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Chrissie Howorth

Education Manager

Maylake Peabody Estate

DuPage County Forest Preserve


During 2009 I received my Certificate in Fundraising Management from the Fund Raising School at Indiana-Purdue University.  This was made possible, in part, because I received a scholarship from WSPN to attend one of the four intensive course modules that focused upon Managing a Capital Campaign.


It is my privilege to work for the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County as the Education Site Manager for Mayslake Peabody Estate, where many WSPN programs are held.   This estate includes the historic Tudor Revival style mansion that was built as the retirement home of the late F.S. Peabody. Mayslake Hall now serves as a unique venue in which we foster the vital connections between people and their heritage through education and cultural enrichment.  With programming ranging from summer camps for at-risk youth and teacher-training to award-winning theater and hands-on historic preservation workshops, we are offering the community the chance to explore and discover their heritage within an inspiring historic environment.


The future of Mayslake is securely protected and fully supported by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.  However, resources are limited and additional support is needed to complete the full restoration of Mayslake Hall, so I was particularly interested in studying this element of my certificate.


This course began with an overview of capital campaign fundamentals in which we established that a capital campaign is a periodic, carefully organized and highly structured program.  Campaigns are volunteer driven and are supported by staff and consultants and they raise funds for a specific need that needs to be met within a specific time frame.  Donors typically make gifts to capital campaigns from their current income, assets and estates and often make pledges that are paid over a period of years. 


Most capital campaigns raise funds for specific tangible projects like new construction or renovation or to cover the cost of equipment purchases.  Endowment campaigns also follow the same process and raise funds to create or add to an organization’s capital investment fund from which income is earned to support programming.  Some campaigns combine these two objectives under one fundraising method.  Some organizations also use this fundraising tool to fund a special project which has a simple, single objective.


During this three day class we learned about the essential practices in capital campaign fundraising.  In capital campaigns, the largest gifts are solicited and committed before smaller gifts are raised.  The quality of volunteers is also critical to the success of this type of campaign with the campaign chairs lead this fundraising effort, serving as visible personification of the campaign.  Campaign volunteers contribute generously to campaigns and work in conjunction with staff to cultivate and rate prospects and solicit donors.


Capital campaigns rely on large gifts to lead the fundraising effort with approximately 10-15 donors raising about half of the goal.  These gifts create excitement and momentum for the campaign.  For the most part capital gifts come from loyal regular donors who make a gift that greatly exceeds what they have given in the past.  An essential element of raising funds for capital projects is that, like major gifts, capital gifts are raised through face-to-face solicitation and are often negotiated through multiple conversations.  Most campaigns also include a pledge period of three to five years.

During this course I learned that like all fundraising, a sound plan is needed that begins with vision and mission, goals and objectives that are met through strong relationships and effective leadership.  I also learned that there are many pieces to the puzzle that need to be in place before an organization embarks upon a fully fledged capital campaign.  I am grateful to have been one of the few participants in this class who had the opportunity to receive this training before beginning a campaign, as the majority of the other participants were in the less rewarding position of learning what they should have done, and largely didn’t.


I would like to take this opportunity to thank WSPN for supporting this professional development opportunity.  I learned a great deal during this intensive class from both the faculty and also the other participants and look forward to applying many of these elements in the future.


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