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Capital campaigns: How direct response can support your efforts

Capital campaigns are an exciting time for many nonprofit organizations, but they also require a lot of legwork to make them successful. It can be especially challenging for organizations to know when and how to use direct response to help accomplish their goals.

Whether it’s during the quiet phase, public phase or after the campaign has ended, direct response can play an important role in spreading your offer and raising funds. In this blog, we’re diving into a few of our favorite strategies and tactics to help support your capital campaign.

Rallying your biggest supporters during the quiet phase

I’ve always felt that “quiet” is an ironic word for this phase of the capital campaign because if you’re doing it right, it’s not quiet at all.

In fact, this is the stage where the organization is reaching out in the most strategic and personalized way. Before you open your campaign to the masses, you have to rally your biggest supporters.

During this stage, members of the campaign committee will be soliciting major gift donors, corporations and government agencies for substantial donations. But sometimes it’s difficult to know who has the potential to give at these major giving levels. Direct response can help in two ways:

  • Major donor modeling can help identify donors who have given to you in the past at lower levels but have the capacity to give at a higher level. Using both behavior variables (like their previous gifts to your organization) and demographic variables (like home value and income), you can build a list of top prospects to reach out to as you begin the quiet phase of your capital campaign.
  • Donor profile reporting will give you even more information on your top-ranked donors. This includes household income, real estate assets, political donations, other philanthropic giving and an estimated capacity to give.

When it’s time to go public

Once you have secured enough major gifts, the public phase of your capital campaign is all about bringing in a large amount of smaller donations from members of your community.

But before you can begin implementing your campaign, you have to determine your offer. Capital campaign offers should include details surrounding the project, why it’s needed and how it will help further your mission.

In addition, it’s important to include a deadline and a specific goal. This will add urgency to your campaign and motivate donors to give. Just like in many traditional campaigns, including a match can significantly help boost revenue in the early stages of a capital campaign.

Once your offer is established, there are a few key direct-response principles you can incorporate to support your campaign:

  • One to two mailings during a one-month period are recommended to maintain urgency. This also allows your organization to minimize the cannibalization of any annual fund revenue.
  • Email is a great tool for more frequent touchpoints throughout your campaign. Keep in mind, the offer, messaging and goal should be consistent with any mail pieces.
  • Digital media and targeted ads directed at your donors can help keep your campaign top of mind throughout the public phase.
  • A designated landing page is always helpful for donors looking for more information or updates. This is also a great place to recognize major donors and show progress toward your goal.

Saying thank you after the campaign ends

No gift should go un-thanked—especially during a capital campaign!

For major donations, it’s important to thank them both privately and publicly. Whether that’s on your website, in a newsletter or in another public forum, it’s important to recognize those who have made significant contributions to your project.

When it comes to lower-dollar donors, the more traditional route of sending thank-you letters and emails is appropriate. Not only should these reinforce the impact their gift makes, but they should also tie in the need for continual giving outside the capital campaign.

Always remember, people give to things they believe in. As you plan each phase of your capital campaign, make sure to keep your mission at the heart of it.

Dustin Riddle

Dustin brings more than 10 years of experience to his role of Senior Account Director as he helps clients navigate this ever-changing fundraising and marketing landscape.

He has worked for more than 8 years in the nonprofit space on an array of clients from animal welfare, cancer research, rescue missions and food banks. Dustin made the switch to nonprofit marketing 8 years ago, from working on for-profit clients in the financial and retail space, most notably Home Depot.

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