4 (Unexpected) Benefits of Running a Capital Campaign

As a nonprofit executive, you know you’re responsible for taking on many major decisions and duties centered around your next comprehensive or capital campaign.

But here’s your mission-critical task: With a comprehensive campaign, you aren’t just raising funds. You’re leading the charge toward a new future for your organization. 

And while we can all agree that these campaigns represent major effort for your organization, all the hard work and rewards are worth it. 

There are a number of well-known benefits that any fundraiser or executive leader can attest to: 

  1. Raising more money
  2. Building awareness for the organization and its mission
  3. Maximizing your organization’s impact
  4. Elevating excitement around your goals

Although these are obvious and enjoyable rewards, there’s more to a comprehensive, or capital campaign, than such perks as raising money and engaging with donors. A fundraising campaign is an opportunity to reap unexpected benefits that can outweigh the known benefits. Such as: 

  1. Permanently increasing your fundraising efforts
  2. Leveling up your board of directors
  3. Attracting fresh donors
  4. Clarifying the organization’s vision

Campaign Benefits You Never Saw Coming

Permanently Step Up Your Fundraising Efforts

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Norman Vincent Peale

When it comes to capital campaigns, playing it safe leaves tons of untapped fundraising opportunities on the table. What if, instead, you shoot to increase your funding by leaps and bounds? Setting a moonshot goal is part of the point. 

Recently, we had a client that was plugging along, raising $2 million a year on average. But they’re about to embark on a campaign that will ask them to multiply their fundraising efforts by up to 50 times! Now, they may not continue raising at that level post-campaign, but we can assure you, the days of raising $2 million a year are gone, post-campaign. 

While this case is incredibly unusual, let’s say that in your instance you’re fundraising at a clip of $5 million a year before the comprehensive campaign kicks off. But during a campaign you start raising $7.5 to $10 million. This will then become your new high-water mark moving forward. You can’t go back down to $5 million a year. At a minimum, let’s round up to six. 

So while your campaign may wrap up, ambitious fundraising must go on and on (and on and on). 

Develop a Stronger Board

Not all nonprofit boards are composed of members who are focused on bringing in money. Some board members are best suited to help increase volunteerism; others are intended to provide direction to the organization and executive leadership. Others are solely focused on governance. 

But to successfully meet your capital campaign goal, you’re going to need a next-level fundraising board and board members — one that has the ability to connect with major donors and bring in meaningful relationships and contributions. 

There’s a good reason board members tend to stick around for an average of two-to-five years: Burnout is real. It’s important to promote fresh and vibrant participation, so introducing new members as tenured members rotate off is essential. While you have their attention, start to work with them to identify people in their network who might take their place and make a strong contribution to your board. 

You’ll do all this with your next campaign in mind. Because if you strategically select advanced board members, it’ll be better for your overall organization and your campaign. And at the end of the campaign, don’t allow the board to slowly return to the old status quo. Take advantage of the new standard! Instead, now that you’ve developed a rock star board, continue into the sunset with a mindset of accelerated growth and improvement. 

Attract Different Donors 

To sustain your organization, you have a network of committed donors. But to push yourselves to the next level, you’ll need to expand your reach. How does running a capital campaign accomplish that?

Consider a nonprofit whose overall (very inspiring and ambitious) mission is to eradicate homelessness – a mission that will take an estimated $10B to accomplish. So, you decide to run a campaign whose goal is to raise $1 billion dollars to address ten percent of the world’s homelessness. 

Overall, donors are attracted to big, radical, and also very specific ideas like this one. When your organization sets a clear, visionary goal to advance your mission, you give donors an exciting glimpse into what the world could look like (with their support, of course). In this example, it could be one with fewer affected by homelessness, all due to their giving efforts. 

A capital campaign vision at this level will most certainly attract renewed and different donors who may have been less impressed by a less ambitious objective. 

Clarify Your Vision

When you plan a capital campaign, you have a valuable opportunity to truly clarify the impact you want to make as an organization. And illuminating your organization’s vision often has an unforeseen benefit: It increases internal alignment, and thus, excitement, about working for your organization. 

You may have team members who buy into your organization’s overall goals but just don’t demonstrate passion. By clarifying what your organization hopes to accomplish, you can in turn energize your team. What team member isn’t revitalized by a clearly communicated vision? And when you’ve (re) energized your team, you provide a much better opportunity to realize your vision and mission. 

Internal alignment around messaging also empowers your team to be better stewards and advocates for your organization. As an example, perhaps your team understood that your priority was increasing access to the arts in your area, but now they have a specific way in which to engage with that mission. That engagement will trickle down to how that team speaks with members of the community, other organizations, partners, and donors. 

Running a comprehensive campaign brings with it so much more than the expected influx of funds to your organization; increased attention; maximized impact; and increased excitement. It also brings something just as important — opportunity. With new donors, a board built for fundraising, and a clear vision, you’ll be able to graduate with your organization into a larger bracket of fundraising, and beyond. Because as we say, “Money is mission fuel in the right hands.” Money is simply a vehicle to bring your mission to life.

If you’re considering whether it’s time to start ramping up for your next capital campaign, the answer is yes. The only time better than yesterday is today.

Chad Paris

Chad Paris

Principal, CEO
The perfect marriage of strategist, consultant, & rainmaker. Chad loves connecting good people with other good people. He has dedicated his career to brands that are changing the world by helping nonprofits fund progress while also advancing Purpose in the workplace.