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How to Use Capital Campaigns In Nonprofit Fundraising

By: Tricia Love Thomas

Capital campaigns can be a great opportunity for a nonprofit to raise money for a specific project. However, not every nonprofit capital campaign performs as well as it should.

At a recent webinar hosted by our Nonprofit Group, nonprofit fundraising expert Vince Connelly answered the audience’s questions on nonprofit fundraising. In this article, we’ll focus on Vince’s advice on how to incorporate a capital campaign into a nonprofit’s fundraising.


What is a Capital Campaign?
A fundraising campaign that aims to raise a specific amount
of money in a predetermined time frame.


Q: How does an organization begin a capital campaign, and what are the first steps?

Vince: The key to a successful capital campaign is the preparation you put into the campaign.

First, you need to ensure you have a strong, consistent leadership team at your nonprofit. You want to make sure your nonprofit’s leaders – like the executive director, board of directors and director of development – are all in support of your proposed capital campaign.

Your next step will be a “needs assessment.” A needs assessment covers why you need to raise the money. For example, if you’re raising money to build a new turf field, you should be able to answer why you need the field. This assessment will help you uncover whether the need is there to support your campaign.

The last part of your preparation is a campaign feasibility study. This study is an independent, objective and honest assessment of where your organization is, what your fundraising capabilities are and who your potential leaders are. In short, a campaign feasibility study measures whether your campaign is actually feasible.

Since you’ll need to ask in-depth and potentially confidential questions of your staff, donors, board and leadership team, we recommended that you use an outside consultant to conduct a campaign feasibility study.

At the conclusion of your campaign feasibility study, you’ll get an objective view of:

  • Your organization as a whole
  • Whether your donors feel passionate about your proposed campaign and whether you should move ahead
  • When you should launch your campaign
  • Who the leaders of the campaign will be
  • How much money you can likely raise from the campaign

Q: Is there ever a "right" time financially for an organization to start a capital campaign?

Vince: There’s never a perfect time to launch a capital campaign. However, if you’ve done a needs assessment and capital feasibility study, and they’ve indicated that things look positive and the funding is out there, you have a good start.

It’s worth noting that your organization has to be financially stable before you can launch a capital campaign. This might mean taking a hard look in the mirror at your organization. Use proven metrics to determine your organization’s financial stability and whether you have a solid foundation to successfully run a capital campaign.

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About Vince Connelly

Vince Connelly HeadshotVince Connelly is the president of Connelly & Assoc. Fundraising, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in capital campaign feasibility studies, capital campaigns, nonprofit CEO and executive director searches, and fundraising staff searches. Vince has over 30 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations in Baltimore and throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

Published August 5, 2019

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