27 Capital Campaign Tips for Success

1. A capital campaign begins and ends with a solid case for support.

When you’re preparing to launch your capital campaign, it’s important to make sure you have a solid case for support. This research will set the tone and give direction as you go through the quiet and public phase. A good case for support will outline your organization’s vision, need, and why this is the right time to launch the campaign for your organization.

2. Don’t skip the Feasibility Study

When you’re just starting out your capital campaign it can be hard to decide if you really need a feasibility study. However, in order to get best gauge on how your organization is perceived and how much support you can expect for your campaign, a feasibility study is essential to your campaign. A good study not only examines your potential market, but also gives you a useful tool to see if your campaign target can be met. Don’t underestimate the power of strategic conversations with your most important donors.

3. Capital campaigns require significant planning.

You and your campaign committee should spend significant time planning your campaign. While most people won’t see the hours spent behind the scenes planning the campaign, you will see your planning efforts pay off when you reach your set milestones on time and within your target dates.

4. Typically, you need a well-cultivated and involved group of existing donors in order for your campaign to succeed

If your donor base can’t sustain the daily operations of your organization, it will be hard to engage them in a successful capital campaign. You need your existing donors to be engaged and well-cultivated for them to see the needs of your organization and give to your campaign.

5. Use your research to set your campaign goal

If you set an unrealistic capital campaign goal, you might be setting your organization up for failure. Use the information you gathered from your feasibility study to set a realistic and attainable goal for your organization.

6. All campaigns need a deadline!

A deadline for your capital campaign creates urgency and gives you and your supporters a common goal. Some organizations will continue their capital campaign until all the funds are raised without a clear end in sight. Setting and meeting deadlines within your capital campaign helps build trust with your supporters and throughout your organization.

7. Social media isn’t created equal. Use each platform for its intended purpose.

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram have all become important in the communication strategies of organizations. Use all the platforms available to communicate about your capital campaign. However, each platform has a unique purpose and style of communication. It may be tempting to create one message and copy and paste it on each platform, but don’t. Tweak your message to be most effective on each platform.

8. Do your supporters know your campaign goals?

Communication is key when you’re running a capital campaign. If your donors don’t know why you’re trying to raise funds, or what they’re going to be used for, they’re not going to support it. Include your campaign goals on your printed materials and on your campaign website for easy access.

9. A gift table/chart can help you plan your campaign

Once you’ve gathered all the information from your feasibility study and understand who your major donors are, it’s time to make a gift table/chart to break down how many gifts you’ll need, and how many potential supporters are in each gift range. If your potential donors don’t match up with your projected need, you might have a problem getting the support you need for your campaign. Good gift tables/charts will have the fewest number of gifts in the largest possible amounts. Refer to your gift table/chart often to make sure you’re staying on target with your capital campaign.

10. Use the right software

Capital campaigns are special projects and your donor database is probably not really equipped to manage your campaign committee tasks, collaborate with your consultant, and quickly generate campaign related statistics and reports. Consider using Above Goal to manage this important project.

11. Don’t rush

Once you’ve completed your feasibility study and have formulated a plan for your campaign, it can be tempting to launch your campaign while you have the momentum of all the research behind you. However, once you have all the information, you should take a moment to gather your team and go over all the details to make sure everything is in place before you officially launch the quiet phase. You only get one chance to launch your campaign!

12. The more you know about your supporters, the more successful your campaign will be.

The donors you’re considering asking for larger amounts should be identified and all the information you have on each prospective supporter should be put in a profile and shared with your team. This will help your team strategize the best approach to ask for support for your campaign. It is also a good way to see if your campaign is the best fit for their goals and interests.

13. There’s no second chance to make a first impression. Kicking off your campaign can set the tone for your entire campaign.

There are many ways to announce your capital campaign. However, it is key to your campaign to have a formal kickoff. The kickoff event bridges the gap between the quiet and public phases of your campaign. This is where your will announce your campaign to the general public, and all the work you did during the quiet phase of the campaign will be on display!

14. Do you know any corporations who align with the vision and goals of your campaign?

While corporate philanthropic donations are declining, it is important to be more strategic about your partnerships. When identifying businesses who might be interested in making a gift, look for a true partnership that can be mutually beneficial. A good start is to identify 5-10 corporations who might be interested in your capital campaign and would benefit from its success.

15. Crowdfunding can give you some new avenues for communicating with your donors.

Crowdfunding has grown in popularity. With the appeal of giving your campaign a unique platform to share your organizations mission, vision, and goals, Crowdfunding also gives you direct access to your supporters. While crowdfunding is not a necessary element of your campaign, it can be a useful tool for organizations to reach out to supporters and potential supports in a creative way, especially during the public phase.

16. Marketing is the face of your campaign.

Part of any successful capital campaign is a strong marketing campaign. Things to include in your marking strategy is a brand and slogan, your kickoff event, printed marketing materials, email marketing, and a social media strategy. Having a cohesive plan for all of these marketing platforms will help your campaign be successful.

17. Optimize online giving

With the convenience of giving online, it is very important to have a web presence for the public phase of your campaign. Your website should have all the important information about the campaign as well as an easy way to donate to your campaign.

18. Explore matched giving

Some organizations will use a larger donation to the campaign as a matched gift during the public phase. Other ways to utilize matched giving is through corporations. Some businesses will match any employee’s giving up to a certain amount. Explore these options as you plan the public phase of your campaign.

19. Grants take some work, but there are many available for capital campaigns.

For many organizations, the money available through grants might not be worth the tedious process of writing them. However, there are hundreds of grants available for capital funding for non-profits.

20. Communicate to your donors often and with purpose

When you’re communicating to your supporters, make sure every tweet, post or brochure that goes out related to your capital campaign has a purpose. Your supporters’ time is valuable, and while they want to know what’s going on, they don’t want to read unnecessary updates.

21. Have a backup plan for your backup plan

In a perfect world, your campaign would go off just how you planned it with no hiccups along the way. However, we definitely don’t live in a perfect world. In the planning phase of your campaign identify potential problems for your campaign and plan accordingly. It’s best to have a few options available in order to make sure all potential issues are covered.

22. Work together for a common goal

When you’re planning a campaign, look to build a team to help with all the planning that goes into your campaign. A team not only helps keep you accountable to following through on all your deadlines and assignments, but also can give you valuable input and insight on prospective donors. Your team should consist of key board members, your development director, the leader of your organization, your campaign, and any other key members who know your organization and can help you reach your goal.

23. Campaign consultants: Will you hire one?

At some point in your capital campaign the topic of hiring a campaign consultant will inevitably enter the conversation. A professional campaign consultant can be an invaluable asset to you campaign. Your ideal consultant will have a balanced mix of expertise and experience from being involved in multiple capital campaigns, and a proven track record. Consultants will also be able to give you an objective opinion on the best course of action as a person who is not involved in the day to day operations of your organization. If you can afford a campaign consultant, they would be a wise investment for your organization and your capital campaign.

24. Keeping things quiet

Your campaign will have multiple phases: The Planning Phase, the Quiet Phase, the Kickoff and the Public Phase. The quiet phase is crucial to your campaign because that’s when you’ll secure the top major gifts for your campaign, and the majority of funds are raised. It is crucial that your campaign stay in the quiet phase until 50 to 70 percent of all your funds are raised. During the quiet phase, who you communicate your campaign to will be targeted and precise instead of widespread.

25. Going public

After you’ve met your goals you set for the quiet phase, it’s time to go public. The public phase of your campaign will extend the reach of your campaign. This phase usually is kicked off with an event, and all your goals and plans are communicated to the community. While the focus during the quiet phase was larger donations, the majority of donations during the quiet phase are smaller. The public phase will end your campaign and your campaign committee will finish any tasks or assignments that were left undone during the quiet phase.

When do you go public?

Technically, you could go public with your campaign at any time. However, the recommended time to enter the public phase of your campaign is when you’ve raised 70% of the support for your campaign. This gives you an attainable goal and momentum when you enter the public phase and gives people the confidence that the project will move forward as planned.

26. Your board is an asset to your campaign

Your board will help your campaign in several ways. Key board members should be on the campaign committee, and your entire board should be involved in the planning. Because you’ll need their approval and support when you’re spending the money you raise, it’s important to have them involved from the start. Your board will also be valuable in helping speak to major donors and asking for major gifts toward your campaign.

27. You need a leader

As with every big project, you’re going to need a leader. For a capital campaign, that person is your Campaign Chair. An important part of any campaign, the Campaign Chair will head the campaign committee as well as be the spokesperson at campaign events and to your supporters and the community. It’s important to choose wisely when choosing a campaign chair. You want someone who is a cheerleader for your organization and has the ability to get others involved.


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