What Makes a Capital Campaign a Capital Campaign?

HINT: It’s NOT because it raises the money to build buildings!

Capital Campaigns are Spring Boards to Increased Impact

They raise the money to move your organization from business as usual to doing more good for more people.

They increase your capacity to make a difference in the world by providing special funds to increase your capacity. Perhaps a new building, or renovations or funds to start new programs.

Capital campaigns also raise money to invest in the systems that will let you sustain your growth long after the campaign. For example, they might pay for new staff members for a specified time or for evaluation and upgrade of communications, development systems and on-line fundraising capacity.

Capital Campaigns Raise More Money – Much More…

More than what? More than you probably thought possible! Many capital campaigns raise 5 or 10 or even 20 times the amount of money an organization raises annually. And that’s over and above the annual fundraising.

How can that be possible? Because the money they raise makes a big IMPACT. And as my friend, Nick Fellers at For Impact points out, impact drives income. Not the other way around!

Capital Campaigns Rely on Big Gifts

Capital campaigns are not broad base campaigns. You don’t raise $5,000,000 by getting 5000 people to give $1,000 each. They just don’t work that way.

In most campaigns, more than 50% of the campaign goal comes from approximately 10 gifts. Yes, capital campaigns rely on big gifts from a relatively few people who want to make a big difference.

Face to Face Solicitation

If you are a wimp and your organization is run by timid people, a capital campaign probably isn’t for you. Because to raise big gifts from generous and committed people, you’ve got to get out and talk to them!

In fact, you’ll have to ask for gifts face-to-face! That takes courage and serious commitment to your cause.

Top Down, Inside Out Solicitation Order

Successful campaigns build a head of steam by raising the largest gifts and the gifts from those closest to the organization first! Before you do any broad base fundraising at all, you’ve got to get commitments from the largest donors and your board member.

Those early commitments create the energy and sense of inevitability that drive the rest of the campaign.

Capital Campaign Gifts Encourage Multi-year Pledges

Unlike your event fundraising or your annual fund, most capital campaign solicitations give donors the option of paying their commitment over a several years. That generally increases the potential for larger gifts.

Capital Campaigns End

In the words of my friend, Bob Pierpont, capital campaigns are “dollar goals up against deadlines.” When they are over, they’re over.

Your organization will need time to implement the changes the campaign has made possible and to stabilize. You’ll need to allow time for your staff and volunteers to recover and for donors to pay off their pledges.

And your organization will need time to build and expand and stabilize before launching another leap forward. And really, you probably won’t want to work that hard again for quite a while.

P.S. A Note about Your Organization’s Upcoming Big Birthday

If your organization is about to turn 20 or 30 or 50, don’t be fooled into thinking that’s a reason for a big capital campaign. While it’s wonderful to celebrate your accomplishments, they don’t provide the juice for a capital campaign.

Pat yourselves on the back, by all means. And then figure out how you can have even more impact over the next few years. And when you’ve figured that out, then it’ll be time for a campaign!

Want more information about capital campaign fundraising? Here are the answers to the Top 7 Capital Campaigns Frequently Asked Questions.

As part of Bloomerang’s Content Donation Program, $100 was donated to Here Center for the Arts.

Andrea Kihlstedt
Andrea Kihlstedt has literally written the most comprehensive book in the field on capital campaign fundraising, among a number of additional fundraising titles. Her book, Capital Campaigns: Strategies that Work, serves as the text in advanced fundraising courses for the leading non-profit programs worldwide. This remarkable book is now out in its 4th edition. Not only is she an expert on capital campaign fundraising, she worked for many years as a campaign consultant and is now a top flight coach, having both studied and taught at the Gestalt International Study Center.
By |2017-06-10T18:03:21-04:00February 21st, 2017|Capital Campaigns|

Leave A Comment