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Case Study: Center for the Inland Bays, Delaware

Development of a Capital Campaign to Establish an Office and Environmental Education Center (Center for the Inland Bays, Delaware)

The Center for the Inland Bays (CIB), a community-based, non-profit watershed organization, needed a larger office where they could host environmental education events within their watershed. A building was donated by the State, an architect was hired, and a development specialist retained. However, the Center's efforts floundered for several years. What had they missed? They discovered the importance of several critical steps: creating a campaign management plan, writing a case statement, prospecting potential donors, and recruiting a leader to spearhead the campaign.


In 1999, CIB recognized a need to establish a home in the watershed. They formed a building committee charged with identifying and securing a site. The committee had made little progress when, in 2003, CIB was offered a 10 year, no-cost license agreement for a state-owned facility at Delaware Seashore State Park. CIB would be responsible for funding and managing the renovations, as well as any liabilities that occurred.

In 2003, CIB announced its capital campaign and pursued "low-hanging fruit" grants from locally-based corporations, government agencies, and foundations including DuPont, Sussex County, and other small Delaware foundations. They received approximately $175,000 and used these funds to hire an architect, construction manager, and part-time development coordinator. To pursue additional funds, they held a fundraising luncheon for elected officials, developers, and other real-estate interests. Unfortunately, there were no further commitments or financial support!

Photo is the "before" picture of the CIB's facility when it was in the construction phase.At this point, CIB had acquired the facility, obtained some funding, and hired an architect, yet were stymied. With the building falling into disrepair and the campaign stalled, CIB stepped back and realized they had to make some changes quickly!

Stepping Back and Changing Course

CIB hunkered down and did the hard, thankless work required for a successful capital campaign: planning. This included:

  • Conducting a pre-campaign assessment—how was CIB perceived in the community? What was the potential for major support, what was a realistic goal? was leadership and staff ready to do what was necessary for success?
  • Writing a case statement—why should people fund the project? What information did prospective donors need? (Square footage? handicap accessible? budget?)
  • Creating a campaign management plan - what were the tasks/outputs/milestones and timeline for achieving the campaign goal?
  • Prospecting potential donors—who can give? how much? (e.g., past and present Board and staff members, past and present donors, past and present volunteers, foundations, corporations, agencies at various levels of government)

CIB took additional steps to facilitate their progress. They reduced the cost of the building through "value engineering" options (costs came down from $1.24M to $850K), hired a new consultant to develop the campaign, organized a capital campaign committee, recruited an honorary campaign chair (former governor Russ Peterson), and increased media coverage (with a formal announcement of a goal of one million dollars). The new capital campaign committee targeted key individual donors and also requested $600,000 before the legislative bond bill committee (since the facility was state-owned).


Photo is the "after" picture of CIB's facility taken when construction was completed.The results of the new campaign were staggering:

  • Private donations doubled the existing money to $350,000.
  • The general assembly approved a $750,000 bond in 2006, which was $150,000 more than CIB had requested! In fact, CIB was the only nonprofit in the state to obtain bond bill funding that year.
  • They were also able to extend their license to the property to "30 years or practical life."

CIB was able to complete construction and have a donor reception to thank all of their generous supporters for a successful capital campaign.

For more information, please visit Delaware Center for the Inland Bay's Web site at www.inlandbays.org.Exit EPA Disclaimer

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