By Yvette LeGear Hartsfield, MA, CAP, CFRE, Vice President of Campaigns

Whether you call it a Capital Campaign or a Comprehensive Campaign…the excitement and fear are the same. Most nonprofit professionals rarely have the opportunity to be on a development team that is conducting a large fundraising campaign. Even fewer of us have the opportunity to lead the effort. I have been a frontline fundraiser for over 30 years leading both large and small development shops. And, I have been fortunate to lead three large campaigns, two comprehensive campaigns and one endowment campaign. If you are one of the lucky few that has been anointed the privilege of leading your organization’s upcoming campaign, let me share some advice.

Prepare your runway. Successful campaigns are built on major donors. Before you launch the silent phase of a campaign, ensure that your major gift donors have been properly cultivated and stewarded so they are ready for a transformational gift. Show love and engage them in the mission. As a very general rule of thumb, donors give between 8 to 10 times their annual gift when making a campaign pledge. For example, if you have a very generous and capable donor in your realm, but you have not taken the time to engage them, cultivate them and increase their annual gift, do not count on them to suddenly give you a six or seven figure commitment. Despite the fact the donor has the ability, they do not consider your organization one where they invest in a significant way. You can ensure your success by building your runway to success.

  1. Do you know your donors? Conduct an analysis of your donor base to pull out those who have either made significant gifts, have a significant investment through lifetime giving, or those who have some giving history, but have the ability to be significant major gift donors.
  2. Use a wealth screening tool. While these tools will not present you with a complete dossier of your donors in depth, the information you garner can help direct your efforts and understanding of a donor’s capability. This cannot be used alone to inform you of a donor’s interest and ability. You must follow up by meeting with the donor and listening to their interests and passions.
  3. Hire a Major Gift Officer. After you find your prospective major gift donors and qualify them – you need to get to know them. Either you re-adjust your responsibilities to make time for relationship building, cultivating, and soliciting OR you invest in a major gift officer, someone whose sole responsibility it to work with donors face to face.

The most crucial time of a Capital Campaign is the first 12 months (referred to as the advanced gift phase) is not the time to try to acquire new donors or hope some of the donors in your database will come through with transformational gifts. As soon as your organization starts talking about a major gift campaign, begin planning your success by building or reinforcing your major gift program.

Reach out to us with your campaign questions: (314) 370-1602 or

Happy Campaigning!

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