For the capital campaign, the purchase goal included preserving the value of Stonefield Farm. The fundraising goal of $4.1 million included not only the full purchase of the 51.5 acres of farmland and conservation land on Stonefield Farm, but also includes the cost of improvements to the site, which are necessary for growing our operational efficiency. BAG worked with Sudbury Valley Trustees, Acton Conservation Trust, and the Town of Action Open Space Committee & Agricultural Commission, to ensure that all agricultural land and open space is protected with an Agricultural Preservation Restriction – which included $1.2 million towards the capital campaign.
The rest of the campaign ($2.9 million USD) was raised through a variety of strategies, in particular using personalized appeals and crowdfunding, as well as cultivation of large donors. The first stage of the project was determining the overall scope of the campaign – calculating the prices needed for the purchase price, what the Town of Acton would in theory be contributing, and what would be needed for renovations and improvements once the purchase was made.
After the $4.1 million goal was set, the Development Team worked to create an appeal. The appeal reached both previous donors and volunteers. This was the first time BAG did a tiered appeal, segmenting the list of people to target with specific messaging relating to their level of giving or volunteering in the past. Folks received follow-up appeals in round two if they did not donate in round one. The appeal was done both on paper and through email, in order to maximize cost effectiveness. The lowest tier (which included people who had not donated previously but had volunteered), or had not donated in the past three years, received emails only because the likelihood of donations was lower. For people who donated recently under a certain amount, they received a generalized appeal, and for people who donated recently above a certain threshold (or regularly for a few years), they received a personalized appeal. The top tier of large donors received a personal note from the Executive Director about their impact.
At the end of the second appeal, the Development Team decided that the next step of the approach would be to create a crowdfunding campaign, using GoFundMe. The goal for the GoFundMe was $86,000. The day after the Acton Town Meeting (June 21, 2021) approved the Agricultural Preservation Restriction, the GoFundMe launched, and within two weeks the GoFundMe had raised the $86,000 towards the purchase of the farm.
By mid-July 2021, the purchase was about two weeks away. The Development Team was in conversations about taking out a mortgage to be able to purchase the farm by the deadline of July 31st when some large donations began rolling in. A few of the larger grants that we had applied for towards the campaign were denied, but as a result a foundation that the Executive Director had been cultivating the donation of for over a year decided to grant us $300,000. That large donation, along with a private family donation of $100,000 put BAG in range to purchase the farm. There was one final appeal for the last $150,000 towards the purchase price of the farm, which was reached a few days before the deadline.
The biggest takeaway from the campaign was that small donations mattered. There were hundreds of individual donors, many of whom were first-time donors to the organization. The median donation size to BAG is $25. This is encouraging for any organization that hopes to take on a large capital campaign. At the beginning of 2021, this project seemed insurmountable, but by August the farm had been purchased, and by November, the capital campaign had reached 97% of the total goal, which is incredible.