You’ve just completed the quiet phase of your capital campaign, raising approximately 60% of your goal from major donors and are now preparing to take the campaign public. One of your first steps will likely be to create a landing page on your website where potential donors can go to learn about your campaign and how they can help. It’s important to create a powerful, well-optimized, landing page as it can make all the difference in the world. Here are some best practices for getting the most out of your capital campaign web presence!

Give Your Capital Campaign its Own Page
Remember, a capital campaign isn’t business as usual. It’s an intensive fundraising effort designed to raise a specified sum of money within a defined time period. It should have a sense of urgency. This is why your capital campaign should have its own page where it can stand out. However, for all but the largest nonprofits, it is generally not a good idea to create a new and separate website or microsite for the campaign. Doing so will cause visitors to feel disoriented and lost and just steal traffic away from your current website. The capital campaign page can have its own unique look and feel, just as long as it isn’t completely disengaged from the rest of the site design.

Include Your Capital Campaign in Your Main Navigation
Ideally, you don’t want to tuck your capital campaign page in the online giving section of your website. Once you have set up your capital campaign page, you will want to add it to your site’s main navigation to signal its importance and keep it one click away no matter which page a visitor enters your site from. The importance of this can’t be stressed enough. If you have a content management system, you may still need to contact your developer to add the tab to your main navigation, but it is worth the added effort. Once they restructure your site map, you will be able to make page edits as you please.

Add a Secondary Path on Your Homepage
In addition to your main navigation, users should have another option for accessing your capital campaign page. Consider adding a prominent “Give to Our Campaign” button to your homepage or adding an image and call to action in your homepage slider. A pop-up like the one Perkiomen has on their homepage is another fun option for staying front-of-mind.

Interactive capital campaign pageInclude Interactivity
One major benefit to digital over print is the opportunity for interactivity. From sliding photos and video playlists to floor plans and interactive maps, your capital campaign page can truly engage the end user. See how Harvard University, clearly with a large budget, used interactivity, statistics, and graphical elements to share key facts about their campaign. A more straightforward example is Ole Miss that features a visual that changes perspective as you mouse over it and a video that is an arena “fly through” that walks you through their project vision. Adding interactivity to your page doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Use these examples to get your creative juices flowing on how you can engage users on your capital campaign page.

Make Your Story Consumable 
You will want to make your capital campaign story prominent, concise and consumable. Online users tend to skim content and often become overwhelmed when they are presented with too much information. Again, Perkiomen does a great job presenting their story in a quick, easy-to-read format (although the dark background and reverse-out type make it a bit harder to read). Create a two sentence campaign mission statement to present up front and allow visitors to gather more information at their own discretion.

Show the Progress
Graphic showing campaign progress.A fun feature to include on your page is a campaign progress bar. A campaign progress bar will show how your campaign is performing in an easy to understand, visual format. You can even include milestones to indicate certain successes. Additionally, a progress bar will convert visitors into donors by adding a competitive, goal-oriented component to the campaign. For inspiration, check out the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Their capital campaign page features a progress bar that leads you to key moments and a timeline of the overall plan, all in a clear and colorful format. Remember, it is very important that you keep the information on your campaign page up-to-date. I have visited too many sites where the information is clearly old and it not only takes the urgency out of your campaign, it leaves a poor impression of your website overall.

Donation page thank you example.Allow and Plan for Social Media Shares
One way to encourage others to help spread the word on your capital campaign is by including social media share buttons on the “thank you” landing page that visitors see after making a donation. When a person supports a cause, he or she typically likes to tell others about it and you want to encourage this kind of word-of-mouth marketing. (More on the topic of thank you landing pages.) You will also want to ensure that your website and donation form are responsive. With such large numbers of users accessing social media from their mobile devices, you will need to be prepared for when they click through to your website.

Written by Sara Thompson, SEO and Social Media Administrator at Informatics Inc. and Lee Neel, Vice President of Marketing for The Fundraising Resource Group.

About Informatics: The Fundraising Resource strategic partner, Informatics, is a full service web agency that provides a wealth of web related services, including digital marketing, web design and development, e-marketing strategies, hosting, custom web applications, mobile applications, social media management, SEO services, photo and video services and multimedia development.

The Fundraising Resource Group helps non-profit organizations across the United States with fundraising feasibility studies, capital campaigns, annual giving campaigns, major gift fundraising, non-profit marketing, fundraising training, and other high-impact, high-return fundraising activities. For more about how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success, visit our website at or call 888-522-1492.

I was working with a school not long ago where we conducted a feasibility study and then a capital campaign. Things were going very well. The case for support was compelling and validated in the feasibility study. There was a genuine love for the mission. We had enlisted a talented, enthusiastic, and hard-working volunteer leadership team to augment the exceptional skills of the Chief Executive. Early leadership gifts and prospect identification had validated the potential to reach the recommended objective, albeit with a lot of hard work ahead. It was still early in the campaign.

One well-meaning and influential volunteer came to the group with an idea. A short cut. It seems that he was aware of a school back home who successfully raised more than $20 million in a recent capital campaign. He had some connections there and simply suggested, “Why can’t we just copy what they did? After all we are only trying to raise $6.5 million.”

Capital Campaigns sin #1 envy.Comparing Apples to Oranges
I happened to know a little about the school he was referring to and their success so I began to talk them through the comparison between the circumstances of the two schools. First the school “back home” was a school with a 50 year history in an affluent community with a generous alumni base to show for it. Our school had been around just over 10 years and the alumni is quite a ways away from reaching their philanthropic peak. The board of the successful school in question was packed with powerful (and wealthy) corporate executives who put their resources strongly behind the campaign and had Rolodexes (does anyone still use a Rolodex?) full of people to call on. The board of our client’s faith-based school was full of wonderful folks selected not for their fundraising capacity or prowess but specifically to represent their segment of the church community. I could go on, but you get the picture. The circumstances were very different and therefore the approach to the capital campaign was tailored to each organization’s specific strengths, challenges, and expectations.

The Danger of Envy
Buddha once said that the way to happiness is actually quite simple; the secret is to learn to want what you have and not want what you don’t have. As one of the seven deadly sins, envy can derail your efforts if you are not disciplined to make the most of your own circumstances and protect from getting pulled away by every twinkling distraction.

Jennifer Kunst, Ph.D. put it well in a blog post for Psychology Today entitled “Mythbuster: The Grass Is NOT Always Greener on the Other Side.” She wrote: “Troubles in life come when we believe the myth that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  We are taken over by envy, believing that other people have the good stuff…this attitude…leads us to turn away from the main task of life, which is to make the most of what we have.  By denying the goodness of our very own lives, we believe that we have nothing good to work with nor the capacity to work with it. We lose focus, self-confidence, and hope…If we can accept reality for what it is, we have the chance to develop it, to improve it, and to grow it.”

There is No One-Size-Fits-All Approach
How does this apply to capital campaigns? Here is the connection. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to capital campaigns. What works for one organization may not be right for you. An organization with a closed constituency may be able to impact its donors in an extremely short time frame, with a tight-knit organizational structure. A sprawling national organization may take three to four years in its capital campaign with an over-arching nationally focused leadership structure enhanced by regional mini-campaigns tapping into local talent and prospects. Certainly there are best practices and proven methodologies, but they must be adapted to your reality and then applied with tenacity and perseverance to maximize whatever your potential may be. Another Psychology Today article puts it this way. “People idealize when they are envious. Typically, envy comes with fantasies of having what you are lacking.”

Proper Planning is Critical
So how do you find the approach that is just right for you? Most often it is through a well-organized planning process that includes a comprehensive feasibility study and intensive internal readiness assessment or diagnostic. The study and assessment will not only determine the fundraising potential through a sampling of potential top donors, but will also determine the quality of volunteer leadership available, the philanthropic priority of your project among other opportunities, the support of internal leadership, and the expertise and time availability of your fundraising staff to determine how much outside help you may need. All of these elements and more will help to design a capital campaign plan that is just right for you, including a starting goal, timeline, organizational structure, budget, and staffing plan. Then once you have the plan, you actually have to work it. There are few short cuts and even fewer actual greener patches of grass.

Envy Can be Instructive
But envy is not all bad. Sometimes it can inspire us and motivate us to be the best we can be. Leland R. Beaumont of Emotional Competency says: “While becoming consumed with envy is destructive, listening carefully to our envy can be instructive…Think carefully about what sincere desires might be triggering your envy, use that insight to carefully reexamine your goals. Revise your goals if doing so will better align with your authentic self.”

Goals for capital campaigns are simply a benchmark for success. The good news is that you get to define what success means for you based on your authentic self. It is not a benchmark of what or how some other organization did it. However, success breeds success, therefore, it is critical to not only set a realistic benchmark, but to do all that you can to achieve it as a springboard for future success.

Going back to kindergarten probably best puts things in perspective. Robert Fulghum, author of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” put it this way:  “The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. No, not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you are.” 

This is the second in a series of nine posts.
You can see the introductory post and full infographic here.
Go to Deadly Sin #2: Gluttony.

Written by Daniel Neel, President of The Fundraising Resource Group. The Fundraising Resource Group helps non-profit organizations across the United States with fundraising feasibility studies, capital campaigns, annual giving campaigns, major gift fundraising, non-profit marketing, fundraising training, and other high-impact, high-return fundraising activities. For more about how we can help your nonprofit achieve fundraising success, visit or call 888-522-1492.

Marketing is not a dirty wordUntil I turned my attention, expertise, and skills to the nonprofit sector, I had a rich career in (gasp) marketing working with and for companies that sell everything from toilet paper and fashion magazines to storage containers and grand pianos. I have my Masters of Science degree in advertising. I am proud to be in a profession I consider creative, strategic, and critical for the success of so many – including nonprofit organizations.

I don’t know if I will ever get over the shock of coming across articles like the one I saw the other day that is basically a straw dog rant against marketers and nonprofit marketing.  I will start by saying the author is a well-respected fundraising consultant whose opinions and articles I often enjoy reading. But where is all this anger coming from? And more importantly – who or what should it be directed to? My answer: not marketers and nonprofit marketing.

The Marketing Rant                                                                                                          
Gail Perry quotes John Lepp, author of The Problem with Marketing, “The problem with marketing is that it is run by marketers—people who believe that the needs of their charity come before those of the people the charity requires in order to function. (Yes, I’m talking about donors here. Surprise!) Their logo, their impressive branding style guide created by a fancy advertising agency, their mission statement, their marketing and communications department—these all take priority over the act of talking with other loving humans.”

Really? It’s marketers (as well as many others) who are bringing it to the attention of nonprofits that talking about themselves ad nauseum is not effective or good marketing (OMG there’s that dirty word again). This is beyond condescending and describes no situation I have ever seen. Most nonprofits can’t afford “fancy advertising agencies” and the ones who can happen to be the largest and most successful nonprofits in the country. (But there can’t be any connection there.) She goes on to say, “Marketing is not donor centered.”

A Different Theory
I have a different theory based on my experience. The “enemy” (if you need to have one) is ignorance. That and lack of resources. Well, I’ll throw one more in there because if the situations she refers to in her article exist, it would likely be the perfect storm of all three: clients who pay you for your expert advice and then choose not to follow it.

When did ignorance become a point of view? Dilbert comic.What I see are many medium-sized nonprofits that have no one on staff with any formal marketing training and little to no breadth and depth of experience. Often, it’s the director of development or the executive director who is managing marketing (again, with little or no experience beyond trial and error). In offices with a larger staff, the job still falls under development (a good thing) and the position is often filled by some fresh-out-of-school person, eager to learn on the job (i.e. with NO experience). Rarely do these people have advertising agency, PR firm, or serious corporate marketing experience. They are all trying their best to learn on the fly. If they are using an outside firm, it’s often not a big, fancy one but rather an independent contractor or small shop that likely was chosen based on price or “connections” (they know someone on the Board or came through a referral) rather than via a true vetting process (and who’s “fault” is that?)

Usually it’s the client that decides, against the recommendations of their marketing advisor, they want an “expensive, self-promoting newsletter” because “that is the way we have always done it” and unfortunately, they find someone to do the job (often internally), giving them what they want rather than what they need. We were working with a client recently to enhance both their strategic fundraising activities and marketing strategy. They have a great and unique story to tell that has a national, in fact global, appeal. Unfortunately, for 20 years they had always done the same-old-same-same-old in fundraising and marketing targeted to the same small audience (newsletter written by founder and CEO with return envelope/annual membership renewal letter/membership event/year end appeal letter). Add to that a poorly designed website that did a meager job of encouraging participation and donations and a non-existent social media strategy. Not surprisingly, they got the same results (at best) that were less than stellar. The right message was not getting out to their broader target audience along with a strategy to convert them to participants. Many of our recommendations were followed, but many times our advice was not followed, based on a “stuck-in-their-ways” mindset that undermined having a cohesive and comprehensive strategy and optimizing results

Common Ground
I would suspect that Ms. Perry has experienced the same client resistance and close-mindedness from time-to-time in her work as a fundraising consultant. It would be difficult for me to fault her (or an entire profession by association) if she and others give good counsel, based on sound business practices, that the client then chooses not to follow. I notice, too, whenever Ms. Perry talks about marketing it’s “expensive” – never valuable and cost-effective. Again, I don’t know about her world, the one I work in has clients with tight to non-existent budgets and I work very hard to help them find resources who always give them a special “nonprofit rate.” And as a marketing professional that works with nonprofit organizations, I can’t imagine myself putting forth the opinion that the work fundraising consultants do – or their deliverables – are expensive. (In fact I feel quite the opposite. As Red Adair, the oil well firefighter famously said, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”)

In all my years in marketing, I have never met anyone who doesn’t have an opinion about marketing. Watching TV, surfing the Internet, reading magazines, listening to the radio, receiving direct mail means everyone thinks they are knowledgeable – and because of that, they believe their opinion – and that of the board of directors, the friends and family all count. They don’t. I tell nonprofit organizations (who often tend to have fuzzy job descriptions) “Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but not every opinion counts.” Also, being exposed to marketing and having an opinion doesn’t make you a marketing expert any more than owning a fancy camera makes you a professional photographer.

I am not at all convinced that Ms. Perry even knows what marketing is based on this article. Or a brand for that matter. A logo is not a brand any more than a newsletter is marketing. From an organization’s perspective, at its most basic level, marketing is about being seen and heard in a way that motivates the listener into a desired action. “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Not if there is no marketing.

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it - the tree needs a better marketing strategy.As Ms. Perry points out in her article, it is important to tell the compelling stories of those served to those who make it happen (a.k.a. donors). However, you can have the greatest stories in the world, but if those who should hear them don’t know you exist you are shouting into the void.  Just as with fundraising, there are right ways and wrong ways to do it, and successful strategic marketing uses professional best practices targeted to the organization’s current situation to accomplish specific objectives with tactical precision for measurable results. Sound familiar?

Marketing is about relationships and emotion is at its very core. Marc Gobe, in his book Emotional Branding (another misunderstood term!) talks about how marketing takes an organization from ubiquity to presence, communication to dialogue, from honesty to trust, from quality to preference. It is about relationships, sensorial experiences, imagination, and vision.

Marketing Done Right
There are so many smart nonprofit marketers out there who have so much to offer. Some of my favorites include Kivi Leroux Miller, Tom Ahern, John Hayden, and Beth Kanter. It’s time for those in the nonprofit industry who think “marketing” is a dirty word to go back to school to learn what marketing is. And the bashing really does need to stop; it’s not productive. I am partial to another, simple definition of marketing (really more like a reminder) provided by Michael Brenner, Head of Strategy for Newscred. He says “marketing is about a deep psychological understanding of customer [substitute donor] needs” and “it is the job of everyone in the organization.

What’s your definition of marketing? Do you think it gets a bad rap in the nonprofit sector?

Written by Lee Neel, Vice President of The Fundraising Resource Group. The Fundraising Resource Group helps non-profit organizations across the United States with fundraising feasibility studies, capital campaigns, annual giving campaigns, major gift fundraising, non-profit marketing, fundraising training, and other high-impact, high-return fundraising activities. For more about how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success, visit our website at or call 888-522-1492.

“How difficult can it be? I can do it myself!” “Their capital campaign was successful; why don’t we just copy what they did?” “We can buy the land next door so let’s just raise our campaign goal.” “Can you bring new donors to our capital campaign?” “Let’s ask him for $1 million. I know he has it and we need it.” “I will give $1 million…if you fire the basketball coach.” “Why haven’t we raised any money recently?”

As a fundraising consultant that has worked with nonprofits across the country on capital campaigns for many years, I have heard these words and others like them. And that’s when I know the organization is likely headed for trouble with its capital campaign.

Did you know that according to some reports about 40% of all capital campaigns do not reach their goal? Ever wonder why?

The Sins
The seven deadly sins have been prevalent in Church teaching, as well as in pop culture, since the 14th century. From Dante’s Divine Comedy, to the art work of Bosch, to modern day film and television, including the 2014 Showtime series of the same name and (gasp) even Gilligan’s Island, the seven deadly sins have been a part of our consciousness and a representation of the snares we can get trapped in if not diligent. While the named sins have evolved over time, the most widely accepted current list includes some form of the following:

  • Envy
  • Gluttony
  • Lust
  • Greed
  • Anger
  • Sloth
  • Pride

The Sins & Capital Campaigns
“What on earth does this have to do with capital campaigns and fundraising?” you may ask. To answer that question first takes an understanding of what a capital campaign is and how to define success for the effort. The simple definition of a capital campaign is an extraordinary fundraising initiative with a beginning and end for a specific need with a certain financial goal. Most often success is defined by reaching that stated monetary goal. I would add that you should also get there without totally disrupting the organization or alienating your donors along the way.

When a nonprofit organization launches a capital campaign and fails to reach its goal, a postmortem usually reveals that one or more of the seven deadly sins of capital campaigns is at fault.

Over the course of the next nine weeks in our Monday blog posts I will spend time examining each of these seven deadly sins of capital campaigns using our experiences as a fundraising consultants, specific examples from campaigns, and insights from others to help you avoid falling prey to the seven deadly sins in your capital campaign efforts.

7 deadly sins of capital campaigns

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7 Deadly Sins of Capital Campaigns Blog Series
1.) Envy – Capital Campaigns Deadly Sin #1
2.) Gluttony – Capital Campaigns Deadly Sin #2
.) Lust – Capital Campaigns Deadly Sin #3  
4.) Greed (Part #1) – Capital Campaigns Deadly Sin #4
5.) Greed (Part #2) – Capital Campaigns Deadly Sin #4
6.) Anger – Capital Campaigns Deadly Sin #5
7.) Sloth – Capital Campaigns Deadly Sin #6
8.) Pride – Capital Campaigns Deadly Sin #7

Written by Daniel Neel, President of The Fundraising Resource Group. The Fundraising Resource Group helps non-profit organizations across the United States with fundraising feasibility studies, capital campaigns, annual giving campaigns, major gift fundraising, non-profit marketing, fundraising training, and other high-impact, high-return fundraising activities. For more about how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success, visit our or call 888-522-1492. 

If you haven’t heard by now, “retention is the new acquisition.” Developing or growing a monthly giving program should be a major goal of your fundraising strategy this year. Monthly giving programs provide a predictable income stream throughout the year from those most committed to supporting your cause and increase donor retention. There are a variety of different ways you can work to develop monthly giving, but a solid online strategy is one of the top contenders.

Importance of Monthly Giving

According to npEngage, the average retention rate of a newly acquired donor 10 years ago was 33%. Today it is 27%.  That translates into a loss of 3 out of every 4 newly acquired donors. We all know it costs more to acquire a new donor than to retain one. The donor retention rate for donors, on the other hand, is 70% (Fundraiser Help). Additionally, statistics on online monthly givers indicates they give more than one-time donors. The Online Marketing Benchmark Study for Nonprofits from Blackbaud reports that the average one-time donation is $136 (with a median of $89) and the average monthly online donation is $31 or $372 a year.

If your nonprofit is in need of a strategy in 2015 that will increase retention and decrease donor loss, monthly giving is your best option. According to The Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, the vast majority of nonprofit organizations do not follow donor retention best practices. Don’t let your nonprofit organization be among them! In order to get the most out of monthly giving in 2015, it’s time to step up your online fundraising game.

Monthly Giving and Online Fundraising

chart - monthly giving by generation

Source: Blackbaud Next Generation of American Giving

In a 2013 study conducted by Blackbaud, 39% of respondents had donated online in the last 2 years and online giving accounted for 6.4% of all charitable giving. While online giving still represents a small portion of the fundraising pie, its growth rate of 13.5% is more than twice that of overall giving at just 4.9%. With such a promising percentage of donations occurring online, why not take advantage? According to the 2014 M+R Benchmark Study, “monthly giving revenue grew 25% in 2013, and accounted for 16% of total online giving”. These numbers are only going to grow in 2015. While direct mail is diminishing in importance, it is more than likely that online giving will continue to rise.

Generationally speaking, some of the greatest donors are the baby boomers. And baby boomers are monthly givers. According to Blackbaud’s, 42% of Baby Boomers donated through an organization’s website in the last 2 years and 21% of baby boomers are monthly givers. So how can we ensure this number rises and that other generations increase their online donations as well? Luckily, there are a handful of ways you can improve your online fundraising

How to Improve Monthly Giving Online

In order to improve monthly giving online, you will need to focus on the two separate entities and how they work together. First of all, you must determine how you are going to encourage monthly giving (through a compelling case for support) and secondly, you will need to come up with a strategy for encouraging online giving.

  • Google Analytics
    In order to optimize online donations, you will want to make your website users’ actions trackable. Google Analytics is a stats program that allows you to track how many people are accessing your website, which pages they’re visiting and which pages they’re leaving from. Through this you can determine how people are getting to your donation page. If you find that people always bounce off your site before getting to your donation page, you may need to double-check that all pages on your site have prominent calls to action.
  • Search Engine optimization
    SEO is the process of getting found online by optimizing your website for search engine results. This includes maintaining a user-friendly website, incorporating calls to action (CTAs) throughout, and using keywords in your content that are relevant to your organization.  SEO will help you bring in new donors.
  • Conversions
    The conversion paths on your website are the buttons and navigation points which push people to convert (i.e. make a donation). Once new donors come to your site, you will want to convert them. And not only do you want them to donate; you want them to sign up for monthly giving. So, here are a few tips:

- Your website design should be inviting, user-friendly, and easy to navigate. It should also include clear calls to action including     “Sign Up for Monthly Giving” buttons and links to the donation form.

- Your site should feature multiple conversion paths, offering visitors several ways to access your donation page.

- Once visitors reach your donation landing page, they should be enticed to complete it. This means having a simple, easy to understand design that appears professional and secure. And be sure to include special wording about monthly giving!

- To convert the visitor, you must optimize your donation form. From keeping it short and to the point to making it mobile friendly, your form should not be the reason a person doesn’t donate. According to the Online Fundraising Scorecard, “84% of online donation forms are not optimized for mobile.” Is yours?

- Encourage donors to share about their giving on Twitter and Facebook by providing that option on your post-donation “thank you” page.

- Last but far from least, promote monthly giving by making it the default option on your form. If the monthly giving box is already checked offer, donors are more likely to go with it.

An example of an organization that has been very successful at developing their online giving program is Minnesota Public Radio. In 2012, they raised $10 million in sustaining gifts, which represented 60% of all giving and 50% of that was raised online! You can read more about it here.

As you move through Quarter 1 of 2015, make sure that you have a plan for monthly giving as part of your online fundraising strategy. Remember that monthly giving will increase your donor retention rate and that online fundraising will help you do it!

Written by Lee Neel, Vice President of The Fundraising Resource Group. The Fundraising Resource Group helps non-profit organizations across the United States with fundraising feasibility studies, capital campaigns, annual giving campaigns, major gift fundraising, non-profit marketing, fundraising training, and other high-impact, high-return fundraising activities. For more about how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success, visit our website at or call 888-522-1492.