Capital Campaigns: Five Expert Insights for Growing Nonprofits

| GS INSIGHTS

Is your organization ready to undertake a capital campaign? These multi-phase, years-long projects are resource-intensive undertakings for nonprofits of all sizes, small and large.

Capital campaigns tend to follow a six-phase process: the feasibility stage, the pre-campaign planning process, the quiet phase, the kickoff phase, the public phase, and the final stewardship phase. Each of these steps is crucial, from the behind-the-scenes (feasibility through quiet phases) to the public-facing (kickoff through stewardship phases). 

As a growing nonprofit, it’s especially crucial that your organization makes smart decisions in optimizing its resources throughout the process.

We’ve pulled together the top insights to help nonprofits run a successful capital campaign with the resources they have. To make the most of your next campaign, consider doing the following:

  1. Fortifying your team’s lineup
  2. Using a feasibility study for maximum success
  3. Focusing on your communications
  4. Seeking methods to amplify your fundraising
  5. Hiring a consultant to guide the process

Follow along as we explore the top capital campaign strategies for growing nonprofits, from activating your nonprofit’s team to hiring fundraising consultants. Let’s dive in!

1. Fortifying your team’s lineup

Growing nonprofits are often working with more finite resources, including a smaller team and fewer volunteers. It’s especially important to make sure that your team is prepared for the challenge.

There are a few key players to check in with when planning for your capital campaign:

  • Board members, who need to sign off on your campaign and play a major role in stewarding major givers
  • Staff members, including your development director and major gifts coordinator
  • Volunteers, who provide the manpower your campaign needs to succeed
  • Campaign chairs, who lead committees and direct your volunteers throughout the duration
  • Planning committee, which prepares your team to move into the quiet phase
  • Steering committee, which oversees the campaign once you’re in the quiet phase, handling the solicitation of gifts

Nonprofits that are still building may experience overlap of staffers and volunteers in particular roles. The important part is that you assign ownership of each role to someone, ensuring that no job falls to the wayside.

This is one point at which hiring a capital campaign consultant may be helpful. An expert with plenty of experience in capital campaigns can help you train key leadership and lay a strong foundation for the rest of the project. 

2. Completing a feasibility study for maximum success

During a feasibility study, your nonprofit interviews key stakeholders in one-on-one meetings and focus groups to assess the support for your upcoming project. These studies allow your organization to set realistic goals and craft stakeholder-informed cases for support— increasing the likelihood of reaching capital campaign goals. 

A growing organization can’t afford to waste resources on unsuccessful efforts. Use the information gathered from a feasibility study to identify prospects and create a gift range chart that will guide your donation solicitation efforts.

3. Focusing on your communications

It’s essential to craft a confident case for support. This is a clear, concise overview of your nonprofit and campaign goals, conveying why donors should support both. This document should cover all questions supporters may have about the campaign and communicate its importance for your organization in the long run.

This includes outlining your fundraising goal, the proposed project, and how you’ll specifically use the money raised to complete the project. It should be branded to your organization for familiarity, whether that’s using consistent coloring or compelling images of your organization at work, and feature a memorable, catchy slogan.

There are a few other key communications to consider using: pledge cards, case for support brochures, and your website (learn more through this guide to nonprofit website design). Strong communications materials only need to be created once, but they can do much of the legwork for your organization’s outreach.

4. Seeking methods to amplify your fundraising

It’s imperative to make the most of each and every donation coming your way. There are a few different ways to amplify your fundraising efforts beyond those gifts made by your supporters.

  • Matching gift programs: As discussed in this Double the Donation guide to corporate matching gift programs, companies pledge to match the financial donations of their employees to approved nonprofits.
  • Sponsorships: This is where a company gives a large sum to your capital campaign project, gaining a public association with your nonprofit and project in return.
  • Grants: These are packages of financial support given by foundations, corporations, and sometimes government entities that support a nonprofit or in this case, a specific project. They’re often contingent upon your organization reaching its own agreed-upon fundraising goal before they can be fully received.

To access any of the above opportunities, you must actively seek them out. That means educating supporters on corporate philanthropy, seeking out sponsorships, and actively applying for grants.

5. Hiring a consultant to guide the process

Whether your next capital campaign is your first, or your organization simply needs an outside perspective on your strategy, consider hiring a fundraising consultant to help navigate the process.

A nonprofit consulting firm can help you find and train board prospects, complete a feasibility study and inform the high-stakes major gift solicitation process. A relationship with the right consultant can be beneficial for years to come, so it’s important to be thorough when researching potential teammates.

Action steps you can take today