Launching a Capital Campaign

Capital campaigns require significant planning and research prior to launch. This chapter will discuss the steps you need to take in order to launch a successful capital campaign.


Before you begin, you need to consider the following in order to effectively plan your successful capital campaign.

  • Staff experience – Inexperience can create major issues. If you do not have adequate experience within your staff, it is highly recommended to hire outside campaign counsel to oversee your campaign strategy and implementation.
  • Donors – What do your current donors look like? Write a list of your major donors, loyal donors, and prospective donors.
  • Donor Development – What is your current donor development strategy? Will it strengthen donor relations as it stands now? Will it engage these donors to participate in your capital campaign efforts?
  • Needs Statement – You need this for your grant funding requests as well as your donor request communications. Draft a needs statement that clearly highlights that your community needs this project to be completed. Demonstrate value to the community. Discuss how current realities are not sufficient without this capital project. Substantiate your evidence.
  • Identify similar projects in your community. Is yours different? How? Why would yours be needed?
  • You need the following:
  • Donor Management System
  • Properly segmented database
  • Process for acknowledging contributions and providing proper tax-deductible documentation for your donors.
  • Accounting System
  • Campaign management tracking system

Feasibility Study

Feasibility studies provide data to assist your team in preliminary data collection on campaign effectiveness. Information gathered in a well-designed feasibility study will offer:

  • Organization reputation (internal and external perceptions)
  • Where challenges and opportunities may lie in your efforts
  • Campaign leadership identification
  • Areas for campaign improvement

The feasibility study provides insights to design an effective campaign plan and outline. It also reinforces or establishes a realistic campaign goal. It can help determine if your timing in pursuing this campaign is feasible at this time and the best ways to approach it.

Feasibility studies are frequently performed by an external consultant who can provide necessary objectivity. Internal personnel can be involved in:

  • Retaining the consultant – Consultants need to be objective and confidential
  • Leadership – Organizational leaders need to fully cooperate with the process
  • Budget – Create a credible and accurate budget
  • Participants – Participant invitations provided by organization leadership
  • Consultant – Conducts confidential interviews
  • Report – Leadership must review the feasibility study together
  • Action – Leadership works with staff to make necessary changes resulting from the study findings
  • Interviewees – All invited participants must receive the study Executive Summary regardless of participation

Case for Support 

The capital campaign planning committee revises and implements their plan based upon the feasibility study findings. The plan must include a strong case for support. The Case for Support is a document that is used to drive the campaign narrative across all campaign channels. This document will have the following components:

  • Budget – Includes all capital project expenses and all avenues of campaign revenue
  • A gift chart demonstrating the various levels of giving options available to prospective donors and how each level contributes to the campaign goal. This includes giving levels with naming opportunities or other pre-defined and motivational recognition perks.
  • Campaign schedule with giving goals on a timeline to keep target goal in perspective with activities.
  • Campaign gift policies that determine which contributions count toward the campaign goal and when (matching gifts can be a factor). They also provide a clear guideline on what acceptable gifts are.
  • Campaign communication plan
  • Campaign steering committee recruitment – this committee oversees the implementation of the campaign including involvement in major asks.
  • Board training on their responsibilities before, during, and after the campaign.

Key ingredients to an effective workable document are:

  • Strong campaign leadership
  • Strong case for support
  • Workable gift chart
  • Budget
  • Campaign message for all media outlets
  • Campaign timeline defined
  • Launching event defined
  • Campaign closing date defined
  • Donor recognition plan

Steering Committee

The steering committee must have invested strong leadership in order to effectively maneuver the essential steps to a successful capital campaign. They must follow the campaign plan. 

People on the steering committee are capable of opening doors to their networks for your organization’s capital campaign goals. They will be the face of the “asking” done on behalf of your organization and conduct all solicitations. They can also help bolster your board by opening doors to new potential board member interest.

Steering committee members need to have clout in the community in order to garner the success your campaign needs. Lending their name to your cause will influence people. Letting them be the spokesperson or mouthpiece for your organization also reassures potential donors that an outside person of importance finds your organization’s efforts worthy of support. Their connections and status can have a strong impact on the numbers of donors and sizes of gifts given.

Choose your committee wisely. They may even choose to provide their own financial support to your cause. Other ways in which they can support include hosting campaign events and recruiting other leaders in the community to visibly bolster your campaign.

Planning Matters

If you do not have a board or development staff that fully understand what is required to manage a capital campaign, it is advised that you seek outside professional counsel in order to successfully accomplish your campaign goal. Fundraisers alone cannot accomplish this. Nor can your grant writer. You need a capital campaign strategist to design your plan, which should also include fundraisers and grant writing.

Multiple sources and types of support are necessary to meet your campaign goals. These must be managed by different people who specialize in these areas in order to be effective. Most importantly, choose your steering committee wisely. Do a feasibility study and make a well-designed plan that can be effectively implemented by all parties to ensure success.