A capital campaign is an intensive effort done by a nonprofit intending to raise a significant amount of money in a specific period of time. These projects are usually long-term and large-scale, and often correspond to funding a particular project.
For many general fundraising activities, you can employ an easy, online fundraising option and achieve quite a bit of success. However, to pull off the perfect capital campaign, you have to complete a few more planning steps.
We’re going to examine the following tips for conducting a flawless capital campaign:
- Refer to past successes in setting your next goal.
- Include important insiders in campaign decisions.
- Don’t skip crucial planning steps.
- Place a focus on communication.
- Use comprehensive success metrics for evaluation.
Follow along for exploration into strategic nonprofit planning, and how you can best equip your next capital campaign for ultimate success.
1. Refer to past successes in setting your next capital campaign goal.
If you’re planning a capital campaign, you’re most likely doing so to fund a major project of some sort— from constructing a new community center to purchasing a new, expensive piece of equipment.
The projects associated with these campaigns can range up to millions of dollars. However, you shouldn’t simply set your campaign goal based on your project’s price tag.
Instead, consider your nonprofit’s current fundraising capacity when setting the goal of your capital campaign. This capacity refers to the ability of your organization to reach any given fundraising goal given the current resources contained within your community.
Consider your nonprofit’s existing capacity to raise funds by evaluating the following factors:
- The experience and engagement of your board and staff.
- The size and engagement of your supporter community.
- The ultimate goal of the campaign.
At the end of the practice, you should be able to complete the following statement: “We have X resources to raise X amount of dollars for X project.”
If these numbers are lower than you’d like them to be— don’t fret. Capacity-building is a years-long process, with the potential of each successive campaign growing.
2. Include important insiders in campaign decisions.
A capital campaign is a major initiative. Equip your campaign with a solid team to guide its activities, including a dedicated capital campaign director, a planning committee to get things started, and a steering committee to provide maintenance once the campaign gets moving.
Begin your campaign’s planning phase with a planning and feasibility study, during which you interview key stakeholders involved in the campaign such as:
- Your senior executive team.
- Your board members.
- Community leaders, such as elected officials and civil servants.
- Heavily involved supporters, such as major givers.
Interview these stakeholders to determine whether they’re prepared to support your campaign and whether they have faith that your initiative will succeed. This is the point at which key supporters will air any existing doubts about your campaign, ensuring everyone is on the same page going forward.
Keep these stakeholders in the loop throughout the entirety of your campaign, and that doesn’t just mean engaging in board fundraising strategies to reach your goals. Maintain communication with board members, as they need to give the go-ahead on any major campaign spending. Further, keep major givers in the loop to ensure they feel like part of the team.
3. Don’t skip crucial planning steps.
A capital campaign is a long-term process, but if you don’t plan accordingly— that time could go to waste.
After completing your campaign feasibility assessment, continue planning your campaign by gathering key resources that you’ll reference throughout the campaign going forward. These include:
- Fundraising collateral, or the documents used for soliciting gifts and keeping your staff on track. This includes your case statement, solicitation materials, and gift range chart.
- Your prospect list, or the list of potential givers created after a comprehensive examination of your supporter data. Organize these prospects by tiers and identify more prospects than you’ll need in the instance that not all respond.
- Your campaign budget, outlining the financial resources you have to expend on campaign activities such as covering fundraising consultant fees or hosting major supporters to build relationships.
With these resources on hand and a realistic goal set, you can begin raising gifts.
4. Place a focus on communication.
Realize that the majority of your gifts (typically around 80% of your total gifts for most capital campaigns) will come from major supporters. While fundraising collateral will come in handy for communication, personal stewardship— and a perfected fundraising ask— is needed to cultivate and secure these major gifts.
High-impact supporters will want to speak with your top leadership, and your board members and directors need to be prepared for the activity. Provide these major givers with opportunities for all of the following:
- Informal luncheons at your office.
- Educational opportunities regarding your mission.
- Volunteer opportunities to get involved in various projects.
- 1 on 1 meetings with nonprofit leadership.
These conversations deepens supporters’ connection to your cause and increase the likelihood they will give toward your campaign.
To learn more about perfecting the fundraising ask, check out this article by Double the Donation.
5. Use comprehensive success metrics for evaluation.
A good campaign doesn’t just meet your goal. It builds capacity for future campaigns, retains supporters, and grows relationships with those supporters going forward.
You should aim to grow with every campaign, but it’s difficult to do so if you’re not learning from your efforts. Gather data in your nonprofit’s CRM regarding what worked, and what didn’t.
Did you have supporters that didn’t give to your campaign? Did you gain any new supporters? Did you experience givers that were more engaged than expected? Make note of all of this information to fuel future growth.
Consider bringing on a nonprofit fundraising adviser to guide your capacity-building efforts. These consultants work with your organization over a series of years, strategically building your fundraising capacity with each year. If you’re new to the practice, learn more about hiring a nonprofit fundraising consultant in this guide.
Conducting a successful capital campaign is a year-long endeavor, with intricate planning and capacity-building needed to reach your goals.
Incorporate the above insights into your next campaign, and grow through this campaign (and into the one following).
Guest article by Bob Happy of Averill Fundraising Solutions.