When you think about a capital campaign, you probably imagine that it’ll take two or three years — perhaps even more. And often it does.

Once you’ve decided and honed what you are going to raise money for, then the process of building a capital campaign — step-by-step, phase by phase — can be long and arduous.

Your patience and persistence in the early stages usually pay off. You will have raised a great deal of money to invest in your organization to springboard it to the next level.

The Core Principles of a Capital Campaign

Capital campaigns are based some core principles that set them up for success.

Most Well-Run Campaigns…

  1. Raise money for specific projects that will have significant impact.
  2. Develop a compelling case for support.
  3. Rely on a small group of generous donors to make gifts that amount to more than 50% of the goal.
  4. Solicit those top gifts one at a time and face-to-face.
  5. Organize the solicitations from the top down.
  6. Wait to publicize their campaigns until most of the money has been raised.

The Mini-Campaign: A Tool You Can Use Over & Over

Some time ago, we at the Capital Campaign Toolkit wondered if we could apply those basic campaign principles to smaller campaigns conducted over a few weeks rather than a few years.

We began to work with a few organizations on campaigns to raise between $100,000 and $250,000. And, to our delight, we found that they worked. When organizational leaders defined a project to raise money for that would make a difference to the people they served, there was a good chance that they could raise that money in a short period.

But, they needed to design their fundraising initiative according to essential campaign principles.

Not only did they have to know what they wanted to raise money for, but they had to be able to articulate clearly why raising that money would matter. Raising money because they needed money wasn’t enough. They had to explain how the people they served would benefit from raising the money.

Can You Identify a Mini-Campaign Worthy Project?

I imagine that you’d be happy to raise $250,000 over two to three months. Could you identify a project for that amount that would really make a difference at your organization?

Remember, having more money in the bank isn’t a compelling enough reason. You’ve got to identify and articulate something more specific than that — something that will generate a little excitement.

Once our groups had each identified a compelling project, we asked them to identify a small group of qualified donors they could solicit for their project.

  • The donors had to have the ability to give at least $5,000.
  • They also had to have an interest in the organization’s mission and active contact with their organization.

Interestingly, many organizations weren’t sure they could identify those prospective donors, but once they started to create a list, they were surprised by how many names they came up with.

Can You Identify 10 Potential Donors for a Mini-Campaign?

Where would you look to create a list of qualified donors for your mini-campaign? Off the top of your head, how many names do you think you can come up with of people you could ask for $5000 or more?

Once our organizations had completed the first two tasks — identifying the right project and their qualified donors — the rest became possible. We worked with them to develop a compelling case for support and then to organize the solicitation process based on campaign principles.

We helped them develop the tools they needed to organize their campaigns and solicit their donors. With our training, they learned precisely how to solicit their top prospects, starting with the largest and working their way down.

Mini-Campaigns Work

One after another, those first organizations with whom we worked started to raise money — a lot of money. Of six organizations, all but one was successful in achieving (or surpassing) their fundraising goal within twelve weeks!

Even more important — they had learned how to apply the essence of capital campaign fundraising to smaller projects over a mere couple of short months rather than many years. And it’s a model that can be applied again and again.

Are You Up for Trying a Mini-Campaign?

We’ve developed our mini-campaign model into an eight-week Mini-Campaign Boot Camp program that we run a few times per year. No more than eight organizations join each cohort and attend the eight weekly sessions as a group, cheering each other on. Then, one month later, we celebrate their success in a virtual graduation.

The program is facilitated by two of our expert campaign advisors who meet weekly with the group. Each organization has two participants. And every week, each group learns skills, receives assignments and reports on their progress.

If your organization is ripe for a Mini-Campaign, contact us now so we can slot you into the next available program.


  1. Jim Minnery

    Any thoughts on using this strategy for obtaining a few years funding for a new position ?

  2. Andrea Kihlstedt

    Thanks for your question, Jim. We have seen that work as a way of boosting an organization’s effectiveness quickly. But you will have to address how you will sustain the position once the campaign money has been spent.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *