Capital Campaign Q&A

Capital campaigns are often viewed by professionals in the field as the flagship of the fundraising fleet. Until now, I would have agreed with this motherhood statement, however going forward, it is my belief that endowment initiatives will hold this title over the coming decade. That doesn’t mean capital appeals will fall of the tree (so to speak) however, a new flagship will take first place!

Anyhow, coming back to capital campaigns…When chatting to a colleague recently about his campaign plans, a number of questions were put my way. Our conversations got me thinking about FAQs.

Q. How do capital campaigns differ from major gifts?

Capital campaigns are major gifts programs with attitude and a sense of urgency. A capital campaign sets out to raise serious money for a specific cause or purpose in a finite time frame. Generally we are talking six, seven, eight figure goals: often for building or ‘capital works’ but may also be for other purposes such as to establish an endowment fund, to underpin future growth, fund scholarships or to fund a community program or service.

The distinguishing marks of the capital campaign are that: it has a fixed lifetime with firm deadlines; a singular focus; a dedicated belief in the value of ‘in person’ presentation and asks for outrageous generosity from its donors.

Q. Do capital campaigns benefit from leadership involvement?

To be blunt…YES!

However one must acknowledge that not all organisations or appeals have access to community and business leaders nor do all organisation have a Board that are able to actively work within the capital campaign process. For many organisations, recruiting leaders forms part of the establishment phase of a capital campaign for others they make an informed decision to proceed without a voluntary committee overseeing the direction of the appeal.

A ‘text book’ campaign is one with a committed executive leadership group. Without a doubt, this is the preferred framework to proceed with. However, professionals in the field must also recognise that throughout Australia and New Zealand many capital campaigns and major gift appeals are conducted without leadership involvement…and the large proportion are successful.

There are many books on conducting capital campaigns, how do appeals vary in practice – in the field?

Appeal workings and outcomes vary greatly. The involvement of people, their influence, life experiences, motivation and giving habits significantly shape and alter the developments of an appeal. The priority an appeal is given and whether or not dedicated resources are assigned also play a significant role in the outcome of the campaign.

Q. If we want our capital campaign to really get a step ahead, what can we do that really make a difference?

In planning for your appeal to exceed it’s financial objective (or reach the goal in half the time), the campaign team needs to accept that…people give more generously to people with causes than to causes (or projects) alone!

Therefore, it is in the best interest of the program that one:

  • Establishes early on high standards of giving
  • Embraces a range of marketing mediums and communication devices
  • Undertakes active research to unravel giving opportunities
  • Positions the appeal to inspire interest from a number of market segments and stakeholders
  • Don’t lose sight of the role of stewardship
  • Don’t let people de-rail your efforts with mass marketing activities. Incorporate these activities where needed and/or beneficial
  • Always remember to adopt a personal approach that embraces prospective donors values, giving motivations beliefs

Q. What makes a capital campaign successful?

There are many factors which makes capital campaign successful, it’s rather like preparing a gourmet recipe…it’s a unique blend of quality ingredients which makes a gourmet muffin stand out from the rest!


  • A united positive team
  • A goal that is defined, realistic, costed and believable
  • A carefully crafted game plan
  • Adopting an organic framework
  • Developing a case that inspires interest and action
  • Leadership endorsement and/or involvement
  • Competent and experienced personnel that work with energy and enthusiasm
  • A campaign that embraces cultural and demographic differences and opportunities

 For more information please click here for our Industry Insight.

If you read this blog and thought you could benefit by having a chat over a muffin and coffee please call 1300 271 799.

May 2013

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