As a nonprofit professional, you understand that a lot goes into planning a fundraising campaign—from building out a communication cadence and marketing plan to assembling and training your fundraising team. However, a capital campaign takes the cake as the most time- and resource-intensive fundraiser, often taking nonprofits years to plan and execute.
Unlike your standard fundraising campaign, capital campaigns aim to fund high-cost strategic initiatives, such as the construction of a new building, and their fundraising goals can reach into the millions. If you’re considering a capital campaign, your nonprofit needs to take ample time to ensure you’re ready, followed by several months of planning before taking your campaign live.
To kickstart your capital campaign planning and stay on track to meeting your goals, use these essential strategies:
With a well-designed capital campaign plan, your nonprofit will not only raise significant funds, but will also form stronger relationships with donors and increase awareness of your mission in the community. Let’s begin.
Hire a capital campaign consultant
While gearing up for a capital campaign is an intensive and lengthy process, you don’t have to go through it alone. An experienced capital campaign consultant can bring a fresh perspective to your fundraising strategy and identify ways to strengthen your internal operations so you can prepare for and lead a capital campaign.
Look for a trusted capital campaign consultant that can provide assistance with:
- Leading your feasibility study to assess whether your capital campaign is viable and how your organization can adjust its strategies to maximize success
- Drafting your case for support, which will be shared with your entire donor base to increase awareness, boost engagement and inspire giving
- Training your fundraising team to preside over committees, steward donors, solicit gifts and more
- Honing your fundraising plan so your goal, budget and timeline are reasonable based on your organization’s current state and what you’re hoping to accomplish
- Planning campaign communications throughout the quiet and public phase for soliciting gifts and thanking donors once they’ve given
Preparing for a capital campaign can quickly become stressful, especially if it’s your nonprofit’s first time jumping into a fundraiser of this magnitude. A consultant can ease your stress and smoothly navigate your nonprofit through every phase of the capital campaign process. Do your research to find an expert consulting firm that can meet your nonprofit’s unique needs.
Conduct a feasibility study
A feasibility study is a critical step in the capital campaign planning process that serves two purposes: assessing whether your project has the support it needs to succeed and generating early support for your campaign among key stakeholders. This process consists of conducting interviews with stakeholders to collect their opinions and suggestions about your:
- Project purpose
- Project messaging
- Organization’s reputation
- Financial sustainability of your project
- Project timing
- Fundraising goal
While it might be tempting to conduct your feasibility study in-house and save funds, this can actually jeopardize the results of your study. This is because stakeholders are much more likely to give biased answers based on what a member of your organization wants to hear, rather than what interviewees actually believe.
Instead, seek third-party assistance from a capital campaign consulting firm. Stakeholders will be much more comfortable voicing their ideas and genuine concerns with a third-party representative. Plus, a consultant can strategically approach the feasibility study with targeted questions that will benefit your organization and, once the interviews are concluded, accurately present their findings.
If your consultant gives the go-ahead to move forward with your capital campaign, you can work together to solidify your case for support, fundraising goal and timeline for leading your campaign. If your consultant recommends that you do not move forward, heed this advice and formulate a plan to implement more sustainable habits so you can tackle a similar project in the future.
Assemble your team
To make your capital campaign as seamless as possible, you’ll need all hands on deck. Not only do you need the invaluable assistance of a consultant, but your nonprofit will also benefit from the backing of a motivated and skilled team.
Your capital campaign team should consist of the following members:
- Board members: Your board will approve your fundraising plan before you begin executing your campaign and will ensure the campaign stays on budget. Plus, you should empower board members to help with identifying major donor prospects and leading donor stewardship activities to secure their support. Board members should also make a contribution to your campaign to kickstart your fundraising efforts.
- Staff: Key staff members, like your development director and major gifts coordinator, are essential to the success of your campaign. They’ll be able to help with day-to-day planning tasks and provide expertise to guide your decisions.
- Volunteers: Volunteers are devoted to your cause and will be eager to help bring your capital campaign to life. Enlist them to help with a variety of tasks based on your organization’s needs, like soliciting donations or leading committees. Remember to thank your volunteers for their hard work so you can retain their support.
- Campaign chair(s): Campaign chairs will help direct your volunteers and committees, and attend monthly meetings to check in on how your campaign is progressing.
- Planning committee: The planning committee should be made up of 10 to 15 members, including your staff and volunteers. They’ll be tasked with making sure your organization is ready to start the quiet phase, and their responsibilities will include reviewing your donor lists and finalizing the case for support.
- Steering committee: The steering committee will navigate your capital campaign through the quiet phase and help solicit donations and advocate for your organization.
To ensure everyone is on the same page, provide training sessions to familiarize your members with their roles and responsibilities. Be sure to cover relevant deadlines, technical guidance if members will need to access your CRM or fundraising software, communication guidelines and any other necessary information.
Providing your team members with everything they need to be successful in their roles will help increase the success of your campaign as a whole. If you’re not sure how to lead effective training sessions, work with an experienced capital campaign consultant to help prepare your team members and orient them to best practices.
Armed with a comprehensive capital campaign plan, your nonprofit can confidently take on a large-scale fundraiser and push your goals forward. These tips will help you get started on leading your campaign, but be sure to take ample time to confirm every element of your campaign is well-thought out and prepared—from your communications plan to your solicitation strategies. A trusted consultant can help you from start to finish with this process.