When starting to think about a capital campaign, the first step is to consider whether your organization is ready for a campaign. It sounds obvious, but you may not be sure how to make that determination — and that’s completely normal.

That’s why we’ve provided a number of readiness assessment tools in the Capital Campaign Toolkit to help you determine whether your organization is truly ready for a campaign. And, if not, what steps you need to take to get ready.

5 Key Questions: Are You Ready for a Campaign?

Here are 5 key questions from one of the readiness assessment tools you’ll find in the Toolkit.

1. Can you identify a lead gift?

Campaigns live or die on the initial leadership level gifts. If you can’t identify where the top two or three gifts will come from, you probably can’t have the campaign you’re envisioning.

A campaign can’t be made up at the bottom of the pyramid if you fall behind at the top. In other words, the Pareto principle applies — 20 percent of your donors will give 80 percent of your gifts.

Campaigns are rarely flat. In order to raise $1 Million, you’ll need a lead gift of $200,000. And you can’t count on 200 donors to give $1,000 each to make up that initial gift.

2. Can you identify at least 15 major gift donors?

Similarly to the lead gift, it’s important to know in advance where a significant number of your major gifts are coming from. If you can’t identify at least 15 major gift donors, then you’re probably not ready for a campaign.

Instead, work on major gift fundraising for your annual fund, as you prepare for a campaign in the future.

3. Have you allocated funds to staff up for the campaign?

I’m not sure why some people at various organizations believe they can go from raising $100,000 per year to a $1 Million per year without any additional staff or resources, but they do. And no, they can’t.

If you expect to raise 2, 5, or even 10 times what you’ve been raising, you will need additional staff, resources and infrastructure to accomplish that goal. Part of the campaign budget should be allocated to additional help in the form of internal (staff) and external (consultant) assistance for the duration of your campaign.

If the expectation is that current staff and resources are sufficient for your campaign, you’re probably not ready for a campaign (unless the current staff has been significantly underperforming to date, which I assume they have not).

4. Is the board in full agreement about the need for a campaign?

When taking on a project the magnitude of a capital campaign, you need full board support. The last thing you need is a rogue board member spreading doubt in the community about the need for a campaign.

Bottom line — it’s essential that every board member be committed to supporting your campaign — both financially and as an advocate.

5. Can you identify potential campaign leaders and make a plan to enlist them?

Every campaign needs volunteer leadership, and those leaders may or may not come from your board. It’s important to be able to identify potential leaders and make a plan to enlist them before officially deciding to launch a campaign.

Assessing Your Answers

Once you are able to answer “yes” to all 5 of the above questions, you are well on your way to being ready for a capital campaign.

If you answered “we’re working on it” or “no,” then you have a good idea of what work still needs to be done before launching your campaign.

Free Campaign Readiness Assessments

A number of the questions in this post come directly from our free capital campaign readiness assessment. You can also assess your organization’s campaign readiness in three more targeted areas:

  1. Development Office Readiness Assessment »
  2. Board Readiness Assessment »
  3. Systems & Technology Readiness Assessment »

All of these assessments are free to download and use. Each one will help you determine your overall campaign readiness. And that, in turn, will influence the success of your entire campaign.

What other questions do you have regarding whether you’re ready for a capital campaign? Feel free to ask them in the comments.


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