Posts tagged ‘planning’

December 15, 2011

How NOT to Run a Capital Campaign

From time-to-time, I will invite an outstanding, published book author to write a guest post. If you’d like to learn about how to be a guest blogger, click on the “Authors” tab above.

This week, I have invited Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE, author of Capital Campaigns: Everything You NEED to Know. Linda is a friend, and I have joked with her that she is the Stephen King of the fundraising world. I tease her about this, not because she writes horror stories, but because she is nearly as prolific as King. She has at least eight titles to her name!

I know, from personal experience, that writing a book requires a great deal of time and effort. Linda has long been willing to do what it takes to share her wisdom. Her books are always practical, accessible, and full of useful tips culled from her decades of experience.

Capital Campaigns is her latest book. The official description of her book says, “Do you work for or serve on the board of a nonprofit that is thinking about or ready to launch a capital campaign? Capital Campaigns: Everything You NEED to Know will equip you to determine your organization’s readiness for a campaign; help you decide if and when you need a planning study; show you how to allocate your human and financial resources effectively; guide you in creating a compelling case statement; provide you with the tools to evaluate your chances for success; give you how-to advice to plan every aspect of your campaign; and put at your fingertips ample examples of sample forms and charts.” Like I said, Linda always offers practical advice in her books.

For her article here, I played on my Stephen King joke and asked Linda to share some capital campaign horror stories and to let us know what we should NOT do in our capital campaigns. Here’s a chance to learn from the mistakes of others:


I’m an eternal optimist. So, I generally focus on the best ways to do things. But, for this article, I decided I would look at capital campaigns from a different perspective. I thought about some of the campaign mistakes I’ve seen organizations make over the years and realized I had, unfortunately, a lot of negative experiences from which I’ve learned. As I share some of the mistakes I’ve encountered, I hope you will learn from them, too. So, here is my list of things you should not do in a capital campaign:

Don’t underestimate the value of volunteer leadership in your campaign. If you asked me to list the most successful campaigns I’ve been involved with to the least successful and then asked me to list the best volunteer campaign leaders to the worst, guess what? The list would be just about identical. In other words, the campaigns that have the best volunteer leaders are the most successful ones.

I’ll share another story with you that proves my point in a positive way. Another organization sought out a top community leader to serve as honorary chair of its campaign. Although this community leader did not have a real strong tie to the organization, he was very persuasive in making the case. The “honorary chair” not only agreed to serve, but attended and led every meeting, made a significant gift to the campaign, and his leadership was enough to convince the presidents of four local banks and other top community leaders to get involved. This campaign went over goal in the time allotted.

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November 18, 2011

3 Reasons Why You Don’t Need a Development Plan

From time-to-time, I will invite an outstanding, published book author to write a guest post. If you’d like to learn about how to be a guest blogger, click on the “Authors” tab above. 

This week, I have invited Amy M. Eisenstein, MPA, CFRE, author of 50 Asks in 50 Weeks, to share her thoughts with us about the value of planning. In addition to being an author, Eisenstein is a fundraising consultant for local and national nonprofit organizations; her firm is Tri-Point Fundraising. In her post, she looks at when planning is not necessary and, when it is necessary, just how easy it is to write one. 

As the official description of her book says, Eisenstein helps readers “Raise more money; create a basic development plan; identify new prospects; ask for gifts more frequently; review the basics of fundraising; work with your board on fundraising; hire your first development staff member; and work as a cohesive development team with your executive director, development staff members, and board members…. 50 Asks in 50 Weeks is a development planning tool that focuses on frequency of asking, but also the importance of having a diversified funding base, as well as making sure you are fundraising as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Whether you’re new to development or an experienced veteran, I think you’ll like Eisenstein’s frank, simple, no-nonsense, common-sense view of development planning:


Not all nonprofit organizations need a development plan. You may be one of them. Here are three reasons you may not need to write a development plan:

  1. Your organization does not need to raise money because it has an adequate, sustainable revenue stream that is either earned or unearned.
  2. Your organization comfortably raises enough money every year without a development plan.
  3. Your organization is closing its doors.

If you happen to work for an organization that does not fall into one of those three categories, and most development professionals do, then you need a development plan.

A development plan is beneficial for all organizations whether yours is a large institution with dozens of fundraising professionals or a small shop where you wear all of the advancement hats. A sound development plan will benefit you in a number of ways:

  1. It will help you, your colleagues, and superiors better understand what will be necessary to achieve your goals in the coming year.
  2. It will allow you to clearly prioritize your activities.
  3. It will make it easier to justify the resources you will need to execute the plan.
  4. It will ensure that you stay focused on key functions such as getting out and asking for gifts rather than being constantly distracted by the daily minutia.

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