I very much enjoyed yet another Florida Economic Development Council (FEDC) conference this year, and especially having the opportunity to introduce my partner Cheryl Hardy to so many of you. Florida has become our fastest growing market, and as Central Florida residents, Cheryl and I couldn’t be more thrilled!
During the conference, I had the chance to answer a lot of attendees’ questions about fundraising and the capital campaign process. While some of the questions were very specific to the individual’s organization or concerns facing the economic development community in Florida, others were more general questions that I thought other economic developers throughout the country might have as well. I want to share a few of those questions and answers for you here:
*Question #1: I’m not sure we’re big enough to do a major capital campaign. How big does a community need to be?*
We’ve seen organizations conduct successful capital campaigns in communities that run the spectrum in terms of size. While we’ve done several statewide economic development and chamber campaigns (North Carolina, Texas, Montana, Missouri), and we’ve certainly been involved in many major metro and regional efforts, there a lot more small and mid-sized communities than big ones out there. Therefore, most of our campaigns have been in communities with less than 100,000 in population. We’ve even worked in several communities with less than 10,000 in population! Don’t assume you’re too small to undertake a major funding effort. If the need is there and you have a plan that will provide sufficient value to community stakeholders, a capital campaign is a viable option regardless of the size of your community.
*Question #2: We don’t want to launch a campaign that might fail or not raise enough money to be worthwhile. How do we make sure this is something we can do successfully before taking the plunge?*
Before launching any big fundraising campaign, you should secure a consultant to conduct a feasibility study (sometimes referred to as an opportunity analysis or campaign planning study) to determine what can be accomplished and how best to accomplish it. That process will help you figure out how much money can realistically be raised in a campaign, how long it might take, what your final plans should look like in order to maximize support, what hurdles you’re going to face and how to overcome them, and much more. That’s your due diligence (and ours), but it also results in a road-map for success. The study is a standalone engagement that takes a couple of months or so to complete.
*Question #3: I understand that you raise money for EDOs, but what are some of the other types of nonprofits you work with?*
Many nonprofit organizations are realizing that capital campaigns can be used not just for building needs, but to help them secure the funding needed to move to the next level of growth. That means we actually have an incredibly diverse nonprofit client base in addition to our economic development and chamber clients. In the state of Florida alone, we’re currently doing work for the Cade Museum in Gainesville, Beacon College in Leesburg, the Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach, United Against Poverty in Vero Beach, Jack and Jill Children’s Center in Ft. Laurderdale, Children’s Home Society in Winter Park, iDignity in Orlando, and a statewide project for the Florida Bar Foundation: Florida Justice Technology Center.
From an economic development standpoint, organizations like these are your community assets. We are often brought in to manage capital campaigns for community colleges, hospitals, charter schools, YMCAs, domestic violence shelters, recreation centers… you name it! By positioning them as *investable* community assets, we help these organizations raise the money needed to fuel more valuable outcomes for the constituencies they serve. Having a healthy, vibrant nonprofit community often helps improve your quality of place, so if you know of any organizations in your community that need to raise money, we’d be happy to help!