January 29, 2015

Capital and annual giving can work together

Development professional John Scales says the fear of eroding annual support with capital campaigns may be a pernicious myth, but offers advice for making sure your nonprofit doesn't become an urban legend.

In my experience, working in development and having a lot of capital campaigns going on at once, I never have been in a situation where the capital campaign hurt the annual fund.

I think that's always a fear, but if you go about it in the right way, capital campaigns can actually strengthen your annual giving programs.

What I like to do is have a comprehensive campaign.

In this type of campaign, annual gifts are counted right alongside capital gifts. Your campaign goal then becomes the combination of your general annual fundraising goal and the cost of the capital projects you're trying to fund in addition.

What's important is always continuing to emphasize the purpose gifts play for the institution. In a campaign environment, you should always be able to talk about the importance of what annual funding does for the organization as well.

Your annual fund is your organization's base support. Anything given in a one-time campaign is over and above the daily bread of operations and maintenance.

So even in a capital campaign, you should always focus on trying to maintain that base, and be sure to verbalize that focus.

Be sure to recognize donors for all their gifts during that campaign timeframe, not just the capital portion.

With this broader focus, everyone who supports an institution during a capital campaign benefits from the greater recognition often afforded only to major donors or donors in highly-publicized campaigns.

John Scales is senior vice president for development at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.


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