When was the last time your organization conducted a capital campaign? Ten years ago? Twenty? Even longer? Many organizations undertake capital campaigns because of specific needs, or perhaps a crisis that has arisen.
You may complete a strategic planning process that points to the need for more space or new programs and systems, and bingo—that leads to a capital campaign. Or, perhaps you are losing your lease, or a flood or earthquake has destroyed your facilities. A crisis like that often jump-starts a campaign.
But you will be well-served to think more broadly about how a campaign can help your organization grow and develop in more than just these ways.
This post will review the many reasons that capital campaigns are good for an organization’s growth. The reasons fall into two categories: specific things a campaign can raise money for that will help an organization grow, and the ways in which the process of a campaign boosts an organization’s strength and growth.
Specific Projects or Initiatives that Can be Funded by a Capital Campaign
Keep in mind that capital campaigns occur only once every 10 or 15 years. They don’t replace annual fundraising but are rather special initiatives that raise funds that boost an organization’s productivity.
These funds typically fall into these categories:
- Infrastructure and Facility Improvements: Campaigns are often used to expand existing facilities, renovate outdated spaces, or build brand-new facilities. These improvements to the infrastructure enable an organization to do more and to do it more effectively for a period of years.
- Technology: Organizations often use campaigns to invest in new systems and technologies that will make them more effective and efficient. These might include development systems, website improvements, scheduling systems, information tracking, and data analytics. The nonprofit world often lags behind with these investments, but when made wisely, they can transform an organization’s ability to function efficiently.
- New Programs and Service Expansion: While campaigns typically don’t fund general operations, they can be used for front-end expenditures for new programs or rapid program expansion. Those programs can start more quickly with an infusion of resources from a campaign and then gradually fund the ongoing expenses through an increase in annual operating funds.
- Board Restricted Endowment: While campaigns are not the best approach to build an organization’s endowment, most campaigns include some endowment component which provides opportunities for donors to contribute to the campaign through planned gifts that will not be needed for immediate cash investments.
Capital campaigns are excellent catalysts for growth. But they also have powerful transformational effects on an organization’s fundraising and visibility.
Capital Campaigns Strengthen Organizations in Other Ways, Too
Aside from the direct investments that a capital campaign funds, consider the diverse other benefits that it can bring:
- Strengthening Donor Relationships: Capital campaigns are not just about fundraising. Campaigns foster meaningful connections with donors, as they inspire people to invest deeply in the organization’s mission. Through personalized cultivation and stewardship efforts, nonprofits can engage donors on a more profound level, turning them into lifelong supporters. These strengthened donor relationships extend beyond the campaign, providing a sustainable base of ongoing support.
- Raising Visibility and Awareness: Capital campaigns also present an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about an organization’s work. As the campaign gains momentum, it generates media coverage, public interest, and word-of-mouth endorsements. This heightened visibility attracts new donors and volunteers who may become long-term advocates for the organization’s cause.
- Building a Culture of Philanthropy: Successful capital campaigns involve the entire organization, from the board and staff to volunteers and beneficiaries. This collective effort instills a culture of philanthropy, where everyone is invested in the fundraising process and understands its importance. Such a culture ensures that fundraising continues to be a priority even after the campaign ends, sustaining the organization’s growth trajectory.
- Capacity-Building and Professional Development: As organizations prepare for capital campaigns, they often invest in capacity-building and professional development for their team. This can include training on fundraising strategies, donor stewardship, and financial management. These improvements make an organization better equipped to handle the challenges of growth in a sustainable manner.
Careful planning, adherence to capital campaign best practices, and a hands-on approach will set you up well to achieve these long-term benefits, especially if you work with a campaign coach or advisor who can guide you through each step of the process.
More Than Just Money
Capital campaigns offer more than just financial boosts; they serve as catalysts for sustainable growth by forging strong donor relationships, increasing visibility, and fostering a culture of philanthropy within the organization.
Andrea is the author of Capital Campaigns: Strategies that Work, now in its 4th edition, as well as How to Raise $1 Million (or More) in 10 Bite Sized Steps, in addition to other books. Andrea has been leading successful capital campaigns for more than 30 years. To learn how Capital Campaign Pro can support you through a capital campaign, visit capitalcampaignpro.com.