Getting Ready for a Capital Campaign: Community Readiness

capital campaigns Feb 23, 2021

Although your relationships with your current donors are of primary importance during a campaign, there is also a great benefit to having strong awareness of your organization within the community. Considering the external factors will also be important.

A capital campaign is the most public type of fundraising your organization will do. While most of the donors to your campaign will be among your loyal supporters, a capital campaign provides you with the optimum opportunity to reach out and create awareness in the entire community. Many organizations have successfully used a campaign to attract new donors to their causes.

Below are some questions to ask about your community. Remember that your community may be local, regional, national, or international. If your campaign will be national or international, you will need to determine the geographic regions in which you have large pockets of donors and look at the economic conditions in those areas.

  • Describe the present state of the economy as it is probably perceived by your major donor prospects.
  • How well known is your organization within the geographic area in which your program is carried out?
  • How would you characterize the relationships your organization has with local, regional, and/or national media (whichever is most relevant to your situation)?
  • Overall, how strong is your organization’s website?

Although there is little you can do about the economic climate, or even the perception of the economic climate shared by your donors, there are some things you can do to better position your organization within your community. You can strengthen your organization’s brand, improve its website, and understand community perceptions of your organization.


Knowing your competition is also helpful. Although there might be numerous campaigns running simultaneously in your community, not all these will interfere with your campaign. For example, donors might support their church or their university and still be committed to supporting your organization. However, if an organization that is in direct competition with yours is planning a capital campaign, it might be difficult for community members to justify supporting two campaigns for two organizations with similar missions.

In your community, there might be other fundraising campaigns under way that are likely to approach your best large-gift prospects. How many such campaigns are planned or are presently under way that might be viewed by your prospects as “competing” with your campaign?

How can you improve your organization’s community awareness?

First, list other campaigns that might be happening in your community at the same time you are considering running your campaign. Which of these campaigns might be likely to share your constituency base? What are the start and end dates of these campaigns? How likely is it that your campaign will be greatly affected by this competition?

Before the campaign has been formally announced, publicity should focus on your organization’s programs and accomplishments. Your campaign will be very public after the quiet phase has ended and you hold the public kick-off event. You will want to get as much media coverage as possible for your kick-off event and subsequent campaign announcements and events.

In both phases, good media relationships are important. Do you have relationships with local media outlets? What local and regional media are important in your community?

Are these media outlets aware of your organization? If not, what strategies can you develop to create more awareness? Here are some examples:

  • Develop a media kit. Typical media kits contain agency brochures, your agency’s case for support, contact information for your organization’s media relations person, press releases about your programs, and a list of agency leadership, both staff and board.
  • List the individual contacts at the various media outlets to whom we need to deliver a media kit.
  • List the upcoming news and public interest stories (not related to your campaign) for which you can develop press releases.

You might have some great human-interest stories about your organization that will attract media attention. For example:

  • A new law affecting the people you serve could be a reason to write a letter to the editor or invite the media to cover the human side of how this law affects constituents in your community.
  • A success story about how one of the people you serve overcame the odds to accomplish something amazing could pique the interest of the local media.
  • Talking to your program staff or volunteers might uncover some very intriguing success stories, too. It’s time now to develop a plan to get better media coverage.
  • List issues that affect your industry about which you can write letters to the editor or hold press conferences:

Having good relationships with the media is important because good media coverage will be critical in getting your message out to potential donors during your campaign. You should prepare a media kit and deliver it to the media contacts personally, so they know who you are and what your organization does. You know you have “arrived” when the media contact you for comments on hot issues in your field!

Your Website

An effective website is a critical tool for building widespread community awareness. Websites are the primary source of information about a company or organization, and people check an organization’s website when they want to learn more about it.

Your website should be interactive and up-to-date and should provide basic information. One way to evaluate your website is to look at other nonprofit websites, perhaps those of your competitors or organizations like yours in other communities.

Start by making a list of the organizations in your community that seem to be successful at attracting donors. If you are part of a national organization, make a list of those organizations that are the largest or most like yours. Then set a day aside to research these websites. Use the table below to list the websites you’ve researched, what you like/don't like about these websites, and what you need to do to improve your website.

To learn more about capital campaigns and assessing your readiness for a campaign, take my course, Capital Campaigns: Yes, You CAN Do It. Sign up here

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