Prerequisites for a Successful Capital Campaign

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  1. Professional development staff-experienced, familiar with your community/area, understand or willing to learn similarities and differences of Waldorf versus main stream-they exist … see Art of Administration and like books for great articles on “Waldorf” development. I also think that there are certain personality traits that make a difference: enthusiasm, optimism, energetic tenacity and perseverance. You also need clerical staff dedicated to supporting your development professional-even if only 10-15 hours a week-he or she can help with phone calls, solicitation visit scheduling, mailings, pledge reminders, data entry, etc.-don’t waste your professional’s time with this stuff-it will bury them and keep them from focusing on the bigger picture.
  2. Clearly identified needs-what do you need? Why? How is it absolutely compelling? Why? How does it benefit, make a difference? Why are other things NOT included? Who decided on the projects? Do you have school community support for the list? Do a “needs assessment” to answer these questions. (You could do a long range plan and achieve same results-point is to plan carefully and show clearly that you actually thought it through). How do the projects of your capital campaign actually meet your stated need?
  3. Case Statement - the brochure that clearly explains what you need, what you are going to do with the money and why it matters. Make your “case” for the campaign and show how a donation will make a difference. The case statement doesn’t necessarily have to be a super expensive piece, but should be well done. Should probably include basic information on your school, who you serve, basic financials, as well as details about the campaign projects. Test a draft of this during the feasibility study …
  4. Feasibility study-can be done by local consultants, but you should check with Rudolf Steiner Foundation-regardless of whom, it needs to be someone outside of the school to give it credibility. A feasibility study is the direct questioning of major donor prospects about their willingness to give significant dollars to this campaign. It is about consensus building and gets you a solid guess of if you can actually raise the money you need … a resounding yes will quickly quiet the naysayers … this is important for morale. You can then use your feasibility study participants as the first round of solicitations-remind them that they helped make the campaign a real possibility-now they need to put their money behind (or in front of) it.
  5. Strong board and college support with lots of people willing to dedicate dozens of hours to making it all happen. Need a leader (campaign chair) willing to make a significant time commitment to leading the project-chair is spokesperson-development staff should be behind the scenes supporting the chair and campaign committee.
  6. Strong financial base-people do not want to give to a sinking ship. The school must show financial responsibility through a strong operating budget-no deficit budgeting-if you have a year or two of deficits, be ready to explain why and what you have done to better ensure the future. Consider having financials audited-this will be necessary if you expect large foundations to give grants.

Necessary Structures and Procedures

  1. We created a structure where all current families in the school were asked to be personally visited and solicited … even families who were only going to give $5 … it was as much a visit about money as it was consensus building about the necessity of the project and general support of the school.

    Our visiting teams consisted of a trained board member or parent volunteer and a faculty member … please note the board/parent did the actual “ask” for a pledge-faculty were not allowed to-seen as a conflict of interest and felt “yucky” for most-faculty were there for pedagogical information and as a show of support for the campaign-made a HUGE difference for many families to realize that the teachers were taking the time to visit them in support of the campaign.

    Need to remember that with a multi-year campaign, you will continue to have new families that will need to be quickly brought up to speed, and then solicited-this part does NOT end until all the money is raised.
  2. Must have absolute support by the board-if board members aren’t willing to support the campaign they should resign. This is critical. You MUST have absolute consensus by the leaders of the school.
  3. Clear policies about the kinds of gifts you will accept - will you accept stocks and securities? (if yes, go ahead and set up the brokerage account). Will you accept challenge gifts? Artwork? In-kind donations? If your answers are “well, maybe”, try to anticipate the school’s boundaries and make them into policy or at least generally agreed upon guidelines. Also, what is the school’s policy on naming opportunities and donor recognition-are you going to name it Martin Hall or keep the name functional (Performing Arts Center) or pedagogical (Parzival Hall)? Figure this out before there is an offer that makes it personal.
  4. What will the stewardship and acknowledgement process be? What level of gift will demand a personal thank you from the board president? What financial benchmarks or construction progress steps will trigger an additional thank you to all the donors to date?
  5. How will you handle multi-year pledges? Do you want to send reminders? (if yes, does your software actively support that scheduling process?) What will your “default” pledge rate be? Have you factored that into your total fundraising goal? Will you periodically write off bad pledges or wait until the end? … this is important because it affects the “how much we’ve raised” number … there is no right answer, just need to be consistent.
  6. Create clear channels of communication between your campaign chair, development office, board, college, campaign committee and development committee. Who is in charge? Who reports to whom? Who signs solicitation letters? Who signs thank yous? Who crafts the message? How does the college plug in to ensure it is true to who you are as a Waldorf school? Who is responsible for training everyone? Who is ultimately responsible for the campaign plan/success or failure?
  7. Mutually agreed upon plan of action. What are the steps? What order are they in? How will you know to move from one to the next? Who decides? When do you need to re-evaluate? What will you do to build more momentum when there seems to be none? Are you maximizing the strengths of your campaign team (and minimizing their weaknesses)?

Signs of a School Maturity

  1. Again, strong financials.
  2. Strong, hard working board.
  3. Strong college/faculty that is collectively able to clearly state justification for campaign-why they need the stuff.
  4. Educated community-if they aren’t used to giving, then start educating them NOW. May need to explain until you are blue in the face the difference between capital and operating budgets: “this is above what tuition pays for, that it is the community that will make it happen;” get rid of the “us” and “them” mentality; diffuse the notion that someone “out there” will give millions to the campaign - the “out there’s” need to be brought “in here”. The “them’s” are giving to their own churches, schools and charities. How can you get on their list?-through personal connections with the school community …Ask, “Who do YOU know?”
  5. Turmoil needs to be at a minimum - high family turnover, high staff turnover, general discontent will ruin the campaign.
  6. Track record (however short) of high participation of immediate school community in fundraising efforts … Annual Fund, auction, etc. Even if people aren’t giving a lot, are they at least supporting the school through philanthropic giving?
  7. What are your student successes? Are you actually teaching students who are able to go out and do something worth talking about? How are you measuring those successes? Are alumni (or their families) willing to be ambassadors of the school? What are they saying about your school?

Vital Signs for Major Donors

  1. All of the above-clearly, concisely and consistently stated. Can each member of your board answer questions clearly, concisely and consistently? Does everyone in the school community understand what is going on? Are you expressing your needs clearly? The benefits? Are you reaching beyond the immediate circles and connecting with those folks in a meaningful way?
  2. Is their gift the largest gift to date? If yes, THANK THEM! Tell them how wonderful it is that they are willing to be a leader. If no, challenge them.
  3. FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY-tell them how you are going to use their money; tell them how you are using their money; tell them how you used their money. Have financials as transparent as possible. If at any time you need to use a donation in a way that may be different than the donor originally intended, you must ask them-integrity, honesty, morality-remember you are building lifelong relationships with the mutual expectations of such.
  4. Use your momentum to your advantage. Show how new gifts can build momentum, create additional opportunities.
  5. Are you taking care of what you already have? Your faculty and staff? Your current facilities? Are you being fiscally prudent? Is it obvious that you are stretching every dollar to maximize its potential? If you have failed in some way, did you learn from your failure-what are you doing to keep it from happening again? Have you tried to heal bad feelings, etc.? Are you meeting your school mission? Are people happy? Are kids learning?
  6. WILL YOU BE AROUND IN 10, 20, 30, 50 YEARS?


From the notes of:

Stacy Ehrlich, CFRE
Director of Development, Austin Waldorf School
May 28, 2003

Association of Waldorf Schools of North America
Effective Practices Research Project
DEV Document DEV 4-1

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