If you’re preparing for a capital campaign, then you’re probably becoming more and more aware of how much work goes into planning and running a fundraiser of this magnitude.
If there were ways to increase your campaign’s chances of success, wouldn’t you want to know them?
Well, we’re here to tell you there are ways you can keep your campaign on the right track. We have nine best practices to help you with your capital campaign.
Let’s look at the best practices we’ll cover:
- Hire a capital campaign consultant.
- Perform a feasibility study.
- Engage your board members.
- Assemble a solid leadership team.
- Create a case for support.
- Craft a communications plan.
- Promote matching gifts.
- Ask companies for donations.
- Apply for a challenge grant.
1. Hire a capital campaign consultant.
A consultant can be a valuable asset to your capital campaign. They bring experience, an objective angle and useful strategies that can help you throughout your campaign.
If you’re not already familiar, consultants are advisors that can guide you through the fundraising process.
For instance, a consultant can help you with one of the most important parts of a capital campaign: the feasibility study.
The goal of your study is to gain feedback and see if your capital campaign is achievable. Therefore, it makes sense to have someone outside your nonprofit conduct the interviews. That way, the influential supporters and community members that you choose to survey will give their honest opinions.
Additionally, if this is your first feasibility study, having the guidance of a consultant can help you determine who to interview and how to analyze the results.
Of course, a capital campaign consultant can do more than just conduct your feasibility study. They can offer you additional assistance with:
- Drafting your case for support.
- Training leadership.
- Creating marketing materials.
- Planning your communications strategy.
Consultants can help you with every stage of the capital campaign process, including the stewardship that happens afterward.
Pro Tip: A consultant can be a helpful asset to nonprofits as they start to plan their capital campaign.
2. Perform a feasibility study.
Before you start planning a capital campaign, you need to know whether your project is compelling to stakeholders and your goal is within reach. A feasibility study can tell you both of these things.
Essentially, a feasibility study has two goals:
- To gain feedback and information to guide the project.
- To rouse interest and awareness among key supporters.
During a feasibility study, which is usually conducted through one-on-one interviews or focus groups, participants are asked questions by a third-party representative (like a consultant).
The purpose of the study is to help your nonprofit answer the following questions:
- How much should the nonprofit expect to raise?
- Is the project important to donors?
- What are the common questions donors have about the project?
- Do you have the support of your board and leadership?
Without a feasibility study, you won’t know if there is sufficient interest in your project and a large enough donor base to raise the desired goal.
If you want to conduct a feasibility study (and you should!), you need to figure out who should participate in your study. You should assemble a pool of 10 to 50 diverse viewpoints so you receive well-rounded feedback.
The ideal candidates are people who have influence in the community and have some connection to your nonprofit. For instance, you could ask previous board members, current major gift donors and local business owners.
Pro Tip: A feasibility study helps you determine your project’s potential. Be open to the results because they will help you shape the rest of your capital campaign.
3. Engage your board members.
If you want your capital campaign to be successful, you need the support of your board members. Not only will you need approval from your board before you launch the campaign, but your board of directors may be some of the first supporters to make a contribution.
That’s why it’s important to get your board members excited about the capital campaign.
Capital campaigns don’t happen often, so your board members might not be as familiar with the process or their role as they are with annual fundraising. Plus, capital campaigns often have ambitious goals that can make your board unsure about the success of your campaign.
To get your board members excited about the campaign, you’ll need to do more than just give them the basic details; you need to ensure that your board can imagine successful results.
Making your board a part of the discovery and planning process can help them visualize and understand your campaign’s path to success.
To do so, involve your board and leadership in early conversations about your organization’s specific challenges and potential solutions. For example, if the next logical step in your process is a feasibility study, then share the study’s report and findings, and get members’ buy-in and approval before you move forward.
Likewise, involve members of your standing development and facilities committees to assist with early campaign and project planning.
With this approach, you not only get the benefit of your board’s diverse skills and interests, but you also build familiarity and comfort with the project’s goal and initiatives — so your members are informed and ready to lead. They’ll be excited for the potential of the project and understand their role in raising the dollars to make it reality.
Pro Tip: It’s important to engage your board members because they will play an active role in your campaign. Get them on board early in the planning stage so that you can keep them invested.
4. Assemble a solid leadership team.
Having a strong leadership team for your capital campaign is important because they will be the ones motivating team members, serving as ambassadors for the campaign, soliciting major gifts and ultimately ensuring the success of the campaign.
If you’re looking for the ideal team, here are some qualities you should look for:
- Well-known and respected leaders.
- Individuals with a connection to your organization.
- Individuals who are comfortable with soliciting gifts.
Once you’ve assembled your team, it’s also a good idea to train your leadership so that they’ll be prepared to handle the details of planning a capital campaign.
You can seek the help of a consultant to find and train your leadership candidates.
Pro Tip: Having a leadership team that knows how to handle any obstacles that come their way will be beneficial to your capital campaign.
Bonus: Need help finding the perfect major gift officer to lead your solicitation efforts? Use the four tips in this article to help jump-start your search.
5. Create a case for support.
A case for support, also known as a case statement, is an important step in the capital campaign planning process. Your case for support is a document that will explain your capital campaign and how the funds will be used.
A case for support usually has five key components:
- A brief history of your organization. Give donors background information on your nonprofit that details how it was founded and the reason behind its cause.
- The organization’s services and cause. This is where you can go into more detail about how and whom you serve.
- The organization’s vision for the future. What are your organization’s goals? This is the section where you clearly state what you hope to achieve in the future.
- Reason and need for the project. Is there a specific challenge to creating this vision? Why is the project needed? What problem or list of problems will it solve?
- Explanation of the proposed project. This part of the document details the solution to the problems above — the project. It details the intended outcomes and specifies the campaign goal and project budget. You should be very specific in this section so that donors know how the money will be used.
While it’s important to have all these parts in your case for support, having a well-written document is also paramount. Remember, this will be the key resource for campaign outreach!
Your case for support should grab your reader’s attention with copy that clearly conveys the urgency and need for your project.
Use visuals, branding and formatting to create a document that’s easy to read and understand. Make sure that the information is displayed in a way that is memorable and exciting.
Additionally, keep the language concise and break up information under key headings, so donors can easily scan through the document to find what’s most important.
Pro Tip: Your case for support will play a big role in your capital campaign. Not only will it be a document you give to potential donors, but it will also include information your volunteers can refer to when they solicit donations.
6. Craft a communications plan.
The communications plan is an important part of your capital campaign because it details how you will market and engage with donors at every step in the process.
Capital campaigns have two main phases:
- The quiet phase: In the quiet phase, you’ll reach out to your major donors to obtain the majority of your goal.
- The public phase: During the public phase you’ll launch your campaign to the public to reach the last 30%-50% of your goal.
Since the phases of a capital campaign vary, it’s only logical that your capital campaign will have different communications for each phase.
Let’s go over what your communications plan should include. Here is an outline of how you can craft your plan:
- Set a communications goal and budget.
Set a goal specific to each phase in your capital campaign to direct how you will communicate with donors. Make sure the budget falls in line with the budget for your overall campaign.
- Determine your target audience and overall message for each phase.
Each phase will have a different audience and idea that you want to convey. For example, your quiet phase will target major donors while your public phase will target a larger portion of your donor base.
- Choose your communication channels.
How you decide to reach out to potential donors will depend greatly on what phase in the capital campaign you’re in. For instance, communicating through phone calls and in-person meetings will most likely be the approach you take for the quiet phase.
- Incorporate your brand into campaign marketing materials.
It’s important to have consistent branding on all the visuals and marketing materials that you send or post.
- Create your strategy and write the materials.
Now it’s time to create your marketing materials and map out when everything will be sent or posted on your communications calendar. That way, when it’s time to launch your campaign, you’ll have everything already planned out.
These are just some ideas for creating your communications plan. Feel free to develop it to meet your nonprofit’s needs.
Pro Tip: Creating a communications plan as you prepare for your capital campaign will ensure you’re ready to interact with donors from the very beginning.
7. Promote matching gifts to your donors.
If you want to receive more funds for your campaign, you should also inform donors of matching gifts. Matching gift programs are created by corporations to support the causes their employees care about.
When a donor gives to a nonprofit, they can request that their company match the gift if the nonprofit meets the company’s guidelines. Companies usually match gifts at a 1 for 1 ratio, but some companies match at an even higher ratio.
Many donors don’t know if their company offers a matching gift program. It’s up to your nonprofit to promote them and make it easy for donors to learn about their employers’ matching gift programs.
If you want to promote matching gifts during your capital campaign, here are a few things you should do:
- Add a search tool where donors can find their company’s program on your campaign’s website.
- Include a section about matching gifts on your donation forms.
- Follow up with donors, reminding them about submitting a request.
When donors understand how the matching gift process works, they’ll be more comfortable submitting a request.
Pro Tip: When you promote matching gifts during your capital campaign, you have the potential to double (if not triple) the amount of funds that you can raise with one gift.
8. Ask companies for donations.
In addition to asking for donations from individuals, you can ask local businesses and other corporations to donate to your capital campaign. Large corporations might even offer grants that you can apply for.
Plus, many corporations are often willing to support fundraisers like capital campaigns because it shows their philanthropic side and helps develop connections with the local community.
You may find you can raise a portion of your goal just by asking companies for donations.
Additionally, companies can offer your capital campaign in-kind contributions. Since most campaigns are building-related, a company can donate equipment, supplies, furniture, technology, etc. to help you with your project.
Before you start asking businesses, do some research. Determine the different philanthropic programs that companies offer and research their guidelines.
For instance, some companies may only contribute to specific types of organizations such as educational or health-related nonprofits.
Pro Tip: Asking for donations from local companies is one way to increase your funds and start growing strong partnerships for future campaigns as well.
9. Apply for a challenge grant.
Your capital campaign committee may elect to apply for a challenge grant to gain additional funds.
Some grant-making organizations give funds to qualifying organizations and projects that show they can reach specific financial goals and time frames. The amount that needs to be raised is specified in each challenge.
Grantmakers typically offer challenge grants to specific types of projects or causes, so you’ll need to find one that applies to your organization. Keep in mind that, even if you’re approved for a challenge grant, you will need to meet further requirements to receive funding.
Your nonprofit could be asked to meet the following challenge grant requirements:
- Meet fundraising goals and time frames. The amount of time your nonprofit has to complete the challenge will vary depending on each challenge grant. Some grants may require you to raise a certain amount of funds within a few months while others may give you a year to raise the same number.
- Raise the right types of dollars. Not all of the money you raise may qualify toward your goal. For example, contributions made by individual supporters might be acceptable while donations gained from event tickets may not be considered for the challenge grant.
- Show progress: With some challenge grants, you may need to send updates that show progress toward the goal on a regular basis.
If you want to apply for a challenge grant, research different corporations, foundations or trusts that offer this type of grant. Make sure you’re familiar with all of the requirements before you agree to the challenge. That way, you’ll have a better chance of accomplishing your goal.
Pro Tip: Since you’re already putting a ton of effort into your capital campaign, it makes sense to apply for a challenge grant to leverage your work and raise even more funds.
With these best practices, you can spread more awareness about your campaign and raise more funds for your project. Good luck fundraising!
- Capital Campaigns: The Ultimate Guide: If you need to brush up on all things capital campaign-related, check out our comprehensive guide to the ins and outs of capital campaigns!
- Planning Your Next Capital Campaign: 9 Steps to Success: Take a look at our list of 9 handy tips and tricks to planning a successful capital campaign.
- 12 Essential Tips When Hiring a Fundraising Consultant: Thinking about bringing on a consultant to help you with your capital campaign? Make sure to read our list of considerations as you’re searching for your consultant!