Nonprofit capital campaigns aim to raise a specific — usually, a significant — amount of money over a limited time period. Your not-for-profit may undertake a capital campaign to acquire land, buy a new facility, expand an existing facility, purchase major equipment or seed an endowment. Whatever your goal, a capital campaign can be grueling, so you need to ensure stakeholders are on board and ready to do what it takes to reach it.
Appoint a leader
Capital campaigns generally are long-term projects — often lasting three or more years. To carry out yours, you’ll need a champion with vision and stamina. Consider board members or look to leaders in the greater community with a fundraising track record, knowledge of your community, the ability to motivate others, and time to attend meetings and fundraising events.
Your leader will require a small army to achieve capital campaign goals. Volunteers, board members, and staffers will be required to raise funds through direct mail, email solicitations, direct solicitations, and special events. If you need more help, look to like-minded community groups and clients who have benefited from your services.
The biggest challenge of any capital campaign is securing donations. To this end, identify a large group — say, 1,000 individuals — to solicit. Draw your list from past donors, area business owners, board members, volunteers, and other likely prospects. Then narrow that list to the 100 largest potential donors and talk to them first.
Traditional fundraising wisdom holds that you shouldn’t go public with your campaign until you’ve secured significant “lead gifts” from major donors. The percentage varies, with an organization commonly waiting until 50% of its fundraising goal is reached before announcing a campaign. Even if you decide not to follow this model, know that it’s generally easier to solicit donations under $1,000 after you’ve already landed several large gifts.
To engage key constituents and ensure that they share your strategies for reaching the campaign’s goals, break down your ultimate target into smaller objectives. Celebrate as you reach each goal. Also regularly report gifts, track your progress toward reaching your ultimate goal and measure the effectiveness of your activities.
Pay attention to how you craft your message. Potential donors must see your organization as capable and strong, but also as the same group, they’ve championed for years. Instead of focusing on what donations will do for your nonprofit, show potential donors the impact on their community. And, as always, publicly recognize donors in your newsletter and thank them at public events.
Remember hidden costs
If you’re still trying to decide on your financial goal, keep in mind that it will cost money to execute the campaign. Fundraising events, marketing materials, consultant fees, and other expenses can eat into donations. For help determining these and other hidden costs, contact us.