Capital Campaigns | How to Set and Exceed Your Goals

Setting Your Capital Campaign Goal

In order to succeed in capital campaign fundraising, the right foundation must be laid during the goal setting process. As your nonprofit begins to agree upon a financial goal for your capital campaign, keep the following steps in mind to ensure that you’ll be equipped to reach it.

1. Start by assessing your past fundraising success.

Before you can set a reasonable capital campaign goal, your team needs to evaluate whether or not your fundraising goals have been attainable in past campaigns.

Falling short of your capital campaign goals is not only disappointing, but it can have lasting consequences in terms of how much faith donors have in your nonprofit.

Consider campaigns from the past 5-7 years and ask yourself:

  • What were our original fundraising goals?
  • Were these goals met or exceeded?
  • When did you fall short of your goal, if at all?
  • What would you have done differently to achieve your fundraising goals during each recent campaign?
Assess your capital campaign's feasibility before deciding on a final fundraising goal.

Capital Campaign Best Practice | Choose a capital campaign fundraising goal that is a multiple of a previous campaign’s fundraising totals or of your annual fund.

2. Develop a preliminary capital campaign gift range chart.

After considering your nonprofit’s past successes, you should start drafting a gift range chart with preliminary goal in mind.

By filling out this chart, you can make an assessment of the attainability of your initial goal.

Complete your preliminary gift range chart by:

  • Breaking your fundraising goal into attainable gift ranges.
  • Identifying the number of prospects you’ll need to provide gifts at different levels.
  • Putting names to paper of concrete prospects to provide these gifts.

After creating this draft of your gift range chart, take a step back and ask your team: does this preliminary capital campaign goal seem within reach?

Assess the feasibility of your capital campaign goal with a preliminary gift range chart.

Capital Campaign Best Practice | Use and reuse your gift range chart as part of your capital campaign’s solicitation collateral to show prospects the potential impact their gifts will have on your fundraising progress.

3. Hire a capital campaign consultant.

One of the biggest mistakes a nonprofit can make when conducting a capital campaign? Going it alone.

No matter how established your organization is, every nonprofit can benefit from partnering with a nonprofit consultant.

As your team starts laying the foundation for your upcoming capital campaign, a nonprofit consultant can offer important insight in setting your fundraising goal.

Because they work with a wider array of clientele, they know what works and what doesn’t for nonprofits of all shapes and sizes. With their third party expertise, they’re sure to help you set a goal that’s both attainable and furthers the progress of your organization.

Bonus! A capital campaign consultant can be crucial towards helping your nonprofit develop a supportable case for support. Learn more about writing a case for support by reviewing our article with examples.

Partner with a capital campaign consultant.

Capital Campaign Best Practice | Your nonprofit’s consultant can also help plan the capital campaign and ensure that the it fits in with your overall fundraising strategy.

4. Undergo a capital campaign feasibility study.

Every capital campaign should undergo a feasibility study (or  “internal readiness assessment”) during the planning phase that is lead by a nonprofit consultant.

During the assessment, your consultant will help evaluate your fundraising goal and help your nonprofit develop a concrete capital campaign plan.

As your consultant leads this process, they’ll likely ask questions like:

  • Where is your nonprofit when it comes to data integrity?
  • What kind of groundwork have you already laid in terms of relationships with prospects?
  • When it comes to staffing, do you have people in the right internal roles?
  • Is there enough funding available to see this capital campaign through?

Bonus! Looking to get even more out of the capital campaign planning phase? Check out our article on creating a capital campaign plan for some ideas of how to make the most of this process with the help of your consultant.

Determine whether or not your capital campaign plan can be a success before you launch your campaign.

Capital Campaign Best Practice | Never “bootstrap” your capital campaign! If your nonprofit can’t afford the campaign, take a step back and reevaluate your readiness to take on the project.

5. Finalize your capital campaign goal and gift range chart.

Based on the results of your feasibility study, your nonprofit’s consultant will be able to recommend whether to proceed with the campaign, restructure your fundraising goal, or head back to square one to regroup.

If they recommend moving forward, now is the time to finalize your fundraising goal and gift range chart.

Remember: the goal only matters when you don’t reach it. Now is your team’s last chance to make changes before heading into the public phase of your capital campaign. Is your nonprofit ready to take on this fundraising challenge?

Finalize your capital campaign goal.

Exceeding Your Capital Campaign Goal

Now that your nonprofit has set your capital campaign’s fundraising goal, it’s time to get your nose to the grindstone and work hard to achieve it. However, simply reaching your goal isn’t enough! Pay attention to these strategies your nonprofit can implement to maximize your fundraising potential.

6. Embrace a comprehensive capital campaign goal.

A quirk of nonprofit fundraising that you probably already know is the fact that donors are more likely to give to campaigns that are already well on their way to fundraising success.

This proves especially true for capital campaigns, where the median dollar amount for gifts tends to be much higher than for your other campaigns.

One way to convince donors your capital campaign is worth their financial commitment? Include the totals of your annual fund and other big fundraising projects as part of your capital campaign.

While your capital campaign is ongoing, this is a powerful way to show individuals that other donors believe in your cause.

Over time, this will also help grow your baseline fundraising goals for capital campaigns as it will help build a pattern of success for your nonprofit.

Use a comprehensive capital campaign goal model.

Capital Campaign Best Practice | Don’t hold a quiet phase or a kickoff event. When you’re ready to accept gifts, start doing so! You want to get out the good news that you’re receiving gifts as soon as possible.

7. Be proactive about securing capital campaign gifts.

To make your capital campaign a success, your nonprofit should take cultivation and solicitation seriously from the get-go.

Your nonprofit will never achieve or exceed your fundraising goal without persistently pursuing donors.

Apply some of these best practices to translate prospects into donors for your capital campaign:

  • Follow up with past donors who have given to previous campaigns (you already know they believe in your organization).
  • Network with donors so that they can connect you with other individuals who can give to your campaign.
  • If a prospect turns down your ask, try to clarify their hesitation. They may not have the giving capacity or enthusiasm you had expected, and learning what’s in the way of their contribution can improve how you approach them for future gifts. 
Secure the right capital campaign donors proactively.

Capital Campaign Best Practice | The head of your organization (be it your executive director, CEO, president, headmaster, etc), should be meeting face to face with your capital campaign’s prospects to make solicitations.

8. Maintain a reasonable capital campaign timeline.

There’s nothing worse than a capital campaign that meanders on and on.

A typical capital campaign lasts between three and five years. However, depending on when you reach your goal, this timeline can be shortened or expanded.

The only question you should ask yourself is this: how much money do you want to leave on the table?

If your nonprofit decides to call it quits early, you run the risk of missing out on future contributions from prospects who aren’t yet ready to give.

However, if you find your capital campaign is petering out, ending it early can benefit your nonprofit by giving your team a chance to start preparing for your next campaign, this time equipped with knowledge gained during your most recent one.

Similarly, if you extend your fundraising deadline, you may lose valuable time you could be spending preparing for your next capital campaign.

On the other hand, if your capital campaign is in full swing when the deadline rolls by, why end it arbitrarily? As long as you have fundraising momentum, your nonprofit may as well keep it going.

Bonus! Visit DonorSearch for their in-depth guide to executing an efficient capital campaign timeline.

Capital Campaign Best Practice | However long your campaign shapes out to be, always budget a few years in between capital campaigns. This way, you can spend the time needed to steward prospects for future campaigns.

9. Appoint a dedicated capital campaign director to lead the campaign.

As the old saying goes, “When everyone does something, nobody does anything.”

The truth is that a capital campaign requires a dedicated leader to oversee the project from the top down.

While the different departments of your nonprofit should all be involved in the campaign process, one individual should take the project on as their sole focus.

If your organization doesn’t have a staff member already in place to serve in this capacity, your consultant can serve as an embedded capital campaign director for your nonprofit.

Appoint a dedicated capital campaign director.

Additional Resources

Create a Capital Campaign Plan

Strengthen your capital campaign with the right capital campaign plan.

The success of your organization’s capital campaign depends on the strength of your fundraising plan.

Check out our article on creating a robust capital campaign plan before you begin!

Write a Case Statement

Write a compelling capital campaign case statement.

Without a strong case statement in place, supporters may find it difficult to justify donating to your capital campaign.

Learn more about writing a compelling case statement by reviewing our article!

Best Fundraising Consultants

Learn about some of the top fundraising consultants for your capital campaign.

Unsure of where to turn when choosing a consultant to guide you through your capital campaign?

Visit Double the Donation for a list of the top nonprofit consultants for your organization!