• Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE

Planning for a Successful Capital Campaign- Part 1

Updated: Aug 24, 2019


Before we begin to do an in-depth assessment to determine whether your organization has the infrastructure in place to run a campaign, as well as the community awareness needed to generate excitement about your campaign, let’s look at some basic planning data.

Although it is often said that a capital campaign should be able to generate anywhere from three to ten times the amount of money you raise in annual giving, it is difficult to generalize, since many factors affect the success of a campaign. Your goal will be solidified once you’ve done a planning study. However, it is good to reflect early in your planning on whether your expectations are realistic, so let’s look at some facts:

Do you have donors who will support your campaign?

If your organization depends solely on grants for its funding, you will face challenges in finding individual donors and corporate donors to support a capital campaign. Most foundations fund programs, but only certain foundations will support capital projects. Corporations might be more likely to support a capital campaign because there will be ways to recognize the company through named-gift opportunities. Donors are the lifeblood of any campaign, so let’s look at the number of donors that could potentially step up to support this effort.

Named-Gift Opportunities

Within a campaign, or for other special projects, major donors will have the opportunity to name a building, a room, or an area after themselves, their companies, or loved ones, for example:

  • The Sally Brown Library

  • The Walter & Eleanor Smith Meditation Garden

  • The Mega-Computer Company Technology Center

The following questions will help you estimate the number of leadership donors who may be able to support your campaign:

  • How many total donors (individuals, businesses, organizations, and private foundations) made gifts to your organization during the last twelve-month period for which this information is available, typically a fiscal and/or calendar year? _______________________

  • What was the total dollar value of the unrestricted gifts (gifts that may be used for any purpose at your organization’s discretion) your organization received last year from individuals? $______________

  • What was the total dollar value of the unrestricted gifts your organization received last year from businesses and organizations? $______________

  • What was the total dollar value of the unrestricted gifts your organization received last year from foundations? $______________

  • What was the total dollar value of all unrestricted gifts your organization received last year? $______________

  • What was the total dollar value of all restricted-use gifts (donations for a specific project or program that have been restricted by the donor) your organization received last year? $______________

  • What was the total dollar value of all gifts from all sources that your organization received last year? $______________

  • How much money do you need to raise through charitable giving to fund your organization’s capital and/or endowment needs? (Enter estimated amount or actual amount if available.) $______________

  • How many total donors (individuals, businesses, organizations, and private foundations) in your database have ever made one or more gifts of any kind to your organization? ______________

  • How many total prospective donors (individuals, businesses, organizations, and private foundations) who have never made any gift of any kind to your organization are in your database (this is often the list to which you send your newsletters and other mailings)? ______________

  • Is there one donor/funder who could give at least 10 percent of your campaign goal? Yes or No

Prospective donors are often classified as suspects, prospects, and expects, depending on what the likelihood of their making a gift is determined to be after research.

Suspect: an individual, company, or foundation that you believe might be interested in supporting your cause

Prospect: an individual, company, or foundation that, after research, has been determined to be likely to support your cause

Expect: an individual, company, or foundation that, after being approached by you, has indicated they will probably or certainly support your cause

So, by answering the questions above, you should have a good idea of where you stand regarding one of the key prerequisites of a successful campaign—potential donors!

For more information, pick up my book, Are Your Ready for a Capital Campaign on Amazon.

Take my eight-lesson online course at

https://www.lindalysakowski.com/capital-campaigns-course