3 questions you need to answer before you launch your capital campaign

Launching a capital campaign means the start of some of the most exciting fundraising you’ll ever experience.

The thrill of the big vision of the future, the passion of your donors and volunteers, and the pride you’ll feel in bringing in some of the biggest gifts in the history of your organization…

Nothing can compare!

Before you get started, there are questions you need answered to determine whether you're in a position to make one of the most significant commitments in the history of your organization.

Stakes are high in a capital campaign – are you ready?

What’s the big idea?

If you want to raise big money, you’re going to need a big idea.

Your vision for what you want to achieve with your campaign must grab the imagination of your potential donors, inspiring them to make an important investment in your organization – for some, it may be the most significant philanthropic gift they give in their lifetime.

How is your campaign going to give your donors the opportunity to change the world, and make it a better place?

This isn’t to say you can’t raise capital funds to crucial organizational needs like expanded office space, or updated infrastructure – but you will have greater success if you are able to roll these practical needs into a bigger, inspiring vision for future.

Does everyone understand that a capital campaign means 'all hands on deck'?

I’m afraid no one gets to sit out a capital campaign – especially in a small shop!

In a smaller organization, the Executive Director and Board will play active, pivotal roles in leading your campaign.

While external expertise is helpful, and often necessary, it’s simply not realistic to expect a fundraiser or consultant to magic up millions of dollars alone – capital campaigns take a significant commitment of time and resources from everyone at your organization's leadership table.

Your ED will play an important role – think of her as the Chief Visionary Officer of your campaign.

She’ll be going on donor visits and taking part in major gift solicitations, and bringing the vision for your campaign to life.

And ultimately, with support, she’s responsible for leading your organization to campaign success.

And in addition to being accountable for the financial health of your organization (and by extension, the success of your campaign), this is a great opportunity for your board of directors to play an active role in fundraising, and lead your campaign to a successful conclusion.

How much you need to raise – including your campaign expenses?

Here’s where many organizations make a common mistake before their campaign even starts.

They create a budget that’s too tight – it’s often based solely on the costs of the new building or renovation.

I understand the desire to play it safe – but if you're going through the incredible amount of work it takes to launch and conduct a successful campaign, you should make absolutely sure that your goal is comprehensive of as many of your future needs as reasonably possible.

What will the longer term costs be of expanding your programming into your new/renovated building? Do you have any endowment needs for the future? And what about any changing infrastructure or administrative costs associated with your future plans?

And equally importantly, you must budget for the costs of your campaign.

A generally accepted guideline is to plan to spend approximately 10% of your campaign goal to cover your campaign expenses (this will vary organization to organization, but it’s a good starting point).

This will cover a variety of important costs, including staff, prospect research, developing your case for support, bolstering your fundraising infrastructure, campaign counsel, marketing and communications, donor recognition, stewardship, campaign events – the list is extensive.

Don’t shortchange your organization or your donors by neglecting to budget properly for campaign expenses.

Are you and your organization thinking about launching a capital campaign? What are the big questions on your mind? Don’t hesitate to get in touch if I can help – here’s how you can reach me.

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