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As capital campaign advisors, we speak with a lot of nonprofit leaders who are eager to take their organizations to the next level. And they all have something in common…

Many nonprofit leaders are not sure how they’ll raise the money they need through a capital campaign. That’s normal.

You probably haven’t been through a capital campaign from start to finish. Most nonprofit staff and volunteers haven’t. So, don’t feel badly that you don’t know how to run a campaign. If you haven’t done it before, there’s no reason that you should magically know.

The important thing is that there’s no reason to wing it. Why reinvent the wheel? There’s a tried-and-true campaign strategy that works. It’s the methodology we support (with a few improvements and innovations).

It’s OK it You’re Not Ready for a Capital Campaign

Most organizations aren’t completely ready for a campaign when they first start to plan. The good news is that there’s a pre-campaign process, including doing a feasibility study, which is designed to help you get ready.

3 Problems You Can Overcome

Here are a few ways you might not be ready, but these challenges are relatively easy to overcome.

  1. Not being sure who your biggest donors to the campaign will be.
    Very few executive directors and development directors are confident about who their largest donors will be. If you have some ideas, that’s great. However, the feasibility study process will help identify and engage the largest potential donors for your campaign.
  2. Not having enough staff to support the campaign.
    If you don’t have the team in place to support a campaign, it’s no problem. In fact, it would be absurd if you already had staff ready and waiting in the wings.

  3. Your board members aren’t wealthy or connected.
    This is a common concern, and one that can be overcome with the right campaign committee. You don’t need to wait for the perfect board to have a campaign.

The pre-campaign process will help you overcome these issues. Some problems, however, are more difficult to overcome.

7 Warning Signs You’re NOT Ready for a Campaign

Here are seven key reasons you might not be ready for a campaign. You’ll want to address these warning signs before you dive in too deep.

1. You don’t have any donors.

Occasionally we get calls from new nonprofit leaders who haven’t started raising funds or those who rely primarily on government funding. If you don’t have a base of supporters, you’re probably not ready for a campaign.

2. You don’t have an exciting vision or plan.

If you simply want to raise money for ongoing operations or for an endowment, you’re not ready for a campaign. A better approach would be to enhance your major gifts and planned giving programs.

3. Your leadership team doesn’t agree on the plan.

From time to time, we hear about a leadership team which is divided regarding the best path forward. For a campaign to succeed, everyone needs to be rowing in the same direction. Keep working until you find an exciting path forward that everyone can get behind.

4. You don’t have any fundraising staff members.

We don’t recommend starting a campaign with all volunteer fundraisers. This is a great opportunity hire your first development director.

5. You don’t have a functional donor database.

You need to be able to pull lists of your largest and most loyal donors. You also need to be able to enter data easily and generate thank you letters in a timely manner. If your database isn’t working for you, it’s probably time for an upgrade.

6. You don’t have property secured.

If you’re buying land or building a new property, this should be secured before your campaign is officially launched. I realize this may seem like a chicken-or-the-egg scenario, but you do need to believe enough in the success of a campaign to secure land prior to fully committing to a campaign.

Most donors won’t give to the idea of you hopefully finding property. In the meantime, ask a few close donors to give enough to secure a property when the right one comes up. Then you can head into campaign planning. If, for some reason, you decide not to move ahead, you can always sell the land.

7. Your leadership team doesn’t believe you can do it.

While not as concrete as the six reasons above, it’s absolutely critical for the key leaders on your team to have the confidence that you can be successful. It’s okay to be scared — most leaders are. But they don’t let the fear stop them.

Take the Capital Campaign Readiness Assessment

Assessing your overall campaign readiness will give you an excellent start as you begin preparing for a campaign. Our free readiness assessment will help you do just that.

Get the FREE Campaign Readiness Assessment

Download this free guide on campaign readiness. The assessment contained within will give you a simple way to get your board and staff to evaluate your organization’s overall readiness in six primary areas, including volunteer leadership, planning, and your case for support.

DOWNLOAD:  Capital Campaign Readiness Assessment »

By distributing the assessment to board and staff members and then collating their results, you will get a clear picture of where you are strongest and what areas you should focus your attention to get better prepared for your campaign.

We also offer a number of additional targeted free assessments to help your board and development office get ready for a campaign.


Assessments can only tell you so much. So, if you’re still not sure whether you’re ready for a campaign, give us a call or sign up for a free strategy session. We’d love to talk to you and discuss how we can help you prepare.

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