While the general cadence of capital campaigns hasn’t changed in decades, they are becoming more focused and efficient. Multiple market trends including the concentration of wealth, advancements in technology and communication, and the professionalization of nonprofits have necessitated an updated approach to capital campaigns. At Dickerson, Bakker & Associates, we are leading the efforts to modernize capital campaigns including the five phases of a modern capital campaign.
The 5 Phases of a Modern Capital Campaign
- Readiness – You don’t go from couch to marathon in a month. Likewise, capital campaigns require a season of readiness. The most successful campaigns consider six key areas of readiness in the months and years before they launch their campaign: strategic plan, fundraising, staff, board, project, and consultant (I can think of a really good firm if you are looking!).To learn more about capital campaign readiness, download this checklist >>
- Planning Study – Are you sure you can raise the goal? Before you are ready to launch your campaign, it is best to investigate how your case will resonate, where you can find the funding for your project, and who is best to lead your campaign.The planning study is this intensive investigation. More comprehensive than the more traditionally known feasibility study, the planning study doesn’t just answer if a campaign is feasible but establishes a plan for how it can be accomplished. The planning study also prepares your donors and leaders for the campaign. Planning studies typically last 3-4 months but are a strategic investment in the success of your campaign.
- Leadership – Congratulations! You are ready to start asking for money!The first fundraising phase of a campaign used to be called the “quiet phase.” However, over the hundreds of successful campaigns we have led, we noticed that campaign leaders would get all wound up about exactly what they are supposed to be quiet about.A more modern capital campaign approach focuses not on silence but on leadership. The leadership phase has two components: 1) establish the team who will lead the campaign (often called the steering committee) and 2) raise leadership and major gifts.
The goal of the campaign is to raise between 60-90% of the campaign fundraising goal through peer-to-peer approaches so that you can confidently go out to your community to raise the balance.
- Community – You have worked tirelessly to get to a point where you can confidently reach out to your broader community and ask for support. This phase is traditionally called the public phase, however, rarely do large numbers of people from the general public give meaningful gifts to campaign projects.Instead, those gifts are secured through your agency’s community of donors, volunteers, and friends: those who are in some way already connected and inclined to give. The focus on community—versus the general public—concentrates limited resources (volunteer time, staff time, project funds) where it is most efficient and effective. During the community phase, you should continue the emphasis on peer-to-peer fundraising.You should also add additional methods such as strategically designed events, service group and church presentations, social media, telefundraising, and direct mail. The community phase is a flurry of activity aimed at inspiring smaller donors to give generously to cross the finish line.
- Fulfillment – You can’t spend pledges! Instead you have to collect them.As such, the modern capital campaign doesn’t end when you reach your fundraising goal. The fulfillment phase starts with one or more celebration events to thank and recognize donors, showcase your agency’s achievement, and encourage donors to continue their support.Then, it is time to launch a multi-year communications plan we call the “Reminder Series.” This series can take a number of forms but should provide periodic updates to donors on the impact of the new building/endowment/project that they are still making pledge payments toward.