Not-for-Profit Notebook

Practical insight and analysis on the accounting, audit and tax issues impacting not-for-profit organizations.

The Basics for Executing a Successful Nonprofit Capital Campaign

A nonprofit capital campaign is one of the best fundraising methods, particularly if you have a certain project or purchase in mind. But capital campaign fundraising requires strong leadership, extensive planning and dedicated participants.

Before we explore how you can successfully raise funds with a capital campaign, let’s first define the term. Traditionally, a capital campaign is a targeted fundraising push during a set time frame, often with a specific project or purchase in mind. For example, if your preschool desperately needs a new playground, you might design a capital campaign around raising money for this purchase.Capital Campaign

Capital campaigns are a popular and longstanding technique to consider if you’re looking for fundraising ideas for nonprofits. Below we’ll take a look at some basics for executing a successful campaign.

Find Your Leader

Every capital campaign needs a dedicated leader or director of the entire effort. Capital campaigns can be long-term projects, sometimes lasting years. To carry out your campaign, you need a champion with vision and stamina. Consider board members or look to leaders in the greater community with such qualifications as:

  • A fundraising track record
  • Knowledge of your community and local issues
  • The ability to motivate others
  • Time to attend planning sessions and fundraising activities

In addition to a committed leader, you will need people to run each aspect of your campaign. Remember, you’ll be raising funds through direct mail, email solicitations, direct solicitations, special events, etc. In addition to staff and board members, reach out to current volunteers, like-minded community groups and clients who’ve benefited from your services to fill these roles.

Soliciting Donations and the Quiet Phase

Identify a large group — say 1,000 individuals — to solicit for donations. Draw your list from past donors, area business owners, board members, volunteers and other likely prospects. Then narrow that list to the 100 largest potential donors and talk to them first. Secure large gifts before pursuing anything under $1,000.

Capital campaign fundraising is often conducted in phases where the first phase, deemed the quiet phase, is spent soliciting donations from your strongest sources. This would be your 100 largest potential donors.

Be sure to train team members on how to solicit funds and provide them with sample scripts. To help volunteers make effective phone solicitations, record a few calls and play them back for the group to critique.

Celebrate Small Victories

It’s important to ensure that key constituents share your fundraising vision and strategies for reaching the campaign’s goals. Break down your overall goal into smaller objectives and celebrate when you reach each one. Also regularly report gifts, track your progress toward reaching your ultimate goal and measure the effectiveness of your activities.

Be sure to pay attention to how you craft your message. Potential donors must see your organization as capable and strong, but also as the same group they’ve championed for years. Instead of focusing on what donations will do for your nonprofit, show potential donors the impact on their community.

Measure Your Success

You’ll know you’ve reached your goal, obviously, when you’ve raised a certain dollar amount. But don’t forget about other measures of success, such as return on investment or percentage of past donors contributing. And don’t forget to share your success with all involved in your campaign.