Ever notice how ancient buildings have deep foundations? Visiting France last year, we took a guided tour of the breathtaking Notre Dame de Chartres – a millennium old church built on the same spot as many churches that came before. Much of the foundation of this church was put into place during Roman times!
It’s the same thing with a capital campaign. A strong campaign needs a strong foundation. You may be sure you need a new building or renovated space, but fundraising will be a long hard slog with a lot of surprises if you don’t build your foundation first.
The absolute first pillar in that foundation is Mission.
For those of us in the nonprofit world, it’s a given that Mission is the essential that drives our entire enterprise. Who are we serving, what are we trying to achieve, what outcome are we working toward?
It’s the same thing with a special campaign. The need for that new building, or renovation, or endowment, starts with how it’s going to serve your mission. If you don’t have a clear mission, easily articulated by each of your constituents, then your campaign is starting with a handicap.
Your school doesn’t need 5 new classrooms; it needs to help 30 more special needs students achieve independence. Your library doesn’t need a new building to house the books and computers; your community needs a safe and free space for the unemployed to seek information about new jobs and get the training they need to pursue them. Your zoo doesn’t need a veterinary clinic to retain accreditation; your community needs to show its children that we are obligated to care for the animals in our world the best way we know how. Your soccer fields don’t need lights for night games; you need to provide an opportunity for people to come together in the evening, building family and community unity.
Mission, then, is the first pillar in your foundation. Is it clear? Compelling? Articulated? Is your potential new project clearly in support of your mission? Most importantly, can everyone associated with your organization recite and support your mission?
Yes? Great! You have the first foundation of a great organization and an excellent campaign. Now build the next pillar: Governance.
By Susan Detwiler