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6 Steps to Get Ready for a Capital Campaign (Part 1)

By Rhen Hoehn, Petrus Director of Marketing


A capital campaign is a targeted fundraising project meant to raise significant dollars in a relatively short period of time. 


Campaigns can be used to fund needed projects such as building repairs, or they can fund the expansion of a campus to meet the needs of a growing organization.


Campaigns can also be used strategically as rallying points that get supporters excited about your school’s mission, heighten its image in the local community, and allow it to level up its impact.


Capital campaigns are a major undertaking, and should not be entered into without some consideration. 


At Petrus Development, we have helped a number of organizations prepare for and execute campaigns, both big and small. We have found that six things need to happen before any organization is ready for a campaign.


In this article, we lay out the following first three steps for any organization preparing to carry out a capital campaign. 

  • Ensure dedicated leadership
  • Build strong development program
  • Maintain a robust, well-kept fundraising database


In a future article, we will talk about three further steps to take before a campaign can be initiated.


 1.  Ensure Dedicated Leadership

For an organization to successfully carry out a capital campaign, it must have leadership that fully supports the effort. The leader(s) must be dedicated to the organization and committed to the mission. They must have a vision for leading the organization to a higher level and a willingness to move beyond their own comfort zone.


The campaign will require leadership to commit significant time to the cultivation and solicitation of donors on top of their regular duties, and they should be aware of that fact and agree to it ahead of time.


 2. Strong Development Program

Campaigns are most successful when they can capitalize on years of consistent communication and relationship building by the development team. Does your organization communicate effectively and often with donors and prospects? Has your annual fund been growing each year? If so, these are great signs.


Having the right development staff in place is also a big factor. In an ideal situation, there will be a full-time development director on staff who has been with the organization for at least 12 months before beginning a campaign. The development director should already have a practice of making at least 15 face-to-face visits with donors and prospects each month.


The knowledge, experience, and relationships that come from having this development program in place will make it possible for your organization to start identifying prospective donors who may have ability to make significant lead gifts to a campaign.


 3.  Fundraising Database

The linchpin that holds all development offices together is a good fundraising-specific database. Database software can be expensive, but it should be viewed as an investment rather than an expense. No collection of spreadsheets is as powerful or as secure as a good database. 


When executing a capital campaign the fundraising database is indispensable. 


Organizations that are ready for a campaign should:

  • Have all donors and prospects in a database
  • Have good contact information for most constituents.
    • This includes names and titles, addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers
  • Have somebody on staff responsible for the ongoing upkeep of this information. 


In a forthcoming article, we will discuss three further steps to put campaign preparations in motion with a strategic plan, case for support, and campaign feasibility study.  Stay tuned!



Is your organization considering a capital campaign?

Don't enter the process blind. You will waste a lot of time, and a lot of money.

Get a roadmap for the process from people who have been through it before on the Petrus Development “Preparing for a Capital Campaign” Virtual Summit, including:

  •  Is my organization ready for a campaign effort? 
  • How do I approach the planning of my campaign projects? 
  • What should I expect once I start a campaign? What can I do to maximize campaign ROI? 



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