Are You Really Ready For a Capital Campaign?


What does it take to be really ready for a capital campaign?

Are your board members and leaders chomping at the bit to move quickly?

I hear from some fundraisers that they feel pushed to get going and start asking for lead gifts as soon as possible.

Your smart plan sets up the dominoes so they will fall nicely in place.

Your smart plan sets up the dominoes so they will fall nicely in place..

And the organization may not be READY!  My advice: Slooooowwww down.

There’s lots to do in order to be ready for a capital campaign.

Here are key steps you need to work through BEFORE you launch into the silent phase of your campaign.

1.   Decide your scope.  Exactly what will you be raising money for?

This sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But it’s not.

Do you need a new building? Consider this:

Go ahead and develop a rough schematic well in advance!

Go ahead and develop a rough schematic well in advance!

  • Where will the building be and how much will the land cost?
  • Do you have a simple schematic design?
  • Do you have an idea of what the actual construction (or renovation) will cost?
  • What about the cost of building permits, new furniture, and etc.?

And what other things might you want to include in your campaign objectives?

  • What about endowment?
  • A special building maintenance fund or money for equipment?
  • What about including start-up costs for any new programs?

Identify all the different “funding objectives” or purposes that your campaign might include – well in advance.

2.   Get a rough idea of your capital campaign dollar goal.

Once you have a sense of what you might want to raise money for, you can put some numbers next to each funding objective.

Then you can come up with a “working” campaign goal.

It’s a starting place for your campaign planning.

Go ahead and set a preliminary dollar goal as soon as you can.

Go ahead and set a preliminary “working” goal as soon as you can.

Once you start talking numbers, you’ll find a sweet spot; a number that impresses people but doesn’t make them gasp at your foolishness.

(Now,  a little foolishness is not all that bad.  It’s much easier to come down later than it is to go up, so reach on the high side to start.)

3.     Break down the capital campaign goal by gift amounts.

It’s essential for you to create a Gift Range Chart. This little chart will be a remarkable planning tool for you, and will help you be ready for a capital campaign when the right time comes.

Based on your preliminary working campaign goal, create a chart that will show how many gifts you’ll need of what sizes to reach that goal.

  • How many gifts of $1 million will you need?
  • How many of $500,000? and $250,000?
  • How many in  smaller amounts will you need to cover what your major donors don’t?

Know that a gift range chart for the same goal will vary from organization to organization. Why? Because it really depends on the size of your prospect list and the potential of your largest donors.

4.     Get your board on board.

If you want to be really ready for a capital campaign, make sure your board is well-informed about the prospects and potential for your campaign.

Your board needs to:

  • Understand how capital campaigns work.  Major gift and capital campaign strategy is not always intuitive. Your leaders need to understand that it takes time and a lot of nurturing to close huge gifts.
  • All agree on the campaign objectives.  You can’t go forward if there is dissent about what the campaign will include!
  • Be willing to make the investment in infrastructure that will be required to support the campaign. This money won’t just walk in the door! It takes extra staff, extra events, extra PR, and a ton of work.
Get your board on board with the campaign early!

Get your board on board with the campaign early!

5.    Involve your most important donors in your capital campaign planning.

Many people ask us, “when do we approach our major donors about the campaign?”

We recommend that you engage major donors when your campaign is just an IDEA!

You should involve these donors in the planning process – as your ideas evolve. Let them actually help shape the plan.

You get the idea.

Don’t keep your most important donors at arm’s length through the planning process – instead, use your planning phase to draw them in. The pre-planning phase is a wonderfully exciting time to involve your donor prospects.

Take these steps first and you’ll not only save time and money, but you’ll also have your campaign on the early road to success!