The Phases of a Capital Campaign


A capital campaign is a time-limited effort often conducted in phases by a nonprofit organization to raise significant dollars for a specific project. Often the money raised is to fund the acquisition, construction, or renovation of a building. Sometimes, capital campaigns are used to build an endowment for the future.

Here are the typical phases of a capital campaign…

Preparation Phase

  • Develop a first draft of the campaign case statement that includes an overview of the organization, a list of accomplishments, success-to-date, description of the need for the campaign, details of building, programs or endowment the campaign will fund. If you are building a facility or physical structure, you will want to list the size, location and features of building.
  • Determine your total campaign goal. This should be derived from the construction budget plus costs to operate a campaign. Include:
    • 5-10% contingency line item as some of the pledges will not be completed by your donors – due to a number of circumstances.
    • Interest that you will need to pay if you are taking out a loan to cover the initial – or full – cost of the construction.
    • Fundraising costs – like hosting receptions, printing case statement brochures, hiring additional staff and/or consultants, printing and postage for mailings, etc.
    • Operating costs. Your Executive Director and other key staff members will need to devote time to the campaign – so you will want to include a percentage of their salary in your budget.
    • If you are also raising an endowment with your campaign, you will want to include a line item with the amount you want to raise for your endowment. An endowment is an important part of a campaign because it ensures that once the building is built, there are funds to support the operations inside the building so that programs are delivered and that there is funding to hire new staff to run the facility.
  • Develop a potential donor list by first taking a look at your current major donors. Do you have a healthy list of donors who are contributing $10,000 or more each year?  The majority of the capital campaign goal will be funded by current donors. If you don’t have lots of current donors making major gifts, consider your local philanthropists. Are any of these individuals close to your organization or fund causes similar to yours?

Discovery Phase

A feasibility study is a process conducted to discover the organization’s capacity to raise private funding. A feasibility study is an internal assessment of an organization’s fundraising program and readiness to embark on new fundraising ventures, like a capital campaign.  The purpose of a feasibility study is to identify steps the organization can take that will increase fundraising revenue.  The result of is to determine if the campaign is feasible.

The first step of the feasibility study is the discovery stage that included face-to-face interviews, online surveys as well as an analysis of current donors and fundraising efforts.The second step is the development of the results and recommendations report based on the findings for the surveys in the discovery stage.

Planning Phase

  • Gain Board “buy in”. It is the responsibility of the Board to provide adequate resources for the activities of the organization through direct financial contributions and a commitment to fundraise.  In the case of a capital project, there must be 100% Board participation in donations.  An organization can not expect the community to donate to a project that the organization’s top leadership has not committed to first.
  • Create a fundraising plan utilizing the current skills and resources and creating new funding opportunities for the organization. The plan identifies initiatives, goals, and timetables to designate who is responsible to achieve the goals and determine what resources are needed.
  • Finalize the campaign case statement.
  • Set the timeline. Most campaigns take 3-5 years. Approximately, half the time is the quiet phase and the other half is the public phase.
  • Recruit the troops! Assemble a Campaign Committee is the volunteer leadership group who will oversee and implement the fundraising strategies for the capital campaign. The Campaign Committee’s chief responsibility is to utilize their influence to connect the Theatre to affluence. Additionally, the committee members are responsible to host cultivation events, follow up with potential donors and make solicitations of potential donors. The actual fundraising task is immeasurably strengthened when a true partnership between the volunteer leadership and the staff is in place. The committee is comprised of Board and non-Board members with fundraising and development experience.
  • Create naming opportunities that offer recognition to campaign donors.  Having your name on a building, a research laboratory, a lecture hall, or a treatment center is attractive to a potential donor. If a donor gives the largest gift to your campaign, you will want to offer a building naming opportunity. Naming opportunities should be approved by the Board of Directors and the actual “name” should be a good match for the organization. You may not want to list Anheiser-Busch Boys and Girls Club as the youth served are under the drinking age or Phillip Morris.
 Quiet Phase
  • Mail out feasibility study summaries to participants
  • Solicit members for the campaign committee
  • Solicit each board member for a significant campaign gift (100% participation)
  • Approve campaign fundraising plan at the Board meeting
  • Host a reception to announce the campaign and plan to key stakeholders
  • Introduce campaign committee (if ready)
  • Host host the first campaign committee meeting
  • Solicit lead campaign donors
  • Host monthly campaign receptions (at homes of Board members and donors; at the organization)
  • Solicit individual donor(s) one-on-one
  • Submit campaign grants
  • Develop case for support into a glossy brochure
  • Develop small giving opportunities with corresponding recognition

Public Phase

  • Develop and send out a monthly campaign newsletter to keep donors informed of campaign
  • Host a monthly campaign committee meetings
  • Launch public phase of campaign with large party at the organization
  • Conduct media outreach to radio, TV, print
  • Add campaign information and giving opportunities to website and social media

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