Campaign Basics

capital campaign construction strategy prospects

A capital campaign is designed to successfully reach a pre-determined financial goal in order to fund a defined initiative or set of initiatives in a set period of time; for example, build or renovate a facility, introduce or expand a major new program, or grow the endowment. Capital campaigns succeed when they have the right leadership, a compelling Case for Support, and a pool of prospective donors who have the capacity to be generous if appropriately motivated.
Plan A Advisors’ six-part series, Campaign Basics, is a primer for any nonprofit contemplating a capital campaign.


Campaign Strategy

Successful capital campaigns are 50% strategy and 50% prospects. Here’s what falls into the “strategy” category:
Volunteer Leadership. Campaigns may be driven by fundraising professionals, but they depend on volunteer leaders (the Campaign Committee) to chair, support, and solicit. An effective Campaign Committee includes members who are generous, connected, and fearless. They make gifts that are personally meaningful, they engage in identifying and cultivating prospects, and they are willing to play an active role in soliciting gifts. (The best gifts often come when prospects are solicited by a peer who can say: “I’ve made a commitment; I ask you to join me.”)
Case for Support. Capital campaigns are built on a persuasive argument or “case” that gives each prospect a compelling reason to make a gift and conveys a sense of urgency. Wealthy prospects have many calls on their largesse, so a campaign’s Case for Support needs to convince them to respond generously and it needs to give them a good reason to respond now.
Campaign Design. Campaign gifts, all together, almost always follow a pyramid-like pattern with a small number of major gifts responsible for 50% or more of a campaign’s overall goal. To “design” a campaign, first design the pyramid (or “Gift Table”) by determining how many gifts are needed at each level (i.e., $100,000, $50,000, 25,000…). Then do the research to make sure you have multiple prospects to approach for each major gift you need. (For more on Campaign Design and constructing a Gift Table, see the fifth eblast in this series.)