’s never a bad thing to surpass your goal! That’s a story everyone can get excited about.

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