Key elements of a capital campaign

publication date: Apr 24, 2018
author/source: Presentation by Eric B. Javier

Campaigns tend to have an arc beginning with strategic planning. This stage then moves into a campaign planning study followed by campaign quiet phase. The quiet phase is followed by the community phase. Once success is attained, it is very important to do excellent post campaign stewardship to ensure donors feel valued. 

Planning study objectives

Ideally the planning study will lead right into a campaign launch. As part of this study and budgeting, it is valuable to bear in mind 5% of the campaign goal should be planned to go to expenses. The key parts of the planning study are

  • Assess organizational readiness for a campaign
  • Set working goal for a campaign - a figure both ambitious and attainable
  • Test and strengthen elements of the case for support
  • Educate and engage important stakeholders and identify potential leaders
  • Determine the development resources required to conduct and sustain a campaign
  • Determine top donors strategies for case resonance, recognition opportunities, etc. 

Phases of a Planning Study

A planning study has four phases. Each phase is critical to the success of your campaign. You cannot skip a step or speed up this process. The four stages are

  1. Draft case for support to ensure your plan are donor-centric
  2. Study interviews to ensure engagement
  3. Analysis to translate the case into a plan
  4. Final report is your final road map

Campaign: Key Elements

A campaign is more than a planning study report. There are many important elements in a campaign. The key parts of a campaign include

  • Case which provides the rationale behind the initiative
  • Strong leadership to advocate for the cause
  • List of Prospects that are drawn from the organization's natural constituency
  • Plan that is strategic and has an emphasis on major gifts and real money.

It is important to think about the role of other areas of your program including endowment, planned gifts, and the annual fund. 

Phases of a fundraising campaign

Key to a great campaign is to be strategic with your time. Your most valuable ask is an ask made in person. Leaving asks to events and direct mail will leave money on the table.


 6 months to 1 year                                                                                    1 to 3 years

Campaign planning Organization Quiet Phase Community Phase
Begin: Establish: Initiate: Launch:
Strategic Planning Campaign cabinet Quiet fundraising phase Public announcement, awareness, and publicity
Financial goals and objectives Campaign leadership structure Strategic gifts by constituency Achievement of financial goals
Feasibility and planning study Detailed campaign timeline Recruitment of leadership Celebration event
Institutional readiness Table of gifts required to succeed Securing of leadership and major gifts Accountability to donors
  Naming opportunities and policies Stewardship and updates for top donors Donor recognition program
    75%-90% of final goal secured  

Campaign Quiet Phase

A quiet phase is "quiet but not secret" phase of your effort. This stage is when the organization engages the inner circle of donors and stakeholders. Another part of this time is to solidify the case for support and work through the project details and timelines. It also quietly tests the working goal and determines the path forward. Finally, this is the stage when 75%-90% of the goal will be secured. 

Campaign Major Gift Solicitation Stages

When meeting with major donors, there are a series of actions to undertake with major donors.

  • Discover - identify signs of capacity and willingness fro greater involvement.
  • Cultivate - share vision for the future during synagogue events, new congregant outreach, and small group gatherings, among others.
  • Brief - explain fundraising plans at one-on-one meeting and have talking points in your pocket
  • Ask - reinforce the campaign case, and present personalized, specific rerequestas part of a solicitation team. The ask is predetermined by the solicitation team and counsel.
  • Steward - set a timetable for follow-ups. Support development staff in creating personalized acknowledgements.

 Listen adapt, succeed

Even with a great campaign, there will be tough times and reversals. However, with a solid plan, strong leadership, a compelling case, and great execution, your charity can succeed in a campaign.

Eric Javier is a Principal and Managing Director with CCS. For the last 20 years Eric has advised leading executives, trustees, and development leaders from across the nonprofit sector.

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