How to plan a capital campaign

In Season 4, Episode 4, we heard from two Development Directors who recently completed capital campaigns, each fundraising $5 million! Brooke Bernard from The Belcourt was raising money for major renovations for a historic theatre, and Teri Sloan from The Nashville Food Project worked to build a brand new facility, including a commercial kitchen and revenue generating meeting space.


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☑️ Before you start fundraising, do your research.

This is especially important for capital campaigns meant to renovate or even build new buildings. Think about your goals, your resources, the community’s needs, and how all of your stakeholders would be impacted by your campaign.

☑️ Don’t rush the fundraising piece.

Capital campaigns are made up of so much more than just asking for money! I loved hearing Brooke describe how The Belcourt spent a year improving their marketing strategy, analyzing their data, and building relationships with donors before even launching their capital campaign. Teri also had to take in a lot of information from community stakeholders and build trust with the public before making major decisions.

☑️ Think about your “Quiet” and “Public” campaign phases.

Most nonprofits launch the Quiet phase of their capital campaign before launching the Public phase because it’s difficult to maintain momentum in public fundraising campaigns for long periods of time. You need to think of each phase separately because your target audiences will be very different and require different marketing materials.

☑️ Look beyond the numbers.

When you’re looking for donors to prospect for the capital campaign, the numbers in your donor management system can only tell you so much. Get input from your longtime supporters and community members who can help you narrow down your list.

☑️ Provide support for your Development Director.

Brooke, Teri, and other experienced development directors can all tell you that they can’t complete a capital campaign on their own! They need the support of senior leadership, board members, long time volunteers, and other important stakeholders.

☑️ Communicate regularly with your funders.

Brooke and Teri both had to go back to their donors when unexpected costs came up during their capital campaigns and plans had to change. In Teri’s case, her team had to almost double their initial building budget!


Nonprofit Jenni is currently accepting new clients who need consulting or coaching in the areas of Engagement, Communications, and Marketing strategy.

I also cover a wide range of topics related to nonprofit management on my podcast, including board development, program creation, and grant writing.