A capital campaign is a fundraising strategy used to raise large sums of money for a specific project—like a new building, expansion, or renovation.
The money raised during a capital campaign is separate from your annual budget and is most often from major gifts, corporate donations, and grants.
Planning Is Key In Your First Nonprofit Capital Campaign
Your first capital campaign is exciting but can be stressful if you’re not prepared. Take your time in the planning phase and consider roadblocks you may hit along the way. Remember, your capital campaign can be flexible and you can adjust your timeline and strategy along the way to hit your goals.
The Phases of a Nonprofit Capital Campaign
Before launching your nonprofit capital campaign, consider four phases for planning and executing.
Phase 1: Capital Campaign Planning
Planning for your nonprofit capital campaign is the longest and most important phase. This is when you’ll assemble your team, establish a budget, and write your case statement to secure support from your donors.
Step 1: Establish a Campaign Steering Committee
The steering committee should include well-respected members of the community, as well as past donors and supporters. This adds credibility and can bring connections to your organization. Their purpose is to network, find donors, and raise awareness for your project.
Step 2: Determine a Timeline and Budget
Once this committee is formed they’ll set a budget and timeline for your project. Your timeline will depend on how quickly you believe you can raise project funds. When setting a budget, you'll need to include the cost of fundraising and inflation, especially if your campaign will span many years. Consider the costs of any events, donor cultivation, and marketing materials.
Step 3: Write a Case Statement
A case statement is a persuasive document used to help donors understand how their contribution will make a difference. What problem will you solve with their help? What will happen if the campaign is not successful? Answer these questions and keep your message consistent throughout your campaign.
Phase 2: Secure Early Support (Quiet Phase)
Once you have a plan in place, it’s time to start speaking with donor prospects. Also known as the quiet phase, this early support is when you’ll secure 50–80 percent of your funds from major gifts and corporations. You’ll receive fewer donations at a much larger dollar amount.
To help plan for these large donations, create a gift table breaking down levels of contributions and how many donors you need at each. Once you know how many donations you need you can identify prospective donors. Be sure to meet with these prospects face to face so they can ask questions.
Securing funds before going public will help individual donors feel your goal is more attainable. They'll see how their contribution will make a difference and will be more likely to donate.
Phase 3: External Kickoff (Public Phase)
The next phase of your campaign will be your public launch. This is when you’ll start sharing on your website and social media. You should also contact past donors to tell them about your project. In this phase, you’ll receive many donations in smaller amounts.
You’ll want to create an engagement plan ahead of time and have a clear call to action for your donors. Look into what fundraising methods have worked well for you in the past like direct mail, community events, or online giving. Share your progress and how close you are to reaching your goal. It can be helpful to build in some urgency with limited-time donation matches or other milestones.
Phase 4: Wrap-Up and Celebration
You did it—you reached the end of your capital campaign! The final phase is all about saying thank you to your supporters and sharing your results.
Your donors are invested in your project, financially and emotionally, so be sure to thank them with a handwritten note or event. Keep in touch with key updates as the project progresses.