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August 16

Marketing for Capital Campaigns


If fundraising were in the Olympics, capital campaigns would be like women’s gymnastics or men’s swimming. It’s the event everyone watches, the activity that gets all the attention.

By the way, here’s one of my favorite Olympic sports that doesn’t get much attention.

Successful capital campaigns rely on a rock solid partnership between marketing and development.

Here are some key things to keep in mind to get the most out of your capital campaign marketing efforts.

Nail down your case statement.

This is not only the first step; it should be considered the most important step. This is the platform on which you will build all of the components of your marketing plan.

Your case statement is a thoughtful argument (or “case”) as to why anyone should make a gift to the campaign. It should also show why they should make their gift now.

Fundraising communications expert Tom Ahern recommends creating an “internal case” first.

This is basically a file of useful information you gather to create the official case statement which will go into your digital and print channels. No one sees the internal case except you and your internal staff.

The internal case would contain among other things…

  • organizational financial information,
  • program descriptions, • proof of your impact,
  • your values,
  • your mission,
  • your vision,
  • your strategic plan,
  • your fundraising goals, and
  • data on your beneficiaries.

Don’t rush this step.

It takes time to gather all of the information you’ll need in your case statement. It also takes time to craft the language for your external case statement.

This should ultimately be done during the quiet phase, and it should also be part of the planning committee phase.

Make sure your case statement is not about you.

I agree completely with consulting firm Zimmerman Lehman’s straightforward assessment:

“The fact that your staff would like bigger offices or a location in a better part of town is no justification for a capital campaign.”

They stress that your case statement must show potential donors that you’re going to use the money to make improvements that have a positive effect on your beneficiaries.

“At bottom, fundraising is an emotional business every bit as much as a logical one; your job is therefore to create ”emotional resonance“ by showing how clients’ lives will be improved by the proposed capital improvements.”

Get to know your audiences by creating personas.

No need to go crazy here, but segment your audiences into three to five personas. Use the data in your donor database and through research to create a profile of each persona that lists their demographics, their economic situation, and motivations for giving.

It may sound strange, but I recommend giving each persona a name and a face. This way,  you’ll feel a connection with your audience as you create content for them. 

Communicate with each persona in the most natural way for them.

Select the marketing channels that work for each of your personas. For example, the older your audience, the more direct mail will come into play.

Here’s a post on social media platforms and the audiences that resonate best with them.

Create a campaign website.

If you’re about to launch a major capital campaign, it deserves its own piece of real estate online—a microsite. Use your website to communicate your case statement, give campaign status updates, and recognize key givers along the way.

The best capital campaign sites use a combination of text, imagery, and video to demonstrate the case statement to the visitor. You really want to put time and resources into your campaign website, just like you would the general website for your organization.

Also like the main website, I recommend you create an editorial calendar and assign staff to keep the site updated with campaign progress updates and new imagery.

Keep your campaign site fresh, and you should see higher traffic volume and more engagement from your donors.

Here are sections to consider for your campaign website:

  • A message from the campaign chair or president
  • The mission and vision of the campaign
  • Overview of your organization’s history and background
  • Descriptions and links to your programs and services
  • Case for support for the capital campaign
  • Drawings, tables, blueprints, and diagrams relating to the campaign
  • Ways to give to the campaign
  • Donor recognition page honoring significant gifts
  • Video testimonials from alumni, students, faculty, and administration

Some incredible campaign websites out there…

Craft a social media strategy specifically for the capital campaign.

Again, having an editorial calendar and assigned personnel to update your social media channels with updates and calls to action will be critical for your success.

Give donors a way to share about the campaign from your website, your email communications, and especially after they make a donation. Make sure sharing is quick, easy, and simple.

Leverage the power of email marketing to drive traffic to your campaign site and landing pages.

Craft email sequences for the personas that you created to communicate the campaign case statement, drive traffic to your campaign site, and solicit campaign gifts.

It’s best to publish email campaigns around the same time your audiences are receiving your direct mail communications. Your print and digital communications do best when they share the same messaging and calls to action.

Don’t skimp on your printed materials.

Print isn’t dead. It’s still a powerful means to communicate your case statement and impress donors, especially major givers.

By the way, capital campaigns aren’t the only time to leverage print media.

Your printed materials should include a full case statement in the form of a eight to twelve page (you may need more pages if the campaign is complicated or extremely high dollar) brochure.

We live in the digital age, but it leaves a powerful impression when you leave a major gift prospect with a professional, well-written brochure.

It tells them that you’ve done your homework. You’ve thought this through. And you’re willing to put in your own money to make the vision happen.

Also plan to send out direct mail campaigns as well. These should be written with a clear call to action, your compelling case for support, and with your personas in mind.

Bottom line for capital campaigns: They deserve their own marketing plan.

Treat them like an add-on to your other marketing responsibilities and you’ll get mediocre results.

Put in the time and resources necessary, and your marketing will bring in tremendous results.

If you need help with your capital campaign – or any other area of marketing – contact us and learn what our team can do for you. There’s no obligation.

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