Capital Campaigns: 5 Strategies to Keep Up Momentum in 2019


By guest blogger Bob Happy

The end of the year is a special time, full of happy endings. It’s also the most important time of year for nonprofit organizations!

Studies have shown that individuals like your supporters are more inclined to give around the holidays—and it’s not because of the tax ramifications of December 31st. Your staff should use the generosity inspired by the spirit of the season to strengthen your capital campaign through the holidays and beyond.

The key to keeping up your capital campaign momentum through the holiday season and into the new year is an effective fundraising strategy. From the feasibility study to the home stretch, your nonprofit should ensure that every step of the campaign is ambitious yet achievable.

Capital campaigns can run for years, so your nonprofit has to be sure that it’s ready for the long haul. To help your nonprofit achieve its goals, we’ve compiled a list of our strongest strategies for maintaining momentum:

  1. Set an achievable capital campaign goal.
  2. Know when to focus on capacity-building.
  3. Start strengthening relationships with supporters.
  4. Engage in smart campaign planning strategies.
  5. Ensure your board, staff, and supporters are aligned.

If you’re ready to learn more about how to keep up your nonprofit’s strength through your whole capital campaign, then let’s get started.

1. Set an achievable capital campaign goal.

The first step to embarking on a capital campaign that your nonprofit can complete successfully is to set a reasonable goal for your organization. A capital campaign’s fundraising goal is much larger than the end goals of most other fundraising campaigns.

To settle on the right goal for your campaign, your team has to take a number of considerations into account:

  1. Your existing fundraising capacity.
  2. The experience and willingness of your board and staff.
  3. The ultimate goal of your campaign, or where the funds will go.
  4. The size and engagement level of your supporter community.

There are other factors at play as well, depending on the unique characteristics of your nonprofit organization. Keeping all these things in mind can be difficult, especially if your nonprofit has never attempted a capital campaign before.

Setting too low of a goal means that you won’t be able to fund your project after the campaign, but setting too high of a goal might cause you to lose the faith of your supporters. Hitting the sweet spot in the middle is crucial.

If you’re having trouble settling on a number, your organization should consider hiring a fundraising consultant, or an outside expert, to help with a planning and feasibility study. This study analyzes your organization’s capacity, case for support, and the willingness and readiness of key stakeholders.

Getting your goal right is the first step to a more sustainable capital campaign that can carry you through 2019 and beyond.

2. Know when to focus on capacity-building.

A capital campaign is a marathon, not a sprint. And no one would ever run a marathon without training first! Capacity building is the training in this metaphor, and it is what an organization needs to do in order to strengthen its strategies and increase its ability to fulfill its mission.

Capacity-building includes activities such as:

  • Improving volunteer or supporter recruitment and retention.
  • Identifying and rectifying weaknesses in communication strategies.
  • Updating your organization’s technology strategy.

Just because your organization is in the middle of a campaign doesn’t mean that you should stop trying to update or revitalize your strategies. In fact, because capital campaigns are so long, they are the perfect time to try new things.

Compare your fundraising successes with an email campaign versus direct mail, or something similar. Change a step in your major giving strategy and see how your drop-off rate changes. If you brought on a consultant for your campaign, they can help you determine which activities will be most helpful.

Your nonprofit always has room for improvement, so don’t be afraid to take a step back and analyze what isn’t working for you anymore. Capacity-building is an investment in the future of your organization.

If you’re having trouble meeting certain performance indicators or benchmarks in your capital campaign, it might be time for capacity building exercises. And capacity-building isn’t always about strategy development: it often means training your team members in best practices, as well.

When you focus on good habits during your campaign and strengthen your overall institutional capacity, you set both your campaign and your organization on the path towards success.

3. Start strengthening relationships with supporters.

Your supporters are the ones that carry your capital campaign through to the end, and building strong relationships with them is a surefire way to ensure that you can maintain your capital campaign’s momentum.

A capital campaign mostly relies on major gifts made to your organization, and your major giving strategy relies on interpersonal relationships.

Because major giving is so personal, it’s your organization’s job to build the relationships between your major giving prospects and your mission so that they feel called to give. And the end of the year is the perfect time for engagement opportunities!

During your capital campaign, consider hosting rounds of events:

  • Informational luncheons at your office.
  • Educational opportunities about your mission.
  • Volunteer opportunities for various projects.

Getting your major gift prospects involved with your mission through everything from events to volunteering deepens their connection to your cause as well as increases the likelihood that they will give to your capital campaign.

If you host these types of engagement opportunities throughout your campaign, you’ll have multiple opportunities to cultivate prospects.

And when you’re not hosting people in your office, don’t forget to stay in contact over the holidays with personalized holiday greeting cards and phone calls. Occasional communication without a fundraising ask included makes supporters look forward to your outreach.

4. Engage in smart campaign planning strategies.

Failing to plan is planning to fail, so remember that your capital campaign plan is the bedrock of your success! When you plan your capital campaign, keep in mind how different this campaign is from any other fundraising endeavour.

The most important parts of your campaign plan are your campaign planning and feasibility study, your fundraising collateral, your budget, and your prospect list! Let’s break down each of these individually and consider how they impact your campaign campaign’s momentum.

Campaign planning and feasibility study.

A feasibility study is probably the most important part of your campaign planning strategy. During a feasibility study, an impartial third-party individual interviews key stakeholders in your organization like your board members, executives, staff members, and community supporters.

This study assesses how prepared your organization is to take on the challenge of a capital campaign. However, an unbiased outsider should conduct the study because they aren’t aware of the institutional habits of your organization.

It’s easier for your stakeholders to be honest about their doubts or hesitations around the plan with a stranger than with a beloved coworker. Plus, a pair of fresh eyes can help your organization brainstorm some new unique fundraising ideas.

Conducting a campaign planning and feasibility study should be the first step in any capital campaign planning process, because it reveals any institutional challenges that your team must overcome.

Fundraising collateral.

These documents are crucial for both soliciting gifts and keeping your staff on track. This collection of resources includes both public- and private-facing documents that are used to both inform supporters about your organization and keep staffers aligned about the campaign’s goals and benchmarks.

Fundraising collateral can include:

  • Your case statement, which educates prospects about your organization’s fundraising needs and how they can help.
  • Solicitation materials, which can include letters, presentations, brochures, and more. These are distributed to prospects as educational material during official solicitations.
  • Your gift range chart, which is used by staffers to determine how many gifts at each level of giving are necessary to reach your campaign goal.

These documents should be created and refined during the capital campaign planning process, in order to keep your team on track during the campaign. And if you need help crafting the perfect solicitation letter, check out these examples from the experts at Fundraising Letters.

Campaign budget.

A capital campaign, while also raising money for your organization, costs a lot. It may seem counterintuitive to invest in your capital campaign while you’re trying to raise money, but it goes a long way in ensuring that your campaign is successful.

The budget for your campaign can include anything from hiring new staffers and investing in new software to printing fundraising collateral. If you don’t acknowledge these costs during planning, you’ll end up spending more money than you intended.

Analyze your past campaign budgets, as well as your campaign successes and failures, to determine a reasonable budget for your capital campaign.

When you earmark enough funds to keep your campaign momentum running, you’ll be able to achieve your fundraising goals more easily.

Prospect list.

One of the most important parts of your campaign planning process is determining a prospect list. Earlier, we mentioned constructing a gift range chart in order to determine how many gifts your organization needs to meet its goals.

Compiling a prospect list is a key strategy for attaining the gifts your organization needs. Consider each level of giving, and how many supporters need to give at that level for your nonprofit to succeed. Then start researching prospects!

Prospects can come from both the broader community and your supporter data, and your team should identify more prospects than you need. Not every prospect will become a supporter, so you’ll need to find more individuals than indicated on your gift range chart.

Your prospect list should be compiled before your campaign kicks off, because knowing that there are qualified prospects among your supporters and in your community is crucial to the success of your campaign.

If you find, during the planning process, that there aren’t very many qualified prospects in your community, then you need to readjust your strategy. And if you find that your momentum is slowing down, ask your dedicated supporters to introduce you to more prospects.

If you know that you want to include a more experienced nonprofit professional during your planning process but don’t know where to start, head over to this capital campaign consultant hiring guide from Averill Fundraising Solutions.

5. Ensure your board, staff, and supporters are aligned.

Our final tip to maintaining your capital campaign’s momentum through the New Year is to keep your whole fundraising team on the same page.

When your board members, staff, and supporters are in agreement about your campaign’s path to success, you can all work together to achieve that success. In order to keep everyone aligned and working together, consider some of the following strategies:

  • Assign a dedicated capital campaign director to have final say on all decisions, as well as to act as a figurehead for the campaign. This person should communicate with all major players to ensure that everyone is aware of the campaign’s progress.
  • Maintain constant communication with internal heads of departments. When each department is able to advocate for their needs during the campaign, the whole machine of your organization will run more smoothly.
  • Keep major givers in the loop. When your most passionate supporters are kept in-the-know about your campaign, they will feel more like part of the team and have more faith in your organization’s ability to successfully fundraise and steward their gifts appropriately.

Communication is key to healthy relationships, and healthy relationships drive the momentum of your capital campaign. Your whole team should be on the same page about your goals, fundraising metrics, key benchmarks, and campaign timeline.

A campaign of this magnitude is a team effort, so ensure that all members of the team are aligned and working towards the same goal.

A capital campaign is a crucial undertaking for organizations striving to grow in the future, but they are a serious commitment. Make sure that your team is prepared to support your contributors as they start to make their holiday donations, and your capital campaign is sure to succeed.


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