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.
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Capital Campaign Fundraising Explained
How Are Capital Campaigns Unique?
Capital campaigns differ from other forms of fundraising in that they are massive projects that can span multiple years and cost thousands of dollars. As such, capital campaigns often require a targeted fundraising effort with specific phases.
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 as the campaign progresses through its phases. 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 need.
Capital campaigns are often the only way that an organization can fund a vital expansion, such as a new building or other large-scale construction project, that would further its project.
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?
The most effective capital campaigns combine the power of traditional fundraising methods with the incentive of an immediate and tangible need.
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.
The components of a successful capital campaign include, but are not limited to:
Planning a Capital Campaign
Understanding a Capital Campaign Timeline
Within the planning phase, you 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 launch party.
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 a Capital Campaign Consultant
Learn more from the consultants themselves:
Aly Sterling Philanthropy
This consulting firm has proven experience helping nonprofits of all shapes, sizes, and focuses build sustainable solutions to help strengthen key aspects of your operations. Specifically, this firm focuses on assisting fundraising, strategic planning, executive searches, and board governance.
With over 70 years of philanthropic impact, CCS Fundraising is a powerful global strategic fundraising firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. They offer services ranging from campaign management and strategic planning and evaluation to data analytics and leadership development.
Jeffrey Byrne + Associates, Inc.
This consulting firm brings a unique approach to fundraising by connecting major stakeholders to missions. They’ve guided more than 320 diverse organizations through campaigns that have raised a total of over $1 billion in funds. Areas of expertise include capital campaign planning and management and donor identification.
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. It helps break your capital campaign fundraising goal into more manageable chunks. 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.
Thus, you will be able to see how many people you’ll need to solicit for each gift size in order to meet your fundraising goals.
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.
Running a Capital Campaign
Identifying Major Gift Donors
Capital Campaign Best Practices
Capital Campaign Grants
Capital Campaign Marketing Materials
Prospect Research: The Ultimate Guide
One of the most important tools nonprofits have at their disposal when designing successful capital campaigns is prospect research.
Brush up on everything there is to know about this valuable strategy with our newly-updated Prospect Research Ultimate Guide!
Major Gifts and Major Gift Officers: The Basics
Major gifts are a crucial component in helping to finance an organization’s capital campaign and in other fundraising efforts in general.
Discover more about major gifts and how you can successfully solicit them!
Capital Campaigns: The Ultimate Guide
Still have questions about planning and executing capital campaigns?
Check out this in-depth resource from Aly Sterling Philanthropy to learn more about how your organization can benefit from a capital campaign!