Capital campaigns and why nonprofits should consider them

on August 23, 2018

Nonprofits are not strangers to the art of the fundraising campaign. Determining an initiative, creating a goal in order to help solve or combat the issue, then going out to supporters asking them to give or fundraise on your behalf is a mainstay within most nonprofit fundraising strategies.

However, when it comes to capital fundraising campaigns, or fundraising campaigns designed to raise funds for things that are considered “overhead” by most nonprofits, the mood starts to shift.

We all know that overhead is a touchy subject when it comes to the nonprofit world. But what if investing in a piece of technology could actually increase the overall impact you’re having on the world? How do you tell the story of investing in technology as a means of furthering your impact in a way that not only excites your supporters, but also makes them want to be a part of the movement?blg_capitalCampaign_2018_SeedMoney_In-blog-GraphicsEnter the capital campaign

A capital campaign is a fundraising campaign designed to raise money to fund expenditures that benefit the community or provide expanded, increased, or more efficient programming that furthers a nonprofit’s mission. It might take a bit of a mindset shift to think about going out to your supporters and asking them for money for something other than going directly to the mission. But the truth of the matter is, focusing some efforts on investing in your nonprofit’s footprint and/or efficiencies can make an enormous impact on your organization’s mission overall.

But when thinking about starting a capital campaign, there are definitely some questions to ask and things to consider...

Outline the benefits the investment will give your community

How will the initiative you’re thinking about help your nonprofit have an even greater impact on those you serve, or in the community you operate? Will it take some of your current burdens off the table and allow you to do more with less? Will it allow you to better support the needs of the community you’re striving to help?

Or does the initiative help you meet the needs of your growing supporter base? For example, is there a piece of technology that you can invest in that will help you reach more supporters via social sharing? Will it aid in helping you engage Millennials and Generation Z in a way that resonates with them? Will it make it easier, faster, and more efficient to fundraise? Will it allow you to better communicate updates and milestones of your work to your supporters? All of these things add value. It’s important to outline these investments up front, so both your board and your supporters can clearly see the benefits.

Have a goal in mind

Once you’ve established how your initiative will benefit your nonprofit, whether it’s technology, a building expense, or other need, it’s time to figure out exactly what it would cost. You want to have a clear goal in mind so that you can be as transparent as possible to your supporter base.

Maybe you have a large donor or corporate partner willing to front half the money so your community-raised goal is not as much as you expected. Or, maybe you have a certain budget reserved for something like technology, but need a little more to make it a reality. Explain exactly how the funds will be used in your campaign story to keep everything open and transparent.

Expect the expected

Adding another campaign to your fundraising calendar might seem like a lot of work. And it could very much feel like a traditional campaign, so you’ll need to think about your timeline, messaging, how to engage fundraisers, how to approach donors, etc.

Make sure in advance of your capital campaign, you are ready with staff, time, and energy to get it up and running, and keep the momentum going throughout the entire process.

Get everyone on board

Evangelists for your nonprofit, including board members, staff, and superstar fundraisers, are crucial in starting your campaign off with a bang. After making sure everyone is on the same page with the capital campaign and how beneficial the initiative will be for your cause, send personal outreach messaging asking every board member and staff member to create fundraisers for the campaign.

Also, remind your capital campaign supporters of the importance of sharing with their friends and family in their own words how impactful their support would also be to the campaign. Make sure they educate their network on the need for funding, and then share with them exactly what it will allow your nonprofit to accomplish. When supporters know exactly how these donations will be used, they will be able to more easily communicate the information in an authentic way to their friends and family.

Spread the word

Once you’ve established the benefit of the investment, set a goal, got buy-in from all departments, and have your staff and board members fundraising for the campaign, it’s time to tell the world what you’re up to.

Start by telling them that this piece of technology, building improvement, or other initiative is a true investment in your nonprofit and, perhaps more importantly, an investment into bettering the community you serve. Make sure to share detailed information about what this improvement will do for your cause and how it will impact your mission. Give real examples of what you’ll be able to do with this funding, and don’t forget to show extreme amounts of appreciation for the supporters helping you tackle this goal.

When you’re transparent, open, and help others understand that you’re thinking about the future of impact, your supporters will see the true gift they are giving to your nonprofit by helping you reach your goals.


At CrowdRise by GoFundMe, we think that a strong fundraising platform can make a huge difference in a growth-minded or future-minded charity. And, we’re happy to be the platform that helps get your capital campaign off and running, or to be the investment you’re campaigning for. Either way, striving to help charities do more and be more efficient is a goal of ours that we firmly believe in.Nonprofit Capital Campaign

Gary Wohlfeill

Gary Wohlfeill is the Director of Marketing at CrowdRise. He works with partners to develop highly engaging fundraising campaigns, and leads the marketing team in developing the CrowdRise brand. Gary has been named as having the “3rd best haircut of people under 6 feet tall at CrowdRise" and hopes one day to slip to 4th.