Capital Campaigns: The Ultimate Guide

Learn about capital campaigns and how you can plan one.

The Basics

What is a capital campaign?

A capital campaign is an intense effort undertaken by a nonprofit organization to raise a specific dollar amount within a defined period of time. The purpose of a capital campaign is to fund a high-cost strategic initiative such as a capital project.

Because capital campaigns are commonly used to raise funds for tangible projects such as building renovation and construction, their goals often reach into the millions and require multiple years to achieve.

Capital campaigns usually consist of two different phases: the quiet phase and the public phase.

How are capital campaigns different from other fundraising efforts?

Capital campaigns are different from other fundraising efforts for a few key reasons.

They are large, setting big goals for big projects. They last multiple years, from the first planning meeting to dedication of the donor wall. 

Finally, they provide opportunities to reach out to potential and current donors in order to engage them or increase their giving. Many nonprofits use capital campaigns as a platform to increase awareness of their mission within the community.

Additionally, capital campaigns are unique because of the distinct phases that dictate when to reach out to specific types of donors. 

What are capital campaigns used for?

Nonprofits use capital campaigns to fund costly strategic initiatives, usually tangible projects such as building renovations, new construction and the purchase of equipment.

While healthcare and educational institutions often launch the most ambitious projects, any nonprofit can conduct a successful capital campaign with solid planning and execution.

What is a case for support?

The case for support (also known as the case statement) is the most important tool in your organization’s fundraising toolbox. This is because it provides a clear, concise overview of why your organization exists and why it deserves donor support.

The case for support is even more important during a capital campaign. Nonprofits that clearly articulate their impacts, needs and plans in a donor-centric format are most likely to meet their campaign goals.

Your capital campaign’s case for support must detail your fundraising goal and include specifics about how the money will be used toward specific impacts.

One of the first things you should do when planning a capital campaign is put your case for support in writing. Create a branded case brochure that includes all of the information prospective donors need in a professional, useful package.

Plan a Successful Capital Campaign

Download our capital campaign checklist!

Planning a Capital Campaign

Understanding the Capital Campaign Timeline

Phase 1: Feasibility Stage

During the feasibility stage, your nonprofit will gather the information and feedback needed to plan a capital campaign. You will create and test your case for support, conduct a feasibility study and set a campaign goal.

By the end of this stage, you will have the results of your feasibility study and know how much you can potentially raise for your campaign.

Phase 2: Pre-Campaign Planning

The pre-campaign planning phase is when you’ll create your campaign’s strategy and create a list of major gift prospects. During this phase, you’ll also secure and train your leadership and create a gift range chart.

You’ll know you’re done with the pre-campaign planning stage when you’re ready to start asking for major gifts!

Phase 3: Quiet Phase

After all that training and preparing, you’re ready for the quiet phase. This phase is where you focus on securing donations from your major gift donors. During this phase, it’s crucial to keep your volunteers focused and maintain momentum.

You’ve reached the end of the quiet phase when you have 50-70% of your goal.

Phase 4: Kickoff

The kickoff marks the launch of your campaign to the general public. After quietly courting donations from your major gift donors, it’s time to make it public! Host a press conference and throw an event to announce your campaign.

Once you launch your campaign and raise awareness, you can move on to the public phase.

Phase 5: Public Phase

With the launch of the campaign, you have officially moved on to the public phase! Now is the time to reach out to your entire donor base and the community at large for support. Take advantage of all opportunities to raise awareness for your organization’s mission within the community.

Keep the launch excitement going with earned media coverage, Rotary presentations and more one-on-one meetings with key friends and community leaders.

At the end of the public phase, you’ll have reached your goal and can celebrate your success!

Phase 6: Stewardship

Donor recognition and stewardship is a key part of your capital campaign. As you wrap up the campaign, continue to update donors and thank them for their contributions.

Loop donors into post-campaign outreach and annual giving opportunities. Keep the campaign momentum going by cultivating new donors and your mission’s higher profile in the community.

These efforts will help build strong relationships with people who care about your mission and believe in your nonprofit’s ability to make change, leading them to be long-term supporters of your cause.

Stewardship is an ongoing process. Acknowledge all donors who have supported your campaign and stay connected with them after it’s over!

Hiring a Capital Campaign Consultant

Why should you hire a consultant?

Capital campaigns are large-scale fundraising efforts, and you don’t have to conduct one on your own.

Hiring a consultant can help ease some of the stress that comes with planning and executing a capital campaign.

A consultant can guide and advise you through every phase of the process from start to finish.

Additionally, a capital campaign consultant can help you conduct a feasibility study and establish a strategy for your campaign.

What kind of help do you need?

Create a list of the areas where you want help and prioritize them. That way, you can find a consultant that meets your needs.

For example, a consultant can:

  • Create a fundraising strategy.
  • Train your leadership team.
  • Write a case for support.
  • And much more!

Once you determine your needs and concerns, start your search for the right capital campaign consultant.

What kind of relationship is important to you?

It’s important to think about what kind of relationship you’d like with your consultant.

Do you want someone to help with every step of the process? Or just assist with a few key tasks?

Is it important to have someone nearby who can meet with you in-person? Or are you open to working remotely with someone you can trust?

It’s up to you to determine what relationship you want with your consultant and to establish those expectations early on.

Perform a Feasibility Study

What is a feasibility study?

A feasibility study is an effort undertaken to test the potential support for a project by an organization’s stakeholders. The goals are two-fold: to gather feedback and information to guide the project while creating early support and awareness among key parties.

Feasibility studies are conducted through one-on-one meetings and focus groups, during which an objective third-party representative asks concise, engaging questions to elicit perceptions of an organization and its project.

A feasibility study is a must! Organizations that are committed to this investment develop realistic goals and stronger cases for support.  As a result, they have a greater likelihood of reaching – and often exceeding – their financial goals.

How do you conduct a feasibility study?

Consider hiring a consultant to conduct your feasibility study. With a proven, third-party professional performing the study, you’ll get more honest opinions from your interviewees.

Additionally, you’ll need to choose people to participate that either have a history with your organization or represent the community’s interests. These stakeholders should include former board members, key volunteers and local leaders.

A feasibility study can help you answer the following questions:


Do I have a large enough donor base to support my goal?


Does the project make sense and offer a concrete solution?


Do I have the support of my board of directors?


How much should we expect to raise?


Is now the right time to host a capital campaign?


What questions do potential donors have about the project?


Who are potential major gift prospects/campaign leaders?

Capital Campaign Team Members


Board Members

What is their role? Your board members will make sure the campaign stays on budget. To show their support, every member should make a gift to the campaign.

Why are they important? Not only do you need the board’s approval to execute your campaign, but you also need their help to identify major donors and meet with these supporters to secure contributions. 



What is their role? To run a capital campaign, you’ll need the assistance of your prospect researcher, major gifts coordinator and other staff members. They’ll help with the day-to-day tasks of planning a campaign.

Why are they important? Your staff can bring their expertise to the table and help you out with various parts of the capital campaign. 



What is their role? Many of your team members will be volunteers of some sort. Their responsibilities could vary from leading a committee to soliciting gifts.

Why are they important? Volunteers make up the backbone of your capital campaign. They provide you with skills, leadership and the manpower to help your campaign succeed. 


Campaign Chair(s)

What is their role? This position may be assigned to a single person or many people to lead different areas of the campaign. Campaign chairs attend monthly meetings and ensure the success of the campaign. 

Why are they important? The campaign chairs lead committees and direct your volunteers throughout the campaign.


Planning Committee

What is their role? Typically, this committee will consist of 10 to 15 members including staff and volunteers. They’ll help plan the capital campaign by reviewing your gift range chart, case for support and donor lists.

Why are they important? The planning committee makes sure that everything is in order to move onto the quiet phase. 


Steering Committee

What is their role? The steering committee will oversee the campaign once you’re in the quiet phase. There may be some overlap between the steering and planning committees.

Why are they important? The members of the steering committee will be the most effective solicitors and advocates for your capital campaign. 

Plan the Perfect Capital Campaign

Download our capital campaign checklist!

Communications for Capital Campaigns

Case for Support


Why is a case for support important?

A case for support is a clear, concise overview of your organization and project, and why they deserve donor support.  It’s a persuasive document written to help donors understand how their investment in your organization will be used to make a difference.

Since your statement is for your potential supporters, it needs to be specific and cover all the questions that donors might have about your capital campaign. It should convey a sense of urgency that will help donors understand the importance of your project.

How is a case for support used?

A case for support is used to persuade donors to give and, in written form, can serve as the foundation for all other marketing materials. 

Additionally, the information inside your case for support can inspire and help you enlist your leadership team.

Your case for support can be used in a variety of ways throughout your campaign and even after it.

Campaign Branding

Why is branding important?

Branding conveys your fundraising message and helps make your capital campaign memorable. Campaign branding should be included in every part of your campaign.


do you need a Campaign slogan?

Capital campaign slogans (also called taglines) are short, catchy phrases that communicate your campaign’s message. Your slogan should be self-explanatory and memorable.

Having a slogan is important because it will help differentiate the campaign’s purpose from your nonprofit’s other fundraising endeavors.

While your slogan may seem like just a small part of your campaign, it’s essential if you want to raise awareness and quickly explain why you need the funds.

Communication Plan

Creating a communication plan is important because it will help you determine how you’ll interact with donors. Your communications plan will map out when you solicit donations and how you’ll thank and update donors after they’ve given.

We’ll go over the steps to create your communication plan and some best practices to use when communicating with donors during the quiet and public phase.

Here are the steps to create your communications plan.


Step 1: Set a goal for how you hope to communicate with supporters.


Step 2: Determine your target audience and message.


Step 3: Brainstorm strategies for how to interact with donors.


Step 4: Choose what channels you will use to engage donors.


Step 5: Use information in your case for support to write solicitation letters, posts, tweets, articles, downloadable resources, etc.


Step 6: Create a schedule for when you’ll send out your communications.


Step 7: Incorporate your capital campaign’s brand on all your materials.

Communications During the Quiet Phase

Since the quiet phase is a sensitive stage in your campaign where you ask for major gifts, having in-person meetings with donors is crucial. 

Meetings give you the opportunity to share your passion for the cause with prospects and immediately answer their questions. 

Have one of your board members or leadership initiate the meeting. They may already have an existing relationship with the prospect and can answer more project-based questions.

Communications During the Public Phase

The public phase is when you’ll launch your capital campaign to the community and the rest of your donors. With the public phase, you don’t have to be discreet about promoting your campaign.

You can post on your social media accounts, send out email newsletters and mail solicitation letters to encourage donors to give.

Use a variety of channels to spread the word about your campaign and provide your case for support in different formats to persuade potential donors to give.

Other Marketing Materials

Pledge Cards

What are they for? A pledge card is a small document that you can send to supporters asking for donations. It should briefly explain the campaign and how a supporter can contribute.

What should they include? Your card should match your campaign’s brand and have information on how a donor can give. Include a space for the donor’s name, contact information, donation amount and payment schedule.


What is it for? To keep your capital campaign separate from your other fundraising efforts, consider creating a website or a dedicated page just for the campaign. You can send donors directly to your campaign’s website/page to learn more.

What should it include? Your website/page should have information about your project, a form for donors to give online and any event registration. Make sure to include your slogan in a prominent location.



What are they for? Your nonprofit can use letters to communicate with your supporters and ask for donations. A well-crafted appeal letter is a way to reach out to your donors during the quiet and public phases of your campaign.

What should they include? In your letters, explain why your project is needed, what it includes and how the donor’s gift can make a difference. Thank donors in advance. Along with your letter, send your case for support that further describes the project.

Case for support Brochures

What are they for? Case for support brochures provide donors with information about your mission, project and capital campaign in a format that is easy to use. You can hand out brochures during your fundraising events or mail them to potential supporters.

What should they include? Case brochures should include an “ask” and provide details about how to give, including contact information. Some brochures include pockets for holding giving envelopes or pledge cards, and one-page inserts listing giving levels, dedication opportunities and names of campaign leaders.

Plan the Perfect Capital Campaign

Download our capital campaign checklist!

Capital Campaign Best Practices

Create a Gift Range Chart

What is a gift range chart? A gift range chart will break down your fundraising goal into smaller parts. It will make reaching your goal more manageable. Additionally, you can show the chart to your board to illustrate how you’ll reach your goal.

How do you create one? First, break down your gift sizes; the highest gift should make up 10%-20% of your goal. Next, add your prospects to the chart and include more than you really need. For example, if you need 2 donors to make the highest gift, reach out to 4 prospects.

Gift Range Chart - Capital Campaigns

What is a gift range chart? A gift range chart will break down your fundraising goal into smaller parts. Your capital campaign will be made of a few large contributions and many smaller gifts. 

Your chart will help guide you and your volunteers make reaching your goal more manageable. Additionally, gift chart is a visual you can show your board to illustrate how you’ll reach such a significant goal.

How do you create one? First, break down your gift sizes; the highest gift should make up 10%-20% of your goal. Next, add your prospects to the chart and include more than you really need. For example, if you need to 2 donors to make the highest gift have 4 prospects that you’ll reach out to.

Understand the Different Types of Donors

Major Gift Donors

Why are they important? The donations made by your major gift donors will make up around 60% of your capital campaign goal. 

When will you reach out to them? The quiet phase is when you solicit donations from major gift donors (but they can give anytime!).

How do you find them? You can conduct prospect research to find your major gift donors. Prospect research finds prospects with the capacity to give a major gift.

Regular Contributors

Why are they important? Your regular, or annual, contributors already have a history with your nonprofit. Therefore, you’ll likely have a less difficult time trying to persuade them to give.

When will you reach out to them? You’ll start asking your regular contributors for donations during the public phase.

How to find them? Look for the supporters that have frequently given to your organization’s other fundraising efforts.


First-Time Supporters

Why are they important? These new supporters will likely give because they have a passion for your cause. You’ll have many opportunities to cultivate stronger relationships with them.

When will you reach out to them? The public phase is when you’ll start reaching out to these prospective donors.

How to find them? First-time donors can come to your organization from recommendations or from your campaign’s marketing.

Train Your Volunteers on How to Ask for Donations

As you train your volunteers and leadership on how to ask for donations, make sure you provide them with the resources they need to make their jobs easier. The more direction you give them—whether it’s their first time asking or not—the more successful they’ll be. Provide your volunteers with resources such as:

A Step-by-Step Guide

Your volunteers are going to be the ones asking for donations. It’s important to make sure that they know how to ask. By creating a step-by-step process, everyone can follow the same procedure. When they have questions, they can refer to the guide.

You may have to create two guides; one each for the quiet and public phases. These guides should be detailed enough to include every step in the solicitation process, including the acknowledgement that happens after a donor gives.

Email & Direct Mail Templates

Along with your step-by-step guide, you should also give volunteers email and direct mail templates to use to reach out to donors. Templates will help ensure your volunteers have the correct information and branding when soliciting gifts. They also make the process faster and easier, showing consideration for your volunteers’ time and effort.

Which examples you decide to provide is up to you. For instance, you can provide an email template for initiating a meeting or a letter template for following up with donors.

Donor FAQs

Make sure your volunteers are familiar with the questions donors may ask before they make their appeals. It makes sense to understand the basic details of the project, and prospective donors will appreciate your volunteers’ ability to confidently reply to their questions with an educated answer.

You can gain these frequently asked questions during your feasibility study and by listening to the questions of volunteers throughout the planning process.

Your Case for Support

Before asking for donations, your volunteers should have a solid understanding of your case for support as this will be the bulk of what they discuss during their appeals. They should understand the need for the project, know how the funds will be spent and be able to convey the urgency that comes with raising these funds.

Since your case for support is one of the first things you complete for your capital campaign, it should be what volunteers focus on before the launch of your quiet phase.

End the Campaign with Donor Stewardship

Send acknowledgement letters

Once a donor gives, it’s important to send them an acknowledgement letter to show your appreciation. When you thank donors, let them know that their contribution is valued and that you appreciate their support.

In your letters, make it personal by addressing the donor by name and mentioning the contribution they made.

offer other ways to get involved

Communication with donors shouldn’t stop after you send them an acknowledgement. Keep the interaction going by offering other ways for donors to get involved in your organization. 

While it’s never good to ask for another donation right after they’ve given, you can encourage donors to attend an event or volunteer.


Keep donors updated on the progress

After donors give, you should send them updates on the campaign’s progress. Let them know how far you’ve come and, after you’ve raised your goal, update them on how the project is progressing.

Updates will give the donor a chance to see how their contribution impacts the progress of the capital campaign.

Plan a Successful Capital Campaign

Download our capital campaign checklist!

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