Capital Campaigns: 4 Strategies to Get Your Board Involved

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A capital campaign is a fundraising campaign hosted by a nonprofit with a specific dollar amount in mind.

There is an intense focus on funding a high-cost project, backed by a nonprofit’s board, and the campaign’s timeline can last upwards of a year, consisting of two phases: the quiet phase and the public phase.

The quiet phase comes after your preparation. This is when you’ll focus on major gift donations and reach 50%-70% of your end goal. Then, you’ll have your kickoff event followed by your public phase, which is when you branch out to your entire donor base and your community, aka you quite literally take your campaign to the public.

That’s a lot to take in, right?

If you’re still feeling a little lost and need a better understanding, check out Aly Sterling’s Capital Campaigns Guide for a more thorough description of capital campaigns. Otherwise, we can help you out when it comes to your board’s involvement!

You’ll need your board’s help to tackle all this and don’t worry, we’ve broken down the serious undertaking of getting your board involved with your capital campaign into just 4 easy strategies:

  1. Ask board members to participate in your feasibility study.
  2. Get each of your board members to donate a gift to start the capital campaign.
  3. Make sure they are closely involved in your budgeting.
  4. Leverage your board’s connections to meet with major gift prospects.

Read on to dissect the process of involving your board in your capital campaign!

 

1. Ask board members to participate in your feasibility study.

A nonprofit feasibility study, an assessment of your nonprofit to determine whether or not a campaign is viable for your organization, will tell you if your campaign has the potential to be successful or not, so it’s most definitely important to look into. You don’t want to set yourself and your nonprofit up for failure, and this is an easy way to prevent that!

A feasibility study will answer the following questions:

  1. Is my donor base large enough to support my goal?
  2. Does my project make sense?
  3. Is my board supporting me?
  4. What is the expectation of monetary value to be raised?
  5. Is this the right time for my nonprofit to hold a capital campaign?
  6. What questions do my donors have?
  7. Who are my campaign leaders or major gift prospects?

To conduct your feasibility study, you might consider hiring a fundraising consulting firm for the most honest responses.

These studies are done through one-on-one meetings with your board members where questions concerning the nonprofit and its project are asked. A third-party mediator might work in your benefit, giving you the most genuine feedback, as hiring a consultant would eliminate participants feeling accountable for a potential negative remark.

It’s important to include your board in the study because of the value of their specific insight.

They know your nonprofit in and out as they’ve been with you for multiple projects and campaigns. In theory, they understand your cause just as well as you do, which is why their feedback is most likely the most important and helpful to your feasibility study.

Asking board members to participate is your first step in the right direction (to success), but don’t forget to thank them for their help when it’s all said and done.

 

2. Get each of your board members to donate a gift to start the capital campaign.

You’ll aim to receive more than half of your campaign donations during the private fundraising phase, the stage before you open the campaign and the donations to the public.

You’ll want to focus on the top major gift leads you have to maximize your donations. These early donations are crucial as they’ll encourage others to give.

If a nonprofit already has a considerable amount of donations, it provides credibility. A supporter might think, if this many people are donating to their project, they must have good intent and a good cause to support.

If your nonprofit has no backing, potential supporters may be skeptical.

In other words, why would someone agree to support you if your board isn’t?

It’s a positive, encouraging, and necessary sign if each of your board members has given your campaign a gift. Board members’ support and stamp of approval through gifts will help secure contributions from outside donors.

3. Make sure they are closely involved in your budgeting.

Capital campaigns are usually taken on by larger nonprofits, like healthcare organizations or educational institutions, because they all have the means and support network to take on such a big fundraiser. Due to the size and scope of these campaigns, it’s absolutely critical that they are accurately budgeted for.

Your board can and should help with the budget.

Your budget is one of the most important details of your campaign, and it’s controlled by your board. Any time you need to spend money or use resources, your board will have final say, so you must be in sync when it comes to thoroughly understanding your budget.

Keep in mind: you’ll be pushing your board and their capabilities to the max during this campaign so take precautions to make sure they don’t burn out.

A nonprofit will usually end up spending 10% of their end goal on the capital campaign, roughly 1 dollar for every 10, so be sure to map out any and all costs relating to your upcoming events like:

  • Consultant fees. If you decide to hire a consultant to make the campaign a little lighter on your back, you’ll need to budget out enough for their payments.
  • Promotion. You’ll be creating tons of marketing materials and whether you outsource for them or create them in-house, you’ll have to put aside enough monetary coverage.
  • Donor acknowledgment. You’ll need to thank your bigger donors during and at the end of the campaign. You can do this through personalized signage, merchandise, or plenty of other keepsakes, but you’ll need to fit these costs in your budget as well.

It’s here that you’ll want to create a gift range chart, too. A gift range chart is where you’ll lay out future gift potentials. Take your dollar amount goal and spread it out among different giving levels.

You’ll want to list how many gifts of each amount you’re hoping to receive. Naturally, you’ll receive the most donations in the lower monetary tiers of donations, so the top tier should make up about 10%-20% of your goal.

Another column in this list should include the number of prospects you’ll be reaching out to. You should double the amount you need and prepare to reach out to that doubled amount.

 

This chart will act as a visual guideline for your campaign.

Discuss your budget and gift range chart with your board so they’ll be completely on board with your ideas going forward.

 

4. Leverage your board’s connections to meet with major gift prospects.

Major donors are quite literally a major component of your capital campaign’s success.

More than half of your campaign’s donations, about 60%, should be direct gifts from major donors. Finding those major donors will be easiest through prospect research with your donor management software and your board members.

Your board members have extensive networks and connections to great major giving prospects.

Asking them to recruit those prospects can more than double your donations. Chances are if they’re supporting a nonprofit, they have some friends who do the same and are familiar with this process.

Therefore, their friends and peers may be more open to donating major gifts. Using a board member as reference can give you plenty of opportunities because remember, it’s always about who you know.

You’ll want to look for donors who:

  • Have given in the past. Logically, individuals who have already given sizably to other nonprofits are more likely to make another charitable donation.
  • Are involved with nonprofits. People who serve as board members or volunteers for other nonprofits are much more open to donating to another nonprofit.
  • Own real estate. As DonorSearch points out, someone who owns over $2 million worth of real estate is 17 times more likely to give than your average supporter.
  • Own stocks. Stock ownership proves your donor’s ability to give and means they could directly transfer stock to your nonprofit.
  • Give politically. Individuals who give to political causes have track records that prove they are more likely to donate to nonprofits and charities.

Thanks to your board’s connections, you’ll have a lot of potential donors to get involved in your capital campaign.


Communication with your board is an absolute must throughout your campaign in order to generate the most revenue possible. Now that you have our best 4 strategies and these fundraising ideas, you’ll be able to get your nonprofit’s board totally engaged in your capital campaign!

About author

Amy DeVita

Amy DeVita is managing partner at Top Nonprofits. A publisher, entrepreneur, mother, wife, social media enthusiast and fan and avid supporter of the do-gooders in the nonprofit/ for-impact sector. She has written for Top Nonprofits and Third Sector Today; she has been quoted on pieces about social media and social impact on The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast. She was named to the Leading Women Entrepreneurs in NJ Monthly and she is a member of Social Media for Nonprofits' Leadership Council. In her spare time she enjoys kayaking, yoga, hiking, traveling, and playing Scrabble. Amy lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and three dogs. In 1984 she earned the "Most Improved Average" honor on her bowling league.

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