North Texas Command Capital Campaign to raise record amount

May 8, 2023 | by Brad Rowland

North Texas Command Capital Campaign to raise record amount

By: Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee

In a fundraising effort that breaks all previous records in the 133 countries where The Salvation Army serves, the North Texas Area Command has been busy raising funds to meet its goal of a $159.2 million capital campaign. The amount smashes through the previous record of $100 million raised by The Salvation Army in Orange County, California.

The campaign focuses exclusively on the needs of the Army in the Dallas County, only one county of what comprises the North Texas Area Command. Subsequent campaigns are being planned for the other counties when the Dallas County campaign is complete.

Projects slated to be addressed are as follows:

  • $7.4 million – Program Enhancement
  • $6.1 million – Oak Cliff Corps renovations and improvements
  • $3.3 million – Irving Corps renovations and improvements
  • $3.2 million – Garland Corps renovations and improvements
  • $5.6 million – Adult Rehabilitation Center renovation and improvements
  • $548,000 – Christmas and disaster warehouse improvements
  • $10 million – Endowment for property upkeep
  • $123.1 million – Social Service center (replacing Carr P. Collins Center)

Mobilizing for any capital campaign is a daunting process but even more so with such a challenging goal addressing such a wide array of needs. Several key elements have been engaged to ensure success.

Salvation Army Mission and Heritage

In interviewing a number of advisory board members, repeatedly the evangelistic message of The Salvation Army was cited for a reason they became involved. Advisory board member Michal Powell said she was attracted to the Army because it was "faith based and intentional, humble and very hands-on." Another board member, Shellie Sills, shared, "What The Salvation Army does is based on faith. As a Christian woman who teaches a Bible study, it's an alignment of both the passions in my life. When people see it, they see the hands and feet of Christ. It makes them realize what God's love is." Another board member, Preston McAfee spoke of "the spiritual aspect, how important it is in what we do. It feels like a higher calling to me, to be involved is more special."

Christina Cavalier, the senior director for community relations at area command, said that to most donors, "especially those who are giving at a high level, it is important that we integrate faith with social service work." The professional fundraising team M. Gale and Associates, share that one of the strengths in working with The Salvation Army is "its brand and its faith with its loyal service to the community for all these years."

Vision of Advisory Board and Salvation Army Staff

For many years, the North Texas Area Command Advisory Board has been one of the strongest in the country. To be asked to serve is an honor not only because of the high caliber of board members but because they are deeply engaged in the work and ministry of The Salvation Army. The board is no place for benchwarmers—to be on the board means that the person will work and likely be stretched in doing so.

In preparation for the capital campaign, the board worked with the officers and staff to develop a long-term strategic plan that would set priorities and provide guidance while keeping in mind the inevitable change of personnel and local developments. Early on it was seen that a series of capital campaigns would need to be implemented.

Part of that was done when Bernie DiFiore who previously served as the advisory board chairman. "I decided we need to get an elevator speech and we need to get something that everybody on the board at least knows. So we came up with the three key elements of what we were trying to address in our area: poverty, addiction and homelessness." Board members learned this so well that when making presentations they could easily bring it into the conversation. While I was there, the three key needs were repeated to me by the officers, staff and board members so often that I had it memorized.

The other key element was to look at the community and see who else was offering services to people and rather than competing with those organizations, to work to see how the Army could cooperate or even provide a space for them to operate within Salvation Army facilities. This spirit of cooperation not only made Army service more comprehensive but was extremely appealing to the advisory board and donors.

More Groundwork

The process was not quick, but it was thorough. In order to understand the needs, an inventory of all Salvation Army properties and programs was undertaken to make sure that the Army would neither understate nor overstate the needs and how they would be addressed. They realized quickly that it would be better to localize the campaigns. Because of the critical situation faced by the Carr P. Collins Center (see next month's issue), Dallas County came to the forefront.

A feasibility study was then conducted to gauge whether or not the Army could raise the funds needed. It answered such key questions as:

  • What did the community see as the greatest human service needs?
  • What did professionals see as needs that were emerging and would have to be addressed more aggressively?
  • How had the pandemic shaped how the Army should design its future service?
  • How aware were donors of the scope and magnitude of Salvation Army service?
  • What was the level of financial commitment a donor was willing to give?

Approach to Major Donors

Prior to the campaign going public, which is planned for April 2024, a "quiet" campaign has been and is being conducted to solicit major gifts so that a majority of the projected goal is already in hand. Not only does that provide for financial stability but it lets potential donors know that this is not something that will collapse under its own weight but will indeed be seen through until all the projects involved are successfully completed.

Advisory board members with staff support are expected to make the approach to individual donors. Talking about how he personally handles this challenge, Bernie DiFiore shared, "First, I'd know you either personally or I'd know a lot about you because I would have done my research. Pick something, anything you're interested in and I will spin around that. If you're interested in children, I would start, ‘Here's what we do with children.' If you're interested in arts, ‘Here's what we do with arts.' I wouldn't just cold call. It takes serious forethought."

Each board member has committed his or her gift, oftentimes the largest gift they have ever given to any organization and sometimes one that is a stretch for them. That allows them to have integrity when approaching someone else.

DiFiore provides additional guidance. "Raise the bar. Whatever you were thinking before, raise the bar." In other words, decide what a donor can give and then ask for more than that. It is a bold and surprisingly successful strategy. All I talked to admitted that they found this the hardest and most nerve-wracking part of what they do but, keeping in mind what the money will build and the way it will make impact on the poorest and most disadvantaged in their community, they swallow hard and do it.

What’s Next?

Since the original cost estimates were made, there have been substantial increases in the cost of building goods and labor. Although those have started to moderate, the whole project will need to be priced out again. Nonetheless, the board remains optimistic that the goal will not only be achieved but exceeded, offsetting concerns about increased costs.

"The public campaign will be launched with the groundbreaking ceremonies at the new social services campus, anticipated to be in April 2024," said Major Paul McFarland, area commander. "At that time we will share the full vision of the campaign, project goals and fundraising progress to date with the general public. An invitation will be given to participate in support of this inspiring vision."

It is anticipated that by the time of the public campaign 70-75% of the overall goal will be in hand or committed. Beyond the wider campaign to the public, approaches to foundations are largely unfinished because of the amount of extra work and answers to specific questions the individual foundations require.

Other Benefits

A repeated sentiment was that this campaign will not only benefit the people of the North Texas Area Command, but it will serve as an example and template for other Salvation Army operations in the United States and beyond. The very scope of the goal is enough to challenge communities to ask what their true potential for fundraising might be given the community needs they are addressing.

As has happened with innumerable capital campaigns, the follow on over years to come includes the community knowing more about The Salvation Army mission and work and with that knowledge, increased support follows. Not only is this seen in regular fundraising such as mail appeals and kettles but in planned giving instruments such as wills, annuities and other estate giving.

We will watch with interest as this campaign unfolds. Additional details will follow in June, where we will share the expansion of traditional services and the innovative approaches being implemented as The Salvation Army continues to serve.

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