Capital Campaign Fundraising Explained
What is a capital campaign?
A capital campaign is a targeted fundraising effort that takes place over a defined period of time. Typically, there are two overarching phases: the quiet phase and the public phase.
During the quiet phase, 50%-70% of the funds are raised through major gifts strategies. And during the public phase, the remaining funds are raised by soliciting donations from a larger population of donors.
More often than not, capital campaigns are used by organizations, like hospitals and educational institutions, to raise money for concrete projects such as new construction and building renovations — hence the nickname, brick-and-mortar campaigns.
How is a capital campaign different from other forms of fundraising?
Capital campaigns differ from other forms of fundraising in that the cause and effect is clearly explained to the donor at the outset.
Before donating, supporters know exactly what it is they’re helping to accomplish.
Whereas other types of campaigns will have general goals and benchmarks to aim for, the goals of a capital campaign are more specific and clearly laid out. The end goal of a capital campaign is rarely an abstract change; it is almost always something concrete, like a building or equipment.
Additionally, the distinct phases of capital campaigns set them apart from other forms of fundraising in that they offer an obvious delineation between private fundraising and public appeals.
Why launch a capital campaign?
Capital campaigns are most useful when you know you have a set time frame to accomplish a major fundraising feat.
A nonprofit, university, or hospital might choose to launch a capital campaign over hosting any other sort of fundraiser for a number of reasons.
However, the decision ultimately boils down to incentive. Capital campaigns are incredibly targeted, and as such, donors are more incentivized to give and fundraisers are more incentivized to solicit gifts.
What types of nonprofits use capital campaigns?
Although any nonprofit looking to raise funds can benefit from a capital campaign, they are usually run by larger organizations who have equally large needs and projects on their dockets.
There are two main categories of organization that most regularly rely on capital campaigns:
- Healthcare institutions: hospitals, hospices, etc.
- Educational institutions: universities, private schools, independent schools, etc.
Both organization types tend to require help with substantial, concrete projects more often than other categories of nonprofit.
What makes capital campaigns successful?
Just as having a solid foundation for a building is important for the overall integrity of the architecture, capital campaigns depend on several key components to be highly effective.
Those components include, but aren’t limited to:
- Strict deadlines with a set end date.
- A targeted plan.
- A clear goal.
- A focused team.
- A quiet phase for major gifts.
- A public phase for all gift types.
As the rest of this guide will go on to explain, the most effective capital campaigns combine the power of traditional fundraising methods with the incentive of an immediate and tangible need.
Planning a Capital Campaign
Understanding a Capital Campaign Timeline
Within the planning phase, your organization must complete a feasibility study, assemble your team, set your goals, deadlines, and budget, and conduct a prospect screening.
2. Quiet Phase
Here, you’ll focus on the top major gift leads. This phase can take upwards of a year. 50-70% of your funds will be raised during this phase, so it’s absolutely crucial.
The kick-off phase marks the launch of your campaign. After months quietly courting major donors, it’s time to host a press conference and throw a party to announce your campaign.
4. Public Phase
Finally, you’ll extend your reach out to the community and smaller donors. The public phase can also encompass follow-through: the wrap-up to your efforts.
Capital Campaign Team Members Explained
In-house Team Members
Committee-related Team Members
Hiring Consultants for your Capital Campaign
If you’re looking to plan and execute a capital campaign, it’s worth considering asking for help from the experts: capital campaign consultants.
What kind of help is needed?
Because capital campaigns are so long-running and large-scale, they’re not only a lot to manage but require a variety of skill sets.
As such, when you’re working through what your campaign will involve, make note of any areas where you think you’ll need help.
Then, prioritize those needs and look for consultants who will meet them. Maybe you’re set for the public phase but worried about the major gifts during you’ll need to acquire during the quiet phase. Maybe you are desperate need of some guidance for your feasibility study.
Bottom line: Before you can hire a consultant, you need to know what you’re looking to gain and to decide what services will help you get there.
What kind of access do you have to them?
As with any outside consultants, you should address practical concerns before deciding on a firm to move forward with.
You’ll want answers to the following questions:
- Is their office nearby?
- Will they be available full-time?
- Will they work from your office?
- Will they be working remotely?
For some organizations, you’ll want your consultant full-time, in office. For others, remote work with intermittent meetings is the best plan.
Bottom line: Finding a consultant who is able to offer you the level of access you need is critically important to a productive working relationship. To avoid problems down the road, make sure your expectations regarding access are clear from the get-go.
Do they have samples of their work?
When you hire a consultant, you’re bringing them on because you are relying on their expertise. Before you make any hiring decisions, you need a good sense for what their past work product has been and the quality you can expect.
Beyond giving you a window into what level of quality you can expect, work samples will also give you an idea of the options you have and what you can request help with.
Bottom line: Before committing to any consultant, it’s highly advised that you get a feel for their track record and an accurate understanding of what you can expect to see during your own campaign.
Recommended Capital Campaign Consultants to Hire
For Medium-Sized Nonprofits
Aly Sterling Philanthropy
Overview: Aly Sterling Philanthropy is a full-service consulting firm that can help you with your capital campaign and other fundraising efforts.
Services: The consultants at Aly Sterling Philanthropy can help you perform your feasibility study, create your case for support, and so much more. They can support your entire campaign, or they can help you with just a few tasks.
Types of clients: They’ve worked with medium-sized organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs of Toledo and the Maumee Valley Habitat for Humanity.
Why we love them: Aly Sterling Philanthropy has a goal to create a strategic plan that is specific to the nonprofit they’re working with. That way, no two plans are the same!
For Large-Sized Nonprofits
Overview: CCS Fundraising works with organizations to plan capital campaigns, research their donors’ giving behaviors, and ultimately improve their fundraising.
Services: If you’re looking for advice on how to create your case for support or conduct research for your feasibility study, then the consultants at CCS Fundraising can help you.
Types of clients: They work with large organizations with missions that involve advancing health, enriching health care, sustaining the environment, and expanding arts and culture.
Why we love them: With 70 years of experience across all kinds of organizations, CCS Fundraising offers unique expertise for nearly any large nonprofit, no matter where it’s located!
Performing a Feasibility Study
Setting a Capital Campaign Budget
Creating Gift Range Charts
A gift range chart is your nonprofit’s way of mapping out future gifts. Essentially, you’ll take your total dollar amount goal and divide that amount across giving levels.
In your gift range chart, you’ll list out how many gifts of a certain size you’re looking to secure. The larger the gift, the fewer the donations of that quantity you’ll be aiming for.
This is not meant to be a hard-and-fast rule but rather a guideline to help lead your fundraising efforts when you get to the solicitation phase.