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What your nonprofit needs for a successful capital campaign

January 27, 2022

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Many nonprofits have put major purchases and other ambitious initiatives on hold during the pandemic. But if you need to buy or expand a facility, purchase expensive equipment, or seed an endowment, your organization may not want to wait any longer.

A capital campaign to raise funds can be more difficult at this time — but it’s possible. You just need to ensure your not-for-profit’s stakeholders fully support your goals and are willing to go the extra mile to achieve them.

A small army

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.

Fundraising smarts

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% to 65% 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.

Keep in mind that your campaign will cost money to execute. Fundraising events, marketing materials, consultant fees and other expenses can eat into donations.

The right message

To engage key constituents, 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.

Remember hidden costs

Is now the time for a capital campaign? It depends on many factors, including your organization’s fiscal health. Contact us for help evaluating your nonprofit’s financial fitness.

All content provided in this article is for informational purposes only. Matters discussed in this article are subject to change. For up-to-date information on this subject please contact a Clark Schaefer Hackett professional. Clark Schaefer Hackett will not be held responsible for any claim, loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of any information within these pages or any information accessed through this site.

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