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This year marks the 100 year anniversary of the first capital campaign conducted by Carlton Ketchum, founder of the firm that has evolved and developed through the years to become Pursuant Ketchum. In 1914, Carlton Ketchum along with his brother George were charged with planning and executing a campaign that would help the University of Pittsburgh raise support for a new campus. In just 10 days, the campaign raised over $2.1 Million, an impressive accomplishment even by today’s standards.

While there are definitely new techniques and principles we’ve learned over the years from the changes in culture, technology, and the economy, I was recently reminded that there are some lessons that still hold true, even after 100 years.

One Principle that Still Holds True After 100 Years of Capital Campaigns

After conducting the campaign, Carlton reflected in a book:

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 6.59.19 AM“One of the characteristics of the early college capital fund campaigns was that their planning customarily ignored annual alumni funds if such existed. Campaigners and colleges learned the hard way that this did not pay…The early college fund campaigns, being patterned on those for the [other nonprofit] institutions, were short-term. Since most of them were chiefly local, appealing to the college’s community,this was possible, but as they broadened out, it took a few years experience to demonstrate that a lot more time needed to be allowed for them.”

Carlton Ketchum recognized that a best practice for one organization may not be applicable or transferable to other organizations within the nonprofit sector.

While times have changed, including the environment in which we raise funds and conduct capital campaigns, the fact that nonprofit organizations need a tailor-made plan to achieve capital campaign success still holds true.

Has your organization ever conducted a capital campaign? What are some of the lessons you learned along the way?