Capital campaigns are complex — at least, that’s how they appear from the outside.

It’s no wonder campaigns seem complicated. As the biggest fundraising goal your organization has ever undertaken, it would be natural to jump to the conclusion that something as unfamiliar and seemingly overwhelming as a capital campaign would be complicated.

However, once you know the steps and strategy for a campaign, it is really quite simple. But simple does not necessarily mean easy.

Capital Campaigns Made Simple

At the Capital Campaign Toolkit, our job is to simplify campaigns. And, it turns out, they are actually a lot simpler than you might think.

One of the true joys of my job is seeing “the lightbulb go off” when a new campaign concept clicks into place for a nonprofit staff member or volunteer.

I recently spoke to small group of nonprofit leaders. One asked how they could convince one of their larger donors to serve on the campaign committee. My response was to ask, “Which committee?”

It’s a misconception that there’s one, massive campaign committee. That might be complicated. In reality, there are a handful of smaller committees which ebb and flow to suit the needs of the campaign and your volunteers.

Aim for Three Sub-Committees, and Keep them Simple

Stick with three sub-committees for your campaign. If you have donors or prospective donors who would be well served with a short, meaningful engagement opportunity, consider the following committees:

  • Feasibility Study Committee
    This is one of the first opportunities to engage one or two of your biggest prospective donors. Call on them to help plan the feasibility study, select a consultant, pick interviewees, and review the recommendations to the board.
  • Planning Committee
    Volunteers play a special role in providing feedback on your campaign plan. This gives them the opportunity to buy-in early. This allows them to be part of the process without making any major time commitment.
  • Kick-Off Committee
    This committee is for your party-planning volunteers. Let them go wild at this stage of the campaign as you “kick-off” the public portion of the campaign and celebrate the largest gifts which have already been committed.

This short and finite engagement gives volunteers the chance to serve without committing to a multi-year engagement.

Breaking Down Campaigns, Step by Step

Most new undertakings often appear complicated. But if you can break them down into manageable, bite-sized chunks, most overwhelming obstacles get easier and clearer.

Try a Perspective Shift to Avoid Being Overwhelmed

Around ten years ago, I published my first book. At first, writing a book seemed overwhelming. I wasn’t a “writer” or an “author”. How on earth was I supposed to write a book?

It turns out, you write a book one page at a time. Up to that point, I had written hundreds of one-page articles and posts. So writing a page was something I could definitely do.

If you look at writing an entire book at once, it may seem complicated. But if you can break it down, chapter by chapter, and even page by page, it’s something you can tackle one step at a time.

Campaigns are no different. It’s simply that most people aren’t familiar with campaign strategy, so the simple steps aren’t clear or obvious.

The 7 Phases of a Capital Campaign

In the Capital Campaign Toolkit, we’ve broken down campaigns into seven distinct phases, and each phase into multiple steps. If you take each of these smaller steps one at a time, they are relatively simple to accomplish.

Phase 1: Pre-Campaign

You’ll begin with pre-campaign work, which is essentially just three components:

  1. Identify campaign objectives (what will you raise money for?)
  2. Calculate working goal (how much do you need to raise?)
  3. Draft a case for support (why will people give?)

Phase 2: Feasibility Study

Test your assumptions from Phase 1 (pre-campaign work) by meeting with prospective donors and community leaders to get their feedback on your plans.

Phase 3: Prepare Plan

Revise your plans based on feedback from the feasibility study.

Phase 4: Quiet Phase

Solicit gifts from the largest prospective donors only. You will raise 70%+++ of your goal at this time.

During this phase you will NOT create a campaign brochure, issue a press release, or solicit gifts through the mail or online.

After soliciting the largest gifts, you will have a better sense of what you can actually raise. At this point, you will have the opportunity to raise or lower the goal, as well as scale up or down the project based on the initial gifts which have been committed.

Phase 5: Kick-Off

Once you have solicited the largest gifts and raised at least 65% of your goal, it’s finally time to go public with your campaign. Now is the time to issue a press release and celebrate the gifts which have already been committed.

Phase 6: Public Phase

Now it’s time to solicit the community through broad appeals, including mail, email, social media, etc.

Phase 7: Post Campaign

After you have achieved your goal and given everyone in the community a chance to give, it’s time to celebrate, collect pledges, and wrap up the campaign.

Keep Your Capital Campaign Simple

As I said, capital campaigns are not easy, but they can (and should) be simple. Don’t make your campaign any more complicated than it needs to be.

When a volunteer asks, “Why can’t we send a letter or plan a crowd funding campaign to get thee campaign started,” point to the steps in this post.

The simplicity of these steps will be the secret to your success. So be sure to bookmark this post and refer back to it when things start getting complicated.

FREE Step-by-Step Campaign Guide and Checklist

If you haven’t done so already, download our FREE step-by-step campaign guide and checklist. It provides a timeline of the phases mentioned above, as well as a checklist so you can mange your campaign one step at a time.

Capital Campaign Toolkit Checklist


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