Use These 3 Capital Campaign Strategies to Raise Major Gifts
It’s quite common for an organization that raises $1 million for operating support each year to set and achieve a capital campaign goal of $10 million or more. And most capital campaigns raise more than half of their goal from just 10 gifts.
To make that even more remarkable, keep in mind that most capital campaign gifts are over and above the donors ongoing annual support. They are the kings of the castle in the major gift world.
Simply put, capital campaigns are designed to identify, engage and attract gifts from your largest potential donors. And if you take a closer look at that design, you’ll uncover strategies that also work well for major gift fundraising.
3 Effective Campaign Strategies for Raising Major Gifts
The amazing potential of capital campaigns depends on many factors. Some of them are particular to the nature of capital campaigns. But some of them (such as the three shared here) can be easily adapted to your major gift program.
1. The Top-Down Approach to Solicitation
In a capital campaign, you ask the largest donors first. Then, once some of those large gifts have been committed, you invite other donors to join that elite group. This strategy works because it builds confidence. No one wants to give to something that’s not likely to succeed. And most people are eager to be part of a project that’s likely to be successful. So following a strategic top-down order of soliciting gifts is a powerful approach.
Here are two key ways you might adapt this strategy to your major gift program:
- Plan you fundraising calendar so that you go to your board and key donors early in the year. Let them know that you are counting on them to set the standard for fundraising.
- If you are raising money for a specific project this year — perhaps a new bus or additional equipment — treat that project like a capital campaign and create a gift range chart specifically for the fundraising for that project. Prioritize your major gift solicitation by focusing at the prospects who can make the top gifts.
2. Engage Potential Donors in the Planning Process
Capital campaigns are designed to use the project planning process as a way of engaging potential donors. Capital campaign work begins long before the plans are complete and polished solicitation materials are complete. In fact, most of the important work with donors takes place in the early stages of project planning, long before the critical decisions have been finalized.
If your organization is growing and vibrant, you are probably always planning for the future. Design ways to engage your largest donors in your organization’s planning. Don’t just do that every three or five years when you launch a new strategic planning process; do it every year.
Make your organizational planning processes more transparent, and find ways to include your largest donors and stakeholders in the process. That will do more to build your funding relationships with your major donors more effectively than even the most brilliant major gift officer can.
3. Multi-year Pledge Payments
Most capital campaigns offer donors the possibility of playing off their gifts over three to five years. Some donors prefer this approach. In fact, some people will make larger gifts because they can pay off their gifts over time.
You can make the same offer to some of the people who make major gifts, even if you’re not in campaign mode.
Beware, however, that when donors pledge over time, that greatly increases the importance of stewarding them over those years. Don’t simply put them aside because they’ve made a commitment. Quite to the contrary — keep that list of multi-year donors right in front of you, so you can build and maintain an active relationship with them through those years. You may be surprised to find that those donors give additional gifts even though they have an active pledge.
What are the ways you can adapt some of these strategies to your major gift program? Let us know in the comments section below. And while you’re at it, let’s keep in touch. Sign up for my list here, and I’ll send you useful fundraising tips via email every week.
Andrea Kihlstedt is an innovative leader and expert in capital campaign fundraising. She wrote "Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work (4th ed)," often referred to as the “bible” of capital campaign fundraising. She founded Capital Campaign Masters and co-founded Capital Campaign Toolkit, an online capital campaign resource and platform.