What to Do When You Inherit a Fundraising Campaign

Getting your fundraising campaign plan approved is step one. Step two is maintaining and overseeing the campaign’s success. But, how do you go about making your campaign a success? How should you proceed if you face hurdles? Here are some tips to help you navigate through your newly inherited campaign.

What do you do when you inherit a capital campaign?


When you inherit a fundraising campaign, or capital campaign, you need to evaluate where the campaign stands, and where YOU stand within it. Now that you are part of a campaign, you must check if you have a strong case for support. Is the board still in support of your efforts? Is the community? Are key players willing to help you further? If your goal isn’t realistic and your case for aid is weakening, it’s time to fine-tune your approach.


After probing whether or not support still exists, you should evaluate giving trends. Have major gift leads been contributing as much as they can? How much more do we need in contributions? Are we on track to meeting at least 75% of our goal currently? Is the gift table filling out properly?

What are some of the common pitfalls when executing a capital campaign?


Before jumping into a capital campaign, you have to conduct a thorough, back-end analysis for your campaign. Some are keen on jumping into the campaign process immediately, but by not accounting for potential hurdles that could influence their goal, organizations are at risk of failing to complete their fundraising campaigns.

A back-end analysis involves assessing:

  • The capability in your database to understand existing donors
  • Which major gift leads you’re accessing (are you going back to the same major gift well over and over?)
  • How your donors and staff are approaching the steps they’re taking individually, and as a group, to meet the fundraising campaign goal (are people feeling burnt out?)

What do you do when your campaign starts well but begins to falter?


There are cases when you’ve received a few large gifts, and it seems like everything is smooth sailing. However, if you haven’t used a sequential solicitation model for your gift table (i.e. satisfying the largest gift first, then the second largest, etc.) or if members of your campaign team are beginning to feel burnt out, it’s important to regroup and understand where your campaign is faltering. Only then, can you keep moving in ways that are effective, not simply efficient.  

There are two key methods to refreshing your efforts:

1. See if your models are still strong

If they aren’t, identify areas that can be fine-tuned or where new donors or staff can come in to help with your efforts.

2. Be honest with your board and ask for help

When it comes to a fundraising campaign where you’ve invested a lot of time and money into efforts your intent on seeing through, you’re not above asking for help. No one is. By doing this, some board members may be willing to contribute more or have their constituents contribute more.

How do you create effective campaign messaging?


Although it may seem counterintuitive, when creating a fundraising campaign, it’s best to refrain from making the messaging about you. During the campaign process, you have to make the donor the hero of the story. Instead of articulating the goal and accomplishments of your organization, it’s more effective to create interpersonal connections by showing your audience your investment in:


  • The community
  • Individual lives
  • The project
  • The impact of your project


Once you’ve been able to express your intent and forge a connection with your community members, it’s crucial to express your gratitude. Simply put, say ‘thank you’. Thank them for their efforts in making your project a success. After all, this project, this goal, will benefit them. It’s intended to. It’s simply your responsibility to show them that their contributions have been put to good use.

Capital Campaign Definition: What is a Capital Campaign?

what is a capital campaign

 Just what is a capital campaign and how can it help your nonprofit or higher educational institution? Here’s a capital campaign definition along with three key insights on when you should start one for your organization.

If you want to begin fundraising for your nonprofit, you have to ask yourself: What is a capital campaign goal, what is ours, and how do we go about achieving it? If you want to achieve a specific goal, you should start a capital campaign. But, how do you start one? And, what do you need? Here are some tips and information to guide you through the beginning stages of your campaign.



What is a Capital Campaign?

So, what is a capital campaign exactly? A capital campaign is a rigorous attempt, made by a nonprofit organization, to raise major gifts for one specific goal or a variety of goals. If you have multiple goals, your capital campaign is a comprehensive campaign. Having multiple goals classifies your project as a comprehensive campaign.

These donations or gifts are typically used to renovate or acquire a building. However, they are also used to raise money for endowments, scholarships, or other grants. Essentially, you’re trying to raise a significant number of funds within a defined period of time as a way to support the larger goals and mission of your organization.


When to Start a Capital Campaign

There are three common catalysts that inspire nonprofits to initiate capital campaigns:

1. You’re in dire need of a new space or new resources 

Suppose someone is selling the facility your organization has been using. Your organization will need a new space and fast. To minimize disruptions to your organization and the community at large, you decide to fundraise for a new space so you can maintain business as usual.

2. You’ve outgrown your space

As an organization, you all may come to the conclusion that your current space is no longer meeting the needs of the organization or the needs of communities you serve. To better cater to your evolving needs, you may fundraise for a new space or an addition to your existing building.

3. You want to have a tangible legacy

These are rare cases, but your organization may feel inclined, towards the end of its time, to have a tangible legacy which may be in the form of a building that will be of use to the community.

How to Organize a Capital Campaign

Organizing a capital campaign involves a thorough evaluation of the state of your organization and a clear determination of your goals.

Although the director of development or the executive director of the organization plays a key role in the initiation of a successful capital campaign, they can’t manage the campaign on their own. During the first year of a campaign, a director can spend about 75-80% of their time focused on the project. After some time, however, it’s important to delegate the work. The work can be assigned to someone in the organization or an outside hire. They will help conduct business as usual, while they oversee the stability of your campaign. 

5 Capital Campaign Phases

Before executing your campaign, you have to assess your readiness. Part of that assessment is making sure that you have clear goals outlined before jumping in. It’s important to take a good look at what your organizational needs are. If you’ve created your goal in a vacuum, without consulting others in your organization, the goal will fail to serve either the organization, the community or both. It’s integral to align your intentions for your organization with specific fundraising areas, and then plan how you will execute.  

Now that you’ve determined what your community needs, how do you go about achieving your capital campaign goal? How do you organize your efforts, and use your time and resources wisely? A capital campaign is typically broken down into steps. More specifically, there are five phases in the campaign process:  

1. Planning Phase

During this initial stage, you should evaluate all the moving parts you’ll need to involve in your campaign. This will include forming a capital campaign feasibility study, creating a goal or multiple goals, determining your budget, brainstorming necessary resources, and gathering your team.  

2. Silent Phase

Now that you’ve planned out your capital campaign, it’s time to step into the first stage of execution. Within this period, which typically lasts for 18 months, you’ll be focusing on satisfying your major gift leads. It’s during this time that you’re receiving the bulk of your principal or major donations. It’s important to achieve 75% of your total goal before opening up your campaign to the public. You can use wealth screening to find hidden gems of big donors in your existing contacts.

3. Kick-Off Phase

You’ve now approached all your major donors, and are now able to introduce your campaign to the public! This is the point where you’re able to communicate your goal or goals to potential donors and outline your greater intention for the campaign.

4. Public Phase

You’re now winding down your efforts. Since you’ve already approached your major donors and satisfied the majority of your campaign, you can now connect with the community and smaller donors. It’s these smaller gifts that will bring your goal to a close.

5. Wrap-Up and Assessment Phase

Once your campaign has been successfully completed, it’s important to actively reflect on the process. Above all, when reflecting back on the process, it’s important to ask yourself: What worked? What wasn’t as effective as anticipated? How could we mold our process for future campaigns?


Set your capital campaign in motion. Schedule a WealthEngine demo and speak with one of our experienced consultants.

10 Capital Campaign Feasibility Study Questions to Ask Before Launching

Use these 10 capital campaign feasibility study questions to help you make your campaign goals realistic and achievable.

Capital Campaign Feasibility Study Questions

Before launching a capital campaign, you need to figure out whether or not your organization is ready to put your plan into action. But, how do you do that? How do you know if you’re ready? When conducting a feasibility study for your capital campaign, it’s important to gather info (from a third party) on the following:

1. What is your nonprofit trying to fund?

In order to assess how easy it’ll be to reach your goal, you have to define what your goal is. To determine your goal, it’s important to ask yourself:

  • What does our organization need?
  • What does our community need?
  • How and what can we create to serve current and future needs?

By articulating your intent, you’re creating a transparent channel of communication between yourself and the groups you wish to serve. This is also an opportunity for you to introduce your pre-campaign plan, and outline your fiscal goal and desired timeline. 

2. What is the fundraising history of your nonprofit?

By reviewing your fundraising history, you’re able to identify factors that may have influenced the success of your previous campaigns. So, it’s important to ask yourself: What worked? How can we improve? Reflecting on past experiences allows you to refine your existing campaign model, and account for potential obstacles. 

3. What are the strengths of your nonprofit? In which ways can you change?

Apart from identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your campaign process, it’s important to evaluate how your organization functions overall. So, ask yourself: What strengths does our organization possess that can be leveraged to meet our goal? What organizational hurdles do we face that keeps us from conducting business as usual?

4. Who does the proposed campaign goal serve? What immediate and long-term goals does it satisfy?

After outlining your goal,  it’s necessary to identify the groups your campaign serves. If community support is needed, you need to outline the ways in which your goal serves them. So, another crucial capital campaign feasibility study question to ask is: what do contributors get when they donate? Above all, determining this gives them, and major gift leads, the incentive to support your efforts.

5. How does the community perceive your nonprofit?

Positive perception is key in a capital campaign. If the community you’re raising funds for is in support of your efforts, they’ll want to donate and help you meet your goal. If not, even though you may gain major gifts during the quiet phase of your campaign, you’ll have no way of being able to wrap it up efficiently.

6. How can your nonprofit better serve the community?

Your capital campaign feasibility study questions should address your community’s immediate and future needs. So, it’s your responsibility to anticipate what their needs will be later on, and adapt your goal to meet those needs. By doing that, you’re showing them that your project is worth the investment because they can use the building or funded project you’ve set up at any given time.

7. Does the proposed campaign goal seem attainable? Why or why not?

The core capital campaign feasibility study question is: is your goal practical? If it is, you can begin taking actionable steps. So, you can start hiring additional resources and staff, and map out micro-goals for your campaign. But, if your goal doesn’t seem attainable, it’s important to revisit it and figure out how it can be adjusted to be achievable.

8. Which existing board members or staff are already willing to be ambassadors for this campaign?

When attracting major gift leads, members of these major companies want to give to nonprofits they know. If you don’t have members of your board or leadership team as ambassadors, major leads may feel less inclined to give to your campaign. In other words, establishing a point of connection makes the gift collection process that much easier.

9. What additional support (resources, staff, etc.) does your nonprofit need to successfully carry out their goal?

Not only is your campaign made to satisfy your specific goal, but it also accounts for everything you’ll need in order to achieve it. This includes additional staff, materials, construction, events, and travel. So, what will you need that you don’t already have? Be sure to account for this capital campaign feasibility study question as you create your goals. 

10. What potential obstacles could your nonprofit run into during the campaign?

Before you carry out your campaign, you have to account for potential risks that may hinder your success. If you jump in without doing any form of risk assessment, your campaign is more likely to fail. If your campaign does fall apart, it takes nearly a decade for your organization to regain community credibility.

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WealthEngine’s consultants can guide you through other capital campaign feasibility study questions you may consider. Contact us to speak with one of our experienced consultants.