11 Questions and Answers About Capital Campaigns

Back to Basics

If you’re new capital campaign planning, we understand that sometimes researching information on campaigns can feel like you’re reading a different language with all the terminology. In this article, we have put together some answers to come common questions to get you on your way to learning the lingo.

What is a Capital Campaign?

When you have a large amount of money to raise, most organizations will plan a capital campaign to reach their fundraising goals. But what’s the exact definition of a capital campaign?

A capital campaign is fundraising plan with a set timeline, goals, and a deadline. While capital campaigns can be used to raise funds for almost anything, they are most commonly used to raise funds for building new facilities or renovating existing facilities.

What is a Feasibility Study?

Before you begin your capital campaign, your organization may want to have a feasibility study done in order to gauge the potential success of your campaign. Through conducting information-gathering interviews with board members and key potential donors, feasibility studies can be conducted by your organization or you can hire an outside campaign consultant or firm. With either an internal study or using an external firm, a feasibility is key to planning and the success of your campaign.

What is a Campaign Committee?

Your campaign committee is central to the capital campaign. The campaign committee is usually comprised of a group of 4 or 5 members who will plan and provide central support for the campaign. Common members of your campaign committee will include the organization’s board chair, the executive director or head of the organization, the development director (if you have one), and possibly a couple interested volunteers or other board members.

What’s a Capital Campaign Timeline?

One of the most important tasks of the capital campaign committee is putting together a timeline for your campaign. Planning a capital campaign can be huge task, and a timeline can help to keep everything on track. Your timeline should be put together by your capital campaign committee or your outside fundraising consultant if you choose to use one. The timeline should also include important fundraising goals and milestones for your campaign, your spending plan, dates for your quiet phase and public phase, and your donor follow-up plan. Every capital campaign is different, so make sure your timeline meets your organization’s goals.

What is a Contingency Plan?

Just in case things don’t go quite as you planned with your capital campaign it’s a good idea to have a contingency plan in place for your campaign. A comprehensive contingency plan is a document that will address what to do when problems arise with the campaign, such as missed deadlines, one of your committee members can’t fulfill their duties, or a major gift falls through. Its important to expect the unexpected when it comes to capital campaigns.

What’s a Gift Range Chart?

Your capital campaign committee or campaign consultant should formulate a Gift Range Chart for your campaign. This chart acts as a general outline for the number of gifts you’ll need of designated monetary amounts needed to reach your campaign goal. In addition to how many donations you’ll need per gift, your campaign committee or consultant will also list how many potential donors there are per gift. The larger the gift, the less number of donations and potential prospective donors you will have on the chart. In order for the chart to be the most accurate it can be, it should use information gleaned from your feasibility study.

What is a Campaign Consultant?

A campaign consultant is a professional who is an expert at setting up and running capital campaigns. The campaign consultant can be used in two ways. They can either serve on an as-needed basis such as to perform a feasibility study or work with the campaign committee in more of a project manager role to run the day-to-day operations of a campaign. The capital campaign committee should decide how and if they want to use a campaign consultant for their campaign.

What’s a Major Gift?

A major gift to your capital campaign is a larger donation given to your capital campaign. Major gifts are usually solicited during the quiet phase of your capital campaign and will make up more than 50% of your capital campaign’s total fundraising goal. Donors who give major gifts to your campaign not only can give a larger monetary gift, but also believe in the mission and vision of your capital campaign. If done well, your feasibility study should help identify those capable of making a major gift to your campaign.

What is a Campaign Slogan?

When launching your capital campaign, it should have a slogan that represents your overall theme for your campaign. Your campaign consultant should have resources available such as a marketing firm to help you develop a slogan that is not only memorable, but also correctly conveys the importance and vision of your campaign. Of course, if your campaign committee is up for the task, they may also have ideas for the slogan should be. When the slogan is agreed upon, all the marketing materials for the campaign should convey the campaign slogan to keep the message of the campaign consistent to prospective donors.

What is the Quiet Phase?

The quiet phase of the campaign is the period of the capital campaign when your campaign committee or consultant will focus on soliciting major gifts for your campaign. The time range varies for this phase, but the average time frame is one year. The quiet phase is crucial to your campaign. Depending on your campaign goals, up to 70% of your funds will be raised during this phase.

What is the Public Phase?

After you kick off your campaign and have secured your major gifts during the quiet phase of your campaign, it’s time to launch the public phase. During the public phase of the campaign, you’ll communicate your vision and goals for the capital campaign to the community. During this phase, smaller gifts are solicited from donors and the remainder of the funds are raised. During this phase, follow up and donor recognition are important to make sure every donation is recognized and given the thanks it deserves.

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