Why should an Economic Development Organization (EDO) that has run successful capital campaigns for years seek professional fundraising counsel? How do you get longtime investors to significantly increase their investment level? Our work with Southern Tier Economic Growth (STEG) on three consecutive capital campaigns provides great insight on the benefits of professionally managed capital campaigns.
Southern Tier Economic Growth (STEG) is the primary economic development engine in the Chemung County, NY, region. With a declining population and limited growth in business and industry, the organization realized the importance of a far more aggressive approach to economic development back in 2011. Along with that came a need for a significant increase in funding for STEG, an organization that had been through capital campaigns in the past, but saw a need for a new and more professional approach to support their strategic goals of adding 1500 new jobs and $60 million in increased payroll to the region.
Like many similar organizations, past campaigns had been led by a volunteer board of directors. While these campaigns had been successful, the results had been diminishing to a degree in recent years. Therefore, sticking to the status quo was not something that STEG’s leadership believed would yield the desired results to support such significant goals.
At the core of Convergent’s philosophy is the belief that listening is the key to community-wide engagement. According to George Miner, Former President of STEG, this was one of the many factors that set his experience with Convergent apart from past, volunteer-led capital campaigns. By interviewing dozens of important business leaders during the feasibility study, Convergent was able to educate potential investors about the expected ROI of their investment and solicit their input to ensure they felt like a true part of the initiative.
A common pitfall of volunteer-led capital campaigns is a lack of context regarding appropriate “ask” for investors. This was certainly the case with STEG, and Convergent was highly successful in setting the right level of ask. In fact, several longtime investors increased their level of financial commitment on our first campaign, some by as much as 1900 percent, after meeting with Convergent and understanding the expected ROI associated with the capital campaign.
We have used Convergent on three campaigns. The relationships that we developed make it no issue in terms of using Convergent again based on our very, very good track record of success in the past. These guys are great, what can I say?