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Mastering your next capital campaign

March 28, 2024

Are you a nonprofit looking to make major equipment purchases, build a new facility, grow your endowment or increase your staffing numbers to improve your organization and meet your goals? If so, a capital campaign may be the best way to do so.

Capital campaigns are focused and intensive fundraising efforts nonprofits use to raise large sums of money within a defined timeframe. Nonprofits may opt to run a capital campaign, as distinct from its other typical fundraising efforts, when they set goals that require higher financial resources. These campaigns must also have a set financial goal, thorough strategic planning, an emphasis on major gifts, a multi-channel approach, and strong, personalized relationships for your donors.

Here are the necessary steps to run a successful capital campaign:

Engage stakeholders and leadership

Your team’s buy-in is crucial to run an effective campaign. Your board, leadership, and high-level volunteers will be the key to your success. It’s ideal to engage them early so that they understand the campaign’s goals and can be effective advocates and donors. Getting these stakeholders excited about your campaign is the first step to both urge them to donate and to strategically motivate others in your community to do the same.

Conduct a feasibility study

Although I may be biased as a member of our Strategy Department (where we always advocate for surveying your audience), a feasibility study is the recommended first step before launching a capital campaign. (See Capital Campaign Pro and Aly Sterling for reference.)

These studies assess the feasibility of your goals, your community’s understanding and support of your organization, and are the first step to identify your potential donors. By completing a survey, you have a basepoint for where your organization should start, what your financial goal should be, and insight on how much your community cares about your organization’s specific need and project.

Create your case

With a baseline understanding of your audience, your team is ready to establish a compelling case that supports your campaign. You will need to outline your nonprofit’s history, mission, and impact to show why the local community should care and help your organization, all while pushing the urgency of your specific project.

A great example is ECMC’s “No Giving Up” capital campaign. Our Martin Group team assisted ECMC to gain support for their new, state-of-the-art Trauma Center and Emergency Department. Donors gravitated to this campaign as ECMC is the region’s only Level 1 Adult Trauma Center. When an emergency happens, ECMC is the facility these donors and their families rely on for emergency medical assistance. The region had a need for improving this type of care. By providing relevant visuals, engaging storytelling, and explanatory data to impact our target audience, our creative team helped successfully articulate how ECMC’s new facility could fill this need.

Develop a communications plan

Communication planning for a capital campaign is complex. Each campaign has different audiences and multi-year timelines, which typically requires an integrated team to identify target audiences, along with a determination of the correct channels and tactics needed to reach donors during both quiet and public phases of the campaign. A creative team can then take those recommendations and create collateral that will provide consistency across a nonprofit’s messaging and branding to ensure a target audience understands the ask, and who it’s coming from.

All in all, capital campaigns are a big deal for your nonprofit. Capital Campaign Pro surveyed nearly 300 nonprofits about their capital campaigns (past, present, or planned). On average, organizations raised $8.9MM through their campaign over the typical 3.2-year timeline. 94% of the surveyed respondents considered their campaign a success with an average of 108% of their goal raised by the end of their campaign.

These are significant funds that can determine the future of your nonprofit and sometimes your entire community, which is why you need to ensure you take all the right steps while preparing for and completing your campaign.

To learn more about The Martin Group’s extensive work with nonprofits, click here.

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