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Published by: WealthEngine
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Capital Campaign Definition: What is a Capital Campaign?

Published by: WealthEngine
Published on:
A capital campaign is a rigorous attempt made by a nonprofit, to raise major gifts for a specific goal. Read more to learn all about capital campaigns.

 Just what is a capital campaign and how can it help your nonprofit or higher educational institution? Here’s a capital campaign definition along with three key insights on when you should start one for your organization.

If you want to begin fundraising for your nonprofit, you have to ask yourself: What is a capital campaign goal, what is ours, and how do we go about achieving it? If you want to achieve a specific goal, you should start a capital campaign. But, how do you start one? And, what do you need? Here are some tips and information to guide you through the beginning stages of your campaign.

What is a Capital Campaign?

So, what is a capital campaign exactly? A capital campaign is a rigorous attempt, made by a nonprofit organization, to raise major gifts for one specific goal or a variety of goals. If you have multiple goals, your capital campaign is a comprehensive campaign. Having multiple goals classifies your project as a comprehensive campaign.

These donations or gifts are typically used to renovate or acquire a building. However, they are also used to raise money for endowments, scholarships, or other grants. Essentially, you’re trying to raise a significant number of funds within a defined period of time as a way to support the larger goals and mission of your organization.

When to Start a Capital Campaign

There are three common catalysts that inspire nonprofits to initiate capital campaigns:

1. You’re in dire need of a new space or new resources 

Suppose someone is selling the facility your organization has been using. Your organization will need a new space and fast. To minimize disruptions to your organization and the community at large, you decide to fundraise for a new space so you can maintain business as usual.

2. You’ve outgrown your space

As an organization, you all may come to the conclusion that your current space is no longer meeting the needs of the organization or the needs of communities you serve. To better cater to your evolving needs, you may fundraise for a new space or an addition to your existing building.

3. You want to have a tangible legacy

These are rare cases, but your organization may feel inclined, towards the end of its time, to have a tangible legacy which may be in the form of a building that will be of use to the community.

How to Organize a Capital Campaign

Organizing a capital campaign involves a thorough evaluation of the state of your organization and a clear determination of your goals.

Although the director of development or the executive director of the organization plays a key role in the initiation of a successful capital campaign, they can’t manage the campaign on their own. During the first year of a campaign, a director can spend about 75-80% of their time focused on the project. After some time, however, it’s important to delegate the work. The work can be assigned to someone in the organization or an outside hire. They will help conduct business as usual, while they oversee the stability of your campaign. 


5 Capital Campaign Phases

Before executing your campaign, you have to assess your readiness. Part of that assessment is making sure that you have clear goals outlined before jumping in. It’s important to take a good look at what your organizational needs are. If you’ve created your goal in a vacuum, without consulting others in your organization, the goal will fail to serve either the organization, the community or both. It’s integral to align your intentions for your organization with specific fundraising areas, and then plan how you will execute.  

Now that you’ve determined what your community needs, how do you go about achieving your capital campaign goal? How do you organize your efforts, and use your time and resources wisely? A capital campaign is typically broken down into steps. More specifically, there are five phases in the campaign process:  

1. Planning Phase

During this initial stage, you should evaluate all the moving parts you’ll need to involve in your campaign. This will include forming a capital campaign feasibility study, creating a goal or multiple goals, determining your budget, brainstorming necessary resources, and gathering your team.

You should also use this time to create a donor pyramid. This is a segmented list of your existing donors that identifies who to approach for the different tiers of your campaign, such as lead gifts, planned gifts, major gifts and so on. Watch this video for details on how it works and ways it can help you reach your capital campaign goals:

Use WealthEngine’s Donor Pyramid Modeler to build yours quickly – it does all of the math and segmentation for you and produces a list of existing donors to pursue plus calculates how much you can raise. It will also lay out how many new prospects you need.

2. Silent Phase

Now that you’ve planned out your capital campaign, it’s time to step into the first stage of execution. Within this period, which typically lasts for 18 months, you’ll be focusing on satisfying your major gift leads. It’s during this time that you’re receiving the bulk of your principal or major donations. It’s important to achieve 75% of your total goal before opening up your campaign to the public. You can use wealth screening to find hidden gems of big donors in your existing contacts.

3. Kick-Off Phase

You’ve now approached all your major donors, and are now able to introduce your campaign to the public! This is the point where you’re able to communicate your goal or goals to potential donors and outline your greater intention for the campaign.

4. Public Phase

You’re now winding down your efforts. Since you’ve already approached your major donors and satisfied the majority of your campaign, you can now connect with the community and smaller donors. It’s these smaller gifts that will bring your goal to a close.

5. Wrap-Up and Assessment Phase

Once your campaign has been successfully completed, it’s important to actively reflect on the process. Above all, when reflecting back on the process, it’s important to ask yourself: What worked? What wasn’t as effective as anticipated? How could we mold our process for future campaigns?

Set your capital campaign in motion. Schedule a WealthEngine demo and speak with one of our experienced consultants.