At some point, many nonprofits require a targeted campaign to raise funds for a specific project, usually for a building construction or remodeling project. There is enormous effort that goes into a capital campaign which may span several years as the organization raises millions of dollars. While planning such a large-scale campaign may seem daunting, when strategized appropriately, that overwhelming feeling can give way to great success. It’s all about planning. Here are steps to consider when planning a capital campaign.
Needs and Goals for Your Nonprofit
The need for a capital campaign is determined by your organization’s leadership and board. The specifics surrounding the achievement of your campaign goal will make or break the cause. Make sure the following is determined prior to beginning your campaign:
- Have you done a feasibility study?
- Is your board prepared for the long-term project?
- Do you have a strategic plan for fundraising?
- How will staff be involved?
- What is your budget?
When you start to answer these questions, specifically with your board, there should be an outline and answer to each of these questions. Your board will need to be in agreement on the plan for a capital campaign as they will be part of the legwork to secure large funds. Your development committee (which should be established prior to beginning your campaign) needs to be able to communicate answers to these questions to other board members and prospective donors.
Capital Campaign Support
Many times, nonprofit organizations needing to raise millions turn to outside organizations who specialize in these endeavors. Professional fundraisers and fundraising counsels can assist with the feasibility study and also locate donors who may be unaware of your organization. Even if you consider your organization well-known, a potential donor who simply knows your name and branding may not contribute unless they are educated on your mission and programming.
Consider creating a statement of support: what is your goal, how can the prospective donors be part of this large undertaking, what is most needed? This is where your fundraiser and development committee, leadership and board involve the marketing team to visualize and design the materials needed to portray the specifics of your campaign. No matter your organization’s size, the mindset has to be one of full teamwork to run a successful capital campaign.
Consider a Gift Range for the Capital Campaign
Just like you do with sponsorship levels for events, you need to create a gift chart ranging from high amounts to your lowest. Remember to keep your final contribution goal in mind when setting this range; a donor entry level that is too low will prolong your capital campaign timeline.
Your gift range should include a breakdown of the goals and how each gift correlates with reaching those goals. Do not think of the gift range as a “rulebook”, but rather a guide that can be manipulated based on the willingness of the donors you discover.
Marketing Plan for Your Capital Campaign
Once your team has made the decision to move forward with a capital campaign, you need to have a marketing plan and budget in place. To make money, you need to spend money. These numbers should be worked into your overall budget ahead of time along with a study on your advertising’s return on investment.
Your larger donors will be part of what is known as the “quiet phase” of the marketing campaign. Approximately half of your goal is met during this time with specific asks by your development team and board. These are the donors that will not need recognition until the public phase, if at all.
Once you have 50% of your goal established, you can turn to the public to promote your entire goal, working in “big news” about the large pledges received. If smaller donors see these bigger donors are part of the goal, they tend to give what they can so they can feel that they are part of a community-building project.
Keep all donors involved regardless of size of donation. Send campaign updates and always make them feel special about their donation. Even if a prospect doesn’t donate, thank them for listening to your story and ask them if they would like periodic updates on the campaign’s progress. If you keep them involved, they might consider giving at some point in the future.
Your marketing plan will include paid advertising as well as news releases and social media. Use your website as a news hub. Figure out a way to make the campaign front and center and get people to click to it from social media posts to get involved. Not only are you asking for help, you are branding yourself again for people who might not know you.
Final Thoughts on Your Capital Campaign
You can’t forget about your accounting team during this process. Your accountant knows the financial history of your organization; this is important information to have when developing your campaign plan. Your accountant should be included in the early planning phases of your campaign.
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