I am often asked, about the phases of a capital campaign and when a campaign should “go public”. There are four distinct phases of a campaign. The first is the planning phase and this is by far the longest phase of all four. The planning phase begins when the nonprofit Board of Directors and Staff members start thinking about their future needs for the organization that may require a campaign. A campaign is strategic fundraising vehicle for a one-time effort to fundraise for a specific and expensive initiative. Often this initiative is capital – a new building, dorm or classroom is needed on campus. A campaign- often called a comprehensive campaign – can warrant a couple initiatives that include capital, program funds and a reserve fund. Or the campaign can focus solely on building the endowment to ensure that the organization will be financially solvent for its entire history.
In the planning phase, it may take months or even years to determine initiative and a total fundraising dollar goal. To ensure that the organization has the right people and resources in place to be successful in completely the capital campaign, an organization will often hire an outside consultant to conduct a feasibility study.
With a “green light” from the feasibility study, an organization can proceed to creating a fundraising plan that identifies their top 20 lead donors – often individuals who were interviewed during the feasibility study), create a campaign brochure to utilize in successful solicitation of donors and a campaign committee to aid in identifying, attracting, cultivating and soliciting donors.
The board is the first group to be solicited for the campaign. Once 100% board giving is achieved, the organization’s inner circle of lead donors will be solicited. This is when the quiet phase officially kicks off. The quiet phase is all about soliciting the inner circle of donors and expanding the organization’s pool of major donors through strategic cultivation efforts. Many times board or campaign committee members will host home parties and invite their friends who may have an interest in the cause and campaign.
The public phase can be launched when 70-80% of the total campaign goal has been reached. The “rule” used to be 50% of the goal, but we have found that the majority of campaign pledges do not come from the “public”, instead they come from carefully cultivated relationships with donors – not a “public announcement of a campaign.
The kick-off phase is one of the most exciting phases. There are public events to bring attention to the organization and their efforts. There is a rise in interest around the campaign initiatives. Hopefully the organization is able to harness their high visibility in the community and media beyond just the campaign purposes.
The public phase is where success is celebrated as the final dollars of the campaign are confirmed. Construction begins in earnest and there is great attention and joy to see a building that once was a sketch become a reality. Once the four phases are completed, a party will be thrown to honor the hard work of the volunteers and staff who participated.
How long does this all take? Well, it depends. But from start to finish, I suggest 5 years for all four phases.
- Confirm campaign goal amount
- Conduct a feasibility study
- Create a fundraising plan
- Identify top 20 donors to cultivate and solicit in the planning phase
- Conduct peer assessment to identify solicitation amount, assign relationship managers, and create solicitation strategies for each prospect
- Cultivate major and lead gift donor by planning and implementing cultivation events for existing and new prospects
- Create moves management worksheet to track top 20 donors
- Create campaign brochure
- Facilitate messaging workshop with board and staff
- Identify photos and images to include in the brochure
- Enlist a writer to draft outline of Case for Support
- Enlist a graphic designer
- Create customized pledge form for the campaign
- Train staff and board members around campaign messaging and ‘making an ask’
- Create solicitation scripts and talking points for staff and board members who are making asks
- Facilitate discussion around naming opportunities if needed
- Solicit each board member for a campaign gift
- Identify and recruit volunteers to join the campaign committee
- Confirm the two lead donors to the campaign
- Identify and recruit honorary campaign members if needed
- Develop roles for community leader
- Coordinate all campaign efforts with current and ongoing development efforts
- Raise 70-80% of your total campaign goal via major gifts and multi-year pledges
- Close and document board gifts
- Continue to conduct peer assessment for gifts to the campaign
- Research prospect donors to gain information that will inform cultivation and solicitation
- Meet one-on-one with individuals who participated in the feasibility study to gauge their interest in making a pledge to the campaign
- Identify and recruit volunteers to join the honorary campaign committee
- Host intimate cultivation events like home parties to begin the engagement of lead and major prospect donors
- Facilitate training around campaign fundraising and ‘making the ask’ to new volunteers
- Create donor solicitation strategies that include a multi-year annual fund gift as well as a campaign gift.
- Solicit for the lead and major gifts ($100,000 and above)
- Create and initiate a stewardship plan for campaign gifts
- Track current gifts and pledges, ensuring proper follow-up and stewardship
- Begin outreach to the community
- Plan campaign kick-off event
- Coordinate launch of public phase once 70-80% of the campaign fundraising goal is achieved
- Host a public Ground Breaking event to commemorate the start of the capital project (if there is one)
- Strategic and public outreach to community businesses and members
- Develop a media plan to elevate the visibility in the area including running stories in the local paper and putting a visual chart – like a thermometer image — to show the campaign’s progress.
- Solicit for smaller campaign donations ($10,000 and under)
- Incorporate a solicitation for the campaign during your annual fundraiser (one year only as to not sabotage the annual fund)
- Continue to conduct donor research and peer assessment to expand the pool of donors
- Continue to conduct cultivation events
- Host a public Grand Opening/ribbon cutting event
- Close and document all gifts and pledges, ensuring proper follow-up and stewardship
- Coordinate final celebration party when the campaign is completed
- Institute pledge collection system
- Provide acknowledgement, stewardship and recognition of gifts