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Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE

About Linda

Capital Campaign Plan (Part 1)

Once your organization has completed the planning study and decides to proceed with a campaign, the first step in that process is to develop a capital campaign plan outlining the entire structure of the campaign. If your organization is working with a consultant, generally the consultant will develop the plan. If there is no consultant involved, your organization must allow sufficient time for staff to develop the plan.

In a Nutshell

This is Part 1 of a multiweek series on conducting capital campaigns by Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE. This series follows Linda's Capital Campaign Readiness Series, which focuses on making sure the organization is ready for a capital campaign. In today's installment, Linda discusses the first step in the process of conducing the capital campaign: developing a campaign plan outlining the entire structure of the campaign. Linda is the author of two popular books on capital campaigns published by CharityChannel Press, Are You Ready for a Capital Campaign? Assessing Your Nonprofit's Ability to Run a Major Fundraising Campaign and Capital Campaigns: Everything You NEED to Know.

The Campaign Plan: The Foundation for Success

The campaign plan is the foundation for a successful campaign and will help the organization get things off to a good start. The plan should include a brief overview of the process taken by the organization that led to the campaign. A key ingredient of the plan is the campaign organizational chart showing all the various divisions of the campaign and the number of committee people that will be needed to staff all the divisions. Position descriptions for all volunteers should also be included in the plan along with a timeline for each committee and an overall time schedule. The campaign budget is also part of the plan. Volunteers should not be recruited until the plan is completed. It will be critical to show volunteers that a well thought out plan, including expectations of volunteers has been developed so they understand their roles and the time and monetary expectations that will be asked of volunteers. The principle groups of volunteers that will be involved are members of the campaign cabinet, which includes chairs of all the various committees that will be involved in the campaign.

Start by Determining Capital Campaign Divisions

Determining the divisions that will be included in the campaign is the first step in the plan. In every campaign there will be leadership a gifts division and a major gifts division, along with a general community appeal division. Sometimes, depending on the size of the campaign and the scale of gifts that are needed to achieve the goal, there may be other categories based on the size of gifts, such as special gifts. Some campaigns, however, choose to break out the divisions by categories of constituents and then within these divisions will be different levels of giving. For example, a school might have a parents division, an alumni division, and a "friends of the school" division. Or a membership organization might have a division that will contact its members. Or, if the organization is national in scope, there may be different regional divisions based on geographic location. There is often a civic and professional organization division that will contact local community groups for their support as an organization. Also a foundation division is generally in place to coordinate the approach to foundations, and a small business division to contact businesses in the community.

Want to Learn More?

Capital campaign plan: Everything You NEED to KnowLinda goes into much more detail on capital campaign readiness in her book, Capital Campaigns: Everything You NEED to Know, published by CharityChannel Press. You can order it from the CharityChannel Press bookstore,, Barnes & Noble bookstore, or at a bookstore near you.

In addition to the various campaign divisions that will be directly involved in soliciting donors, there are several other committees that will be included the campaign organizational chart. There is generally a prospect evaluation committee, whose task will be to identify and evaluate prospects and assign them to the proper divisions. Most campaigns will also have a PR committee to handle media relations for the campaign and the development of campaign materials, but sometimes this is done through internal staff or the PR committee of the board. There will also be several campaign related events such as a kickoff celebration, a groundbreaking and dedication, and open house event, and all of these events will need volunteers. Usually there is a main events committee on the campaign chart and that chair will recruit different people to work on each event. There are often cultivation events held as a part of the campaign process as well, and these usually fall under the events committee as well.


In cases where there is not a finance department or a finance committee of the board to handle things like the campaign budget and financing options, a special committee may need to be established to handle this part of the campaign. Likewise, if there isn't already a facilities committee in the organization, a committee to handle the actual construction may be part of the campaign cabinet.

Some organizations may have other committees as well for example churches and faith based organizations will usually have a prayer committee as part of their campaign cabinet.

Each committee that will be involved in directly soliciting prospective donors should have its own goals within the campaign goal and this should be spelled out in the campaign plan as well as an overall scale of gifts showing how many gifts at each level will be needed.

Gift Acceptance Policies and Recognition Policies

Other important parts of the campaign plan are gift acceptance polices and recognition polices. It is vital to have these things before the campaign is launched. One of the worst experiences for a volunteer can be to have them successfully solicit a gift and then find out that the gift is not acceptable to the organization or that the way the donor wishes to be recognized is not in conformity with organizational polices. It will, therefore, be necessary to have these things in place before volunteers are asked to make calls.

Having the plan in place and assuring that it is followed will make any campaign flow smoother. Like the planning study, it is one of the essential building blocks of a successful campaign. And, again, if an organization is on a tight budget, it may be wise for the organization to pay a consultant to develop the plan and then implement the plan on its own, or with limited guidance from the consultant.


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