Starting a Capital Campaign: What To Do Before You Begin

Starting a Capital Campaign: What To Do Before You Begin

March 3, 2020

Even though you have a general idea of what your goal is, and you’re ready to begin reaching out to donors, it’s important to dig into the details of your campaign before you start. Ask yourself: what do we need to do before starting our campaign? What, specifically, is our goal? What’s our budget? Here are some tips and information to help you in starting a capital campaign.

What to do Before Starting a Capital Campaign

Before you begin reaching out to major donors, you need to figure out if you’re ready to start a capital campaign. When planning a campaign, it’s important to conduct:

An internal audit.

Internal audits allow you to evaluate the internal controls of your organization. By evaluating the rules and procedures of your company, and identifying and correcting existing or potential risks, you’re able to assess whether or not you’ve got everything you need to create a successful campaign. If you’re starting from a safe space, you’ll be able to bypass unintended problems.

A feasibility study.  

Feasibility studies help you determine whether or not your campaign is doable. It’s important to bring in an objective, unaffiliated representative to communicate with stakeholders and focus groups. By doing so, you’re able to gauge potential donors’ opinions about your campaign. “Will people donate to your campaign? Is your board supportive of your campaign? How much could you reasonably raise?”

A pre-campaign plan.

Once your campaign’s given the green light, you can begin drafting a campaign strategy. During this time, you should begin identifying major donor prospects you’d like to contact during your quiet phase. Essentially, you’re getting everything prepped and ready to go so your team will be ready to execute your campaign when the time comes.

Answering these questions will help guide your campaign and enable you to determine your fundraising goal.

Setting Campaign Goals

The best way to set a campaign goal is to evaluate your needs as an organization. Common mistakes companies make is setting goals based upon how much is needed for the project, and jumping in immediately. The goal is then meant to serve the immediate needs of the organization, instead of the needs of the community at large. When that happens, your campaign is more likely to fail, and it takes about a decade to regain credibility in your community.

Ideally, you should create a goal that’s based upon your ability to raise the money to pay for your project. In the pre-campaign planning stage, your leadership and volunteers should agree upon the amount of money you’ll raise. It’s important to understand the passions of your donors, and then aligning their passions to specific funding areas.

After setting your goal, it’s important to outline how the funds you raise will be divided to accomplish different parts of the campaign. One way of doing this is by creating a gift-range chart. This will help you break down your goal into manageable donations that can be met periodically, helping you meet the deadline for your goal.  

Setting a Campaign Budget  

Now that the pre-planning stage is complete, it’s time to plan your capital campaign. After setting policies in place, and confirming that your Board and leadership team are on the same page, you have to look at your campaign budget.  When looking at your existing budget, to create your campaign budget, you have to ask yourself:

  • Where’s our money coming from?
  • What’s our existing amount of money?
  • What percentage of our budget is coming from individuals?
  • What percentage of our budget is coming from foundation funding?

You also have to consider other factors in your budget such as extra staffing needed during construction; construction costs; material costs; employee salaries; travel; and events. By looking at your expenses, you’ll become more clear about how much money you’ll need to fundraise—not only for your goal but for everything leading up to it.

Finding the Right People to Target for Donations

During your planning phase, it’s important to leverage two tools to ensure that you are reaching donors who will be most likely to give to your campaign: a wealth screening and a major gift model


Using a wealth screening, you can find, segment, and prioritize your prospects. In short: a screening can help you determine which of your donors has the greatest propensity and capacity to give. So, not only can you group donors based on demographic similarities, but you can also append your donor base with wealth attributes. This can help you more easily understand how much an individual has donated in the past (giving history) and how much they’re likely to give in the future (estimated giving capacity). By gathering these data points, you can clearly determine which of your existing donors is most likely to give to your organization. You can then create a personalized and data-driven approach to your outreach strategy, strengthening your chances to build lasting relationships with your donors–even in the beginning stages of your campaign.


Not only is it important to gain a more holistic view of your existing donors, but it’s also important to determine which prospects would be most likely to give to your campaign. That’s where wealth models come in.

A model is an algorithm, tailor-made to satisfy two needs: to help you identify the unique characteristics among your donors (descriptive models) and to help you predict who’s most likely to contribute gifts to your organization (predictive models). So, a descriptive model allows us to show you commonalities among the individuals who are already in your donor base. For example, you may find that donors in your database who have decided to make major gifts are women over the age of 40 who have cats. So, what if you want to identify potential donors who are just as likely to give as this segment?

Using a predictive model, our data scientists employ WealthEngine data along with your data to create a unique, custom algorithm. Using this algorithm, we can more easily predict which prospects are most likely to contribute major gifts to your organization. This model can also help you score prospects to see how they fare against your best donors. You can then rank your prospect lists by order of similarity to your best. So, you’re able to easily determine who, within your database will contribute gifts to your organization specifically.


Uncover More Insights to Boost Your Capital Campaign

Unearth more insights on how to successfully boost your fundraising efforts using our Capital Campaign Guide.

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