Capital Campaigns #5: Choosing Your Campaign Objectives

Sections of this topic

    A basic concept of grants for capital campaigns is that you shouldn’t need to go beyond the smallest number of major donors necessary to reach your goal.

    Referencing Tuesday’s posting, however, the decision you must make is what you want to accomplish with your campaign.

    If you want to keep it simple, and all you want/need is to raise a specific dollar amount, that’s at one end of the scale — nice, short, simple, and really, really, inexpensive.*

    At the other end of the scale is the involvement of “the whole community/constituency.” That’s where you create an elaborate campaign leadership structure, run your campaign over 6 or 12, or 24 months, involve as many volunteers as can be put to work productively, and get as many people as possible to become donors … at a significantly greater expense than the bare bones scenario.**

    Depending on the organization and its community/constituency, there may be many good reasons for involving a greater number of people than needed to reach your campaign goal.

    In any community/constituency, there are likely to be more important/influential/wealthy people than can be appropriately fitted into the basic campaign leadership structure, but they are people you might want to have involved … just to get/keep them involved with the organization.

    But, any time you recruit leaders to be part of a campaign, you must have a legitimate, productive, worthwhile activity for them to lead – an activity that will add significant dollars to the amount raised. And, those leaders must get appropriate recognition for their leadership and accomplishments.

    To legitimately expand your leadership cadre, you must expand the number of potential campaign donors to be solicited. You might also want to expand your campaign donor base to get as many members of your community/constituency involved in the process/project. Community buy-in, a feeling of ownership in the organization and the project, engenders greater long-term community/constituent support.

    And, any time you get people to give to a campaign, no matter the amount given, they must feel that their contribution is helping the campaign reach its goal … and helping the community being served by the nonprofit.


    *The vast majority of campaigns come in at a cost of under ten cents on the dollar raised; most campaigns come in at under a nickel.

    **When you calculate return on investment for any but the most basic campaign, the dollars raised is only one factor. There’s no real way to calculate how what was spent on staff, publicity, mailings, and events will result in more/greater contributions in the future – but, without a doubt, there will be a return on that investment.

    Watch for Part #6 of Capital Campaigns, next Thursday, November 12th.

    Have a comment or a question about starting or expanding your basic fundraising program, your major gifts fundraising program, or a capital campaign? Email me at With over 30 years of counseling in major gifts, capital campaigns, bequest programs, and the planning studies to precede these three, we’ll likely be able to answer your questions.