So How Do I Make My Capital Campaign Successful?

Most of us want our efforts to be successful. In business, it might be the introduction of a new product, service or a new initiative, but the goal is to make it profitable. Sure there are always questions and mysteries surrounding something new, but the potential for future earnings make it well worth the risks.

Can Campaign Success Be Guaranteed?

That’s true in the nonprofit world as well. In fact, there is one major question that just about anyone involved in a capital campaign thinks about but rarely asks, “What can I do to guarantee campaign success?”

While there are lots of variables that make or break campaigns, most organizations want to position themselves to achieve maximum productivity. To that end, in our capital campaign consulting we have found at least 5 essentials that enhance the probability of success. They include the following:

Mission and Vision

These are essential parts of your story. Mission addresses who you are organizationally and why you exist, usually in one sentence. Vision addresses what you want to be or become. Success in fundraising demands that people understand your story and the need that flows from it. Yet simply understanding mission and vision is not enough. Your story must also be compelling in ways that move people. The case actually flows from the vision, but it needs to be articulated with a strong sense of passion.


No doubt, strong and engaged leaders can make a big difference in campaign outcomes. Organizations that struggle are typically ones with weak or less visible boards. It’s important that every board member be involved first in giving and then in helping raise additional funds for the campaign.

In organizations with smaller or less visible boards, we typically recommend recruiting 15-20 additional people of means and influence to help as steering committee members. If the organization can’t do this, it’s unlikely that the campaign will get any traction.


It’s important to have a sizeable prospect pool of at least 400-600 prospects or more. In the past, we’ve been approached by organizations that intended to kick off multi-million dollar campaigns. When I asked how large their database was, in every case it was less than 100. Not that you can’t have a successful campaign with a relative start-up, but you are greatly increasing the degree of difficulty. And even if you have a large database that’s no guarantee of success.


John Wooden once told me, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” You don’t raise millions of dollars without a solid plan, and that plan should be comprehensive. In other words, a campaign is not an entity unto itself. It occurs within the context of all of your operations, which must continue along with the campaign. A good campaign plan will take this into account and also provide strategies on how to incorporate and enhance public relations, annual giving, special events and more.


You can have a good understanding of mission and vision with a strong case, a great leadership team, a rich prospect pool and a well-conceived plan. However, if you don’t have action you won’t be successful.

Why Campaigns Fail

As fundraising consultants we tell clients that when campaigns slow down or fail to achieve goals, it’s rarely because of a lack of prospects. Instead, it’s usually because of a lack of action by volunteers in making cultivation and solicitation visits. Remember, success requires that someone must ask someone else for financial support. Timely action on this is really an important part of success.

There they are, 5 essentials for campaigns. Do they guarantee success? No, but if you put them in place they’ll surely enhance the likelihood. For more information on campaign strategies check out our E-book “5 Sure Strategies to Make Your Capital Campaign Successful”.