Starting Steps Guide to Your Capital Campaign

Need to build a new on-campus library or acquire the latest imaging software for your hospital? No matter the overall mission of your organization, you know that as your nonprofit continues to grow so do your needs.

Capital campaigns are a vital fundraising strategy that can help you raise the profits your organization needs within a strict timeframe. But how do you start one? Luckily, your friends at iWave are here to walk you through some helpful and vital steps to success.

Assemble a Capital Campaign Committee

The first step in launching a capital campaign is to make sure you have the right people on board. You want to ensure everyone is on the same page as far as what the overall goal is and how you plan on achieving it.

Take your time to search through people in your organization who are qualified for and have the time to fill the following positions:

Board of Directors

These are usually the most invested and well-connected people on your capital campaign team. They are crucial during this fundraising process and will most likely be contributing gifts of their own, so choose people who are well connected and respected within your community.

Staff Members

These team members are existing faculty, heads of department, and senior executives. For example, if you’re building a new science wing at your university, you’ll want the head of the Biology department on your team.

Community Volunteers

As a nonprofit, you know the importance of community involvement. Enlist some trustworthy volunteers to help with your events or with spreading the word. If you’re launching a capital campaign for your hospital, these volunteers can even be grateful patients.

Valuable Prospects

These are the key to the success of your capital campaign. They can provide a unique perspective from the mind of your donor and can help you reach out to the right people in the right ways to ask for support.

Depending on the type of fundraising and campaigning you may be interested in engaging in, you may need to create subcommittees with your volunteers and staff members. Some subcommittees you might form include:

  • Government relations
  • Loans and “bridge funding”
  • Major gifts
  • Funding from religion congregations
  • Corporate donations
  • In-kind donations
  • Marketing
  • Special events

No matter what type of subcommittee you decide to create, it’s important your main committee meets regularly with your subcommittees to ensure everyone is staying on track.

There are also a couple roles you may need to establish that don’t belong to a specific committee such as a major gifts officer, prospect researcher, or planned giving officer. No capital campaign should have to be tackled alone, so make sure you have the right people by your side before you get started.

Related: Get the Capital Campaign Cheat Sheet

Conduct a Feasibility Study

A feasibility study is a way to see if your campaign will be able to raise the funds it needs before you even launch it. This study is conducted through a series of interviews with members of the community and potential donors. Some of the factors that will be considered include:

  • The community’s perception of your organization and the proposed project
  • The size of your potential donor base
  • Available internal resources and where they may be lacking
  • External factors that may play into the capital campaign

This feasibility study will let you know if you can even reach the goals you have put in place. However, even if your study doesn’t yield the results you’re looking for, it doesn’t mean your campaign is dead before it even started. Instead, you may have to start considering other possible major donors or look into other avenues for gifts.

Wealth Screen Donor Prospects

Another way to see if your capital campaign will be successful is by wealth screening for donor prospects. Compile various data on potential donors and look at some of the following factors to see if they would be a good fit for your specific cause:

  • History of charitable giving
  • Past giving to your organization
  • Donations made to like-minded nonprofits
  • Real estate ownership
  • Stock ownership
  • Organizational and business affiliations
  • Basic information such as name, address, marital status, and age

You can take the time to put this information together yourself and comb through the necessary paperwork, or you can invest in fundraising software to make the task easier for you. Certain platforms will scan this information for you to uncover which potential donors meet your specific qualifications.

Once you’ve established a pool of potential donors, the next step is to start creating a hierarchy of gifts based on this information. It also gives you a good idea of whether or not the initial private phase of funding will be successful or if you need to uncover more major gift donors.

Establish a Deadline

One aspect that sets capital campaigns apart from other forms of fundraising is that they have a strict deadline. Your building needs to be constructed by a certain time, so you need to have all your funds raised by a certain date to begin building.

Before launching your campaign, set a realistic deadline that takes into account unforeseen events that could arise and cause potential delays. Some capital campaigns last one year while others span a couple years, so you want to make sure you’re selecting a deadline that makes the most sense for your specific project needs.

After you pick your deadline, it’s important to remain flexible. You still want to stay organized and on track, but if issues arise along the way you want to make sure they don’t completely tear apart your campaign. Hurdles are bound to come along, but most are easy to jump thanks to your preparation.

Finalize Your End Goal

In addition to a time in which you need to meet your goal, you need to discover what exactly that goal may be. Your financial goal not only needs to consider how much your structure will cost but hidden expenses as well. Some of these items may be:

  • Fundraising Costs: You can’t raise a large sum of money without having to spend some money, so factor in a set budget for how much to spend on fundraising.
  • Attrition Costs: Capital campaigns can rely on pledges that are disbursed over a number of years and the value of those pledges may diminish over time. Make sure attrition costs do not exceed 10-percent of your final goal.
  • Inflation: This is a hidden cost that can be difficult to account for. Build a buffer into your budget to help account for inflation over the course of your campaign.

Create a Budget

As noted above, fundraising comes with its own costs. To ensure you’re staying on track with spending and also that your end fundraising goal is accurate, you need to create a budget for your campaign before launching.
Some potential costs you may need to cover in your budget include:

Fundraising Events

In-person events may require location or equipment rentals while online events such as auctions may need spending on auction items.

Major Donor Cultivation

Whether you’re choosing to invest in a fundraising platform or need to hire a grant writer to secure a major gift, there are certain costs associated with uncovering potential donors.

Marketing Materials

You want to make sure the community is aware of your mission and that you are letting potential supporters know how your new structure will support your cause. From pamphlets to advertisements, you want to make sure you’re allocating funds to the proper marketing materials.

There are other costs that may arise so make sure you have a buffer built into your budget. You can always accrue fewer costs and use the remaining money towards your overall campaign goal.

Review Past Fundraising Successes and Failures

You want to make sure you’re fundraising successfully, so consider looking into your past to see where you were and weren’t successful with fundraising. For example, if direct mail strategies have worked in the past, you’ll want to implement this strategy again. Similarly, if making calls was unsuccessful in raising awareness for past events, you will want to avoid this method in your campaign.

Since in a capital campaign you need to raise a significant amount of money during a strict timeframe, you want to make sure you’re using every second of your time wisely. By learning from your past successes and failures, you’ll be able to create a more profitable fundraising strategy.

Make a Contingency Plan

Similar to how you accounted for hidden costs in your budget, you also want to prepare for unforeseen circumstances. Some issues will arise, and you’ll just have to deal with them in the moment. But there are other times when you’ll be able to plan for how to deal with a certain issue.

From small hiccups to major bumps in the road, you and your committee should sit down and map out what to do should certain issues arise. Coming up with a contingency plan ahead of time can prevent problems from derailing your project for several months.

Develop a Gift Range Chart

Since your capital campaign relies heavily on major gift donations, you’ll want to create a gift range chart to plan for how many donors you’ll need. For example, your chart may look like this:

Your personal gift range chart will depend upon your campaign’s fundraising goal as well as the results of the feasibility study you conducted before launch. This chart is just a guideline and will most likely differ from the actual numbers.
For instance, you may ask eight potential donors for a gift of $150,000 expecting only two people to make a contribution, but three donors decide to provide a gift instead.

Create a Plan

After you’ve established how many gifts you will need from each donor at each donor level, you’ll need to decide how you’ll go about receiving those donations.

Your board members should start by making contributions of their own to show they personally believe in your mission and support your campaign. After that, you’ll need to decide with your committee how to acquire the other major gifts.

Once again, this plan can change completely or vary slightly depending on the donor you’re dealing with. It’s important to stay flexible and be open to changes in the plan. However, you want to try to stick to the plan as much as possible.

Establish checkpoints for your team as a way to evaluate success. If you are failing to meet certain requirements at any point in the campaign you may need to change your strategy or bring new team members on board.

Outline a Timeline

A detailed timeline with a solid timetable will help you stay on track to reach your deadline. A capital campaign in broken down into two major phases: The Private (Quiet) and Public.

In the private phase, you’ll reach out to individual major gift donors to secure about 50 to 70 percent of your overall goal. Then, in the public phase, you’ll ask a wider audience for smaller contributions to reach your end goal.

The smaller steps that occur within or between these phases are specific to your deadline, overall goal, and mission of your organization. Work closely with your team to establish how your timeline will look based on your personal fundraising strategy.

Prepare Documents

You want to make sure any information on your capital campaign as well as your nonprofit as a whole is easily accessible to your supporters. With a financial goal and deadline in mind, you can begin to create your key support documents.

These documents will convey your professionalism and seriousness about the cause and will help encourage potential donors to contribute a gift. Some of the documents you may want to budget for include:

  • Case statements
  • Brochures
  • Letters
  • Pledge cards
  • Proposals

Write Your Case Statement

Your case statement is your way of showing potential donors that your campaign is worthy of funding. This document will provide details about your capital campaign and will work to answer questions any supporters may have.

You can reference your case statement when writing brochures, proposals, and speeches. It’s a great resource to keep every member of your team on track. Since many people will lay their eyes on this document, it should be visually appealing, professional, and informative.

Be sure to highlight your organization’s past, especially any successes you have had. Then, clearly state the reason for the capital campaign, how it will support the community, and what their donations will help effect.

This single document will be the basis for the majority of your marketing materials so make sure it’s written by someone with writing experience on your team or consider hiring a freelance writer.

Align Expectations

Before you’re fully ready to launch your capital campaign, you have one last major step: Ensuring your entire team is on the same page.

Sit down with every person involved in your campaign to clearly define your objectives, deadline, and goals. Make sure every member of your board and committee reads your case statement as well. Additionally, throughout the campaign, you want to make sure you’re checking in regularly with your staff.

By keeping everyone on the same page, you’re helping to ensure the campaign process runs smoothly and is more streamlined overall.

How iWave Can Help Your Capital Campaign

As we mentioned before, there are times in your capital campaign where you may feel the need to enlist practiced help. One of these times is with prospective donor research, and that’s where iWave comes in.

Our next generation platform is built on billions of data points to help you uncover the best potential donors for your cause.

Since the private phase of funding is where the majority of your gifts come from, it’s crucial this initial phase goes smoothly. A major measurement of success is identifying the right donors early on. iWave’s fundraising software scans information faster than you or your team would be able to compile it and presents you with a list of top potential donors.

Our system takes into account not only if they are a good candidate based on personal factors and charitable history, but it also shows you how much to ask for. This data is especially useful when it comes time to create a gift range chart.

See Us in Action!

The best way to know if iWave can help you successfully launch your capital campaign is to see it in action for yourself. We invite you contact our team today to set up a free demo. We would love to show you exactly how our software can be utilized to achieve your nonprofit’s unique goals.

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