3 Ways to Engage Your Major Donors Early in Capital Campaign Planning


There are so many benefits to engaging major donors early in capital campaign plans.  We like to organize discussions with key donors while the potential campaign is only a Big Idea. It’s our favorite way to cultivate and engage campaign prospects.  These early discussions can serve as the first step in a full-scale cultivation plan for a major, lead gift. And, it’s easy to engage major prospects at this point in time.  This is because, when you engage prospects in planning discussions, you are not asking for anything but their advice and best ideas.  You honor your donors by asking for their opinions and thoughts instead of their money.  Here’s why we recommend this strategy for all our campaign clients: 

Planning discussions encourage your major donors’ curiosity.

This is because leaders in every community usually like to be in the know. If you are located in a city or close-knit region, you’ll find that philanthropic leaders in your area all talk to each other.  The corporate, foundation, social and governmental leaders usually see each other frequently. You’d be surprised at how much information flows among this group of people, who can probably make anything happen in your community. 

You want to have the right people talking positively about your proposed capital campaign. 

Let your major prospects have some fun brainstorming your future path.  Just think, when you are involved in strategizing about possibilities, it’s enjoyable. You are living in a state of possibility, and potential. Strategy discussions are almost always fun.  This is where you want to engage your hoped-for gift prospects for the campaign. You’re honoring them by asking them to help you think through your plans. When a potential lead donor completely buys into your idea and vision, the path is also completely open to their mega gift. 

Get their buy-in early for your proposed capital campaign.

Again, these steps help you line up your top gifts early. With a group of major donors all on board, the success of your planned capital campaign will be assured.  You’ll be out of the starting gate, already with lead gifts in hand, or almost in hand. 

3 steps to engage your major donors early in your capital campaign plans. 

  1. Create a list of the 25 people whose commitments will be critical to the success of your campaign.  You and your leaders should consider this a top priority.
  2. Brainstorm the various ways you might involve them in planning activities.

Consider inviting them to participate in a planning meeting, serve on a Campaign Planning Committee, review a draft of the plan, participate in a focus group, or simply give you advice and information about your fundraising prospects. 

  1. Next, develop a plan for involving those top 25 folks.

You don’t want The Ask or a Feasibility Study interview to be the first time they learn about your project.  As you involve them in your capital campaign plans and discussions, you’ll know what aspect of the proposed campaign most interests them. Then, it’s easy to continue to engage them in the area of the campaign they are most enthusiastic about.  With these 25 lead prospects already interested, excited and possibly discussing their participation, then you are well underway to a successful capital campaign. 

Bottom Line: Capital Campaign Planning is a special time. Use it as a cultivation tool for your lead gifts.

Getting your major donor prospects thinking, talking, and planning with you just about assures their buy-in into the campaign. As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies.  If your organization is planning a capital campaign or expanding your major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.