Planning a Capital Campaign: The Essential First Steps
By Bob Happy on Jan 5, 2018
We all know that capital campaigns are some of your nonprofit’s most ambitious fundraising projects. With a higher fundraising goal and a longer timeline than other campaigns, capital campaigns simply have more on the line for your team to handle.
The key to capital campaign success? It’s absolutely crucial to get the planning process right. With the right plan in place, your capital campaign will be equipped to anticipate potential fundraising failures down the line, as well as empower your team to fundraise effectively.
When planning your capital campaign, keep in mind some of these essential first steps:
Gather your key capital campaign insiders.
Set your preliminary fundraising goal.
Assess your prospect relationships.
Conduct a capital campaign feasibility study.
Finalize your campaign fundraising goal.
Ready to set your capital campaign into motion? Read on to learn more about how your team can make the most of these important steps.
Bonus! Check out Averill Fundraising Solutions’ helpful guide to learn more about planning your capital campaign and setting fundraising goals.
1. Gather your key capital campaign insiders.
Your nonprofit can’t plan a capital campaign without assembling a team of influential voices to oversee the process. As you begin to plan your capital campaign, assemble a task force of key insiders to help shape the campaign as it develops.
Your planning committee should include:
A capital campaign director. This individual should take on the leadership of your capital campaign as their sole focus.
Internal department heads. These would include your executive director, communications chair, and more.
Your nonprofit consultant. Consider an external nonprofit consultant to guide your team through the capital campaign process.
Important stakeholders. Loop in board members, major gift contributors, volunteers, and essential prospects during the planning process.
With this diverse group of voices planning your capital campaign, your nonprofit is sure to gain the necessary perspective you’ll need to ensure fundraising success.
Bonus! If your nonprofit doesn’t yet have someone in line to take on the role of campaign director, your nonprofit consultant can step in as an embedded capital campaign director for the duration of your campaign.
2. Set your preliminary fundraising goal.
Deciding on a capital campaign fundraising goal is an essential part of planning, but it should be accomplished in a two-step process.
The first step? Set a preliminary goal based on past experience, advice of your planning committee, and other factors.
Your capital campaign’s preliminary goal should be a multiple of your last capital campaign’s goal, or of your nonprofit’s annual fund. Additionally, look towards the fundraising goals set for capital campaigns carried out by comparable organizations.
When setting your preliminary capital campaign goal, base it around what you feel you’ll be able to raise, and not around what you might want to raise.
The most important part of capital campaign planning is setting an attainable goal. If you end up being able to raise more down the line, that’s great. But if you fall short of your goal, that could have lasting ramifications for your organization’s reputation among important contributors.
3. Assess your prospect relationships.
After choosing a preliminary fundraising goal, it’s time for your team to determine whether or not you’ve laid the appropriate groundwork with prospects to raise this money.
Without established or dependable prospects aligned for your capital campaign, there’s no way to count on having the right prospects to provide the necessary gifts you’ll need.
Before finalizing your fundraising goal, work with your nonprofit consultant to determine if your team needs to spend more time stewarding capital campaign contributors.
If your nonprofit isn’t ready yet, your consultant can suggest the next steps to take to strengthen your relationships with prospects. You might need to spend several months to a couple of years laying this groundwork, but it’s worth it.
4. Conduct a capital campaign feasibility study.
Your capital campaign’s feasibility study phase is where you’ll finalize your assessment of your readiness to take on a capital campaign.
Led by your nonprofit consultant, your capital campaign’s feasibility study will be your last opportunity to determine whether you have the right components in line behind the scenes to launch your capital campaign.
During this stage, your team will:
Assess data integrity.
Align internal roles and committees.
Plot out a campaign calendar.
Develop a case for support and campaign collateral (like fundraising letters).
Make final readiness assessments.
Bonus! Conducting an in-depth feasibility study is just one strategy for capital campaign success. Check out MobileCause’s list of capital campaign strategies for more ways you can make your campaign count.
5. Finalize your campaign fundraising goal.
Now that your team has made an assessment of your readiness to take on your capital campaign, it’s time to finalize your fundraising goal.
Do you have the right resources in line to reach a lower goal? Can you raise your fundraising benchmark? Working with your nonprofit consultant, determine your final fundraising goal.
With this goal in mind, you can set your gift range chart. Use this tool to plan out your giving levels and assign prospects to gifts. Over the course of your capital campaign, you’ll follow your gift range chart as you make fundraising progress and update it as you receive gifts.
Now that you’ve carefully crafted your capital campaign plan, you’re ready to get started fundraising for this important project. Good luck!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bob Happy
Bob Happy brings nearly 35 years of experience providing expert leadership and direction to clients across the not-for-profit sector to his current role as President of Averill Solutions. Before forming Averill Solutions, Bob served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the nation’s largest fundraising firm. He has mentored hundreds of professional fundraising practitioners and many have joined him at Averill Fundraising Solutions.
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