Fundamental Questions to Build a Compelling Case for Your Endowment Campaign

Endowments offer distinct appeal and benefit for nonprofit organizations of all sizes. Yet, only one in nine (11.2%) nonprofits managed endowment funds as of 20171

As a viable fundraising strategy for nonprofits with established annual giving programs, endowments can provide a sustainable source of funding in a new era of constant change and elevated uncertainty. At Creative Fundraising Advisors (CFA), we frequently partner with organizations who are looking to take their individual fundraising strategy to the next level with an endowment.

For nonprofits in the early stages of exploring or building an endowment, the answers to these fundamental questions can inform your strategy and build the foundation for a compelling case for support:

  1. What is our objective for starting an endowment? 

    The perpetual annual income provided by an endowment can be used to offset operating expenses, protect and sustain core programs, and provide overall financial stability to hedge against uncertainty and better counter longer-term forces of change. 

    Consider your nonprofit’s mission-critical services and core operational costs. Identify which of those priorities are consistently insufficiently funded as well as those with the lowest levels of funding diversification and greatest exposure to potential shifts in funding. These priority areas will serve as key inputs driving the overall purpose and objectives for your endowment.  

    Your case for support should be clearly linked to your future vision and the distinct purpose your endowment will serve. Whether your organization is seeking to sustain and expand programs, respond to emerging needs, or simply ensure long-term organizational stability, building a compelling case for support clearly tied to the purpose and impact of your endowment will increase donor confidence and inspire larger gifts. 
  1. What is an appropriate financial goal for our endowment? 

    When it comes to endowments, there is no “one size fits all” approach. With an average annual payout of 5%, the impact of an endowment truly depends on the size of your nonprofit and your objectives for the fund. 

    For smaller nonprofits, an additional source of revenue to cover core administrative functions or support a mission-critical program is valuable at any level. For larger organizations, generating a significant percentage of the annual operating budget or sustaining entire programs or positions to allow for programmatic continuity will inform the ideal target for your endowment. 

    Regardless of the size, endowments are a powerful emblem of stability and permanence that can inspire visionary mindsets in organizations and donors alike. 
  1. Do we have a strong base of donors to fund an endowment? 

    Endowments have the potential to inspire giving at transformational levels from current donors. The ideal endowment campaign prospects will have a demonstrated commitment to your nonprofit, usually over several years and often through engagement beyond financial support, as well as the financial capacity to give. Completing a donor wealth screening process, often completed as part of a feasibility study, will identify the strongest endowment campaign prospects based on these factors and help to establish an achievable short-term goal for your endowment fund. 

    As CFA shared in our recent Exploring Endowments discussion, endowment gifts can come in the form of outright investments or as deferred planned giving vehicles. An outright endowment gift gives donors the opportunity to fund their annual gifts in perpetuity while planned gifts may come as the donor’s last and largest gift. 

    While larger organizations may be more likely to secure larger outright endowment gifts, nonprofits of all sizes can leverage planned giving opportunities to inspire significant investments for the future. Whether gifts are made in the present or future, endowment funds are powerful in their permanence, serving as an ongoing tribute that will sustain the donor’s values and organization’s impact into posterity. 

Regardless of the size of your organization, endowment building is a strategic decision that requires significant commitment, in-depth analysis, and significant understanding on the part of leaders and board. Endowment campaigns require a strong vision for the future of your nonprofit as well as strong personal relationships with a critical base of top donors. With a clear case for support, an endowment will provide your most steadfast donors a clear and compelling opportunity to invest in a future where your organization is doing your best work.

At CFA, we often recommend including an endowment campaign as a component of a capacity-building campaign, which can generate giving momentum and interest in the long-term vision for your organization. An endowment can also pair well with a capital campaign to sustain the operations of a new building, or to support a strategic initiative after a campaign has concluded. 

If your organization is considering an endowment campaign, contact CFA today to explore how we can help.


  1. MIT Sloan Study Shows Larger Nonprofit Endowment Funds Generate Higher Returns. May 2020.

In Conversation with CFA: Inside Today’s Donor Mindset

Liz Jellema, Chief Operating Officer, led a conversation with guests Rachel Hutchisson, Chair of the Communications Task Force at The Generosity Commission, and Rick Dunham, Founder of Dunham+Company and member of The Giving Institute. The philanthropy experts discussed recent fundraising trends, and what the findings mean for nonprofit organizations trying to raise more money and positively impact their communities.

Takeaways to Address Today’s Fundraising Trends

  1. Mind the Millennials.

    Giving by the Millennial age cohort (individuals who are between 27 and 42 years old in 2023) is on the rise, and their attitude about nonprofit organizations is positive. This finding comes from the most recent annual Giving by Generation study, conducted by Dunham+Company and published by Giving USA in 2023. The survey found that Millennial households gave 40% more, on average, to nonprofits in 2022 than they did in 2016. Another encouraging fundraising trend was the increase in the share of donors who believe that nonprofits are “doing a good job,” seen especially in the Millennial cohort who reported an 8% increase in confidence in nonprofits.

    At the same time, findings from a 2023 study of donors contributing at least $20 in online giving per year revealed that 62% of surveyed donors plan to reduce their 2023 giving from the previous year, citing economic uncertainty and the toll of inflation on their personal finances. When asked how to marry these two findings, Dunham stated, “It portends probably a slower growth rate of Millennial giving, but I’m still encouraged to see how Millennials have really jumped in more significantly as donors.” 

    The key takeaway about the Millennial mindset is that they are proving to be tomorrow’s dedicated donors. Understand how and how much Millennials are giving at your organization so that you can set a long range strategy for this group and tailor communications and appeals for best results.
  2. Monitor fundraising trends but focus on your own donor data management.

    A recent podcast by The Economist, “Give fast, spry young: the new philanthropists,” and a related article, “How a tide of tech money is transforming charity,” explored the idea that every generation has remade philanthropy, and how an up-and-coming cohort of young, wealthy tech entrepreneurs want to “move fast and fix things” by donating to moonshot ideas with expediency and without condition. 

    The webinar panelists agreed that while tech entrepreneurs represent an interesting segment of donors, they represent a relatively small percentage of the national donor pool. It is important to understand the interests of your current donors and use data insights to discover opportunities to connect prospective donors to your mission.

    Data helps reveal patterns that are happening over time so we can better understand donor behavior, including what motivates donors, and what methods of giving they prefer (such as being able to donate easily on a mobile device). This information helps you determine where to focus your fundraising resources. Nonprofits of all sizes must activate data management to understand what is happening with their own donors and take actions such as upgrading technology so that people can give via digital channels.

    Hutchisson explained that these studies help us “look at what’s happening overall, but just because it’s happening overall doesn’t mean it’s happening right in your microcosm. You also have to look at your own data. Look at who’s giving, how they’re giving, the different characteristics, and that just helps you understand the behaviors of your best donors, and behaviors of people who aren’t giving, and sets a little bit of direction for where to look and maybe how to invest.”
  3. Tell donors how their giving directly impacts your mission through storytelling.

    Donors want to see results, and they also want to help other people. In a 2020 Hidden Brain podcast called Happiness 2.0: Surprising Sources of Joy, Dr. Elizabeth Dunn of the University of British Columbia shared her finding that people feel a greater joy of giving when they know more about how their dollars are used. Jellema noted, “It seems fairly straightforward and intuitive, but people want to know that they’re making a positive impact and altering the course of life…If you can really hone in on your specific mission and what are you uniquely resourced to address, that will set you apart.”

    Hutchisson agreed and said, “We might care about data and plans and vision, but we also want to feel and see that we’re making a difference. We want to belong.” Instead of focusing on the transactional relationship of philanthropy or becoming too internally focused about what the organization is doing, appeal to your donors’ emotional connection with your mission through impact stories. Fundraisers will get better results when they use storytelling to reach various donor mindsets and illustrate outcomes related to giving. 
  4. Meet donors where they are with multichannel fundraising and communications. 

    Donors who engage in multiple channels—from direct mail to social media—give more often and are likely to give again. While organizations must embrace different communications channels, the core message needs to remain consistent, compelling, and – Dunham used the term “symbiotic” – or mutually reinforcing, across all channels. Blackbaud’s 2021 study about online fundraising trends found that donors become confused and frustrated when they receive a communication through one channel (such as direct mail) and then find a different message on the website. Leverage technology to determine which donors are responding to which appeals, and employ straightforward communication to donors via direct mail, text-to-give, and more. Nonprofits must invest in the infrastructure, staff, and training to effectively use these tools and make it easy for people to give.

Learn More

If you missed CFA’s webinar “Inside Today’s Donor Mindset,” click to view a recording:


For more, in-depth articles related to these topics, check out CFA’s Insights page. CFA can help your organization design and implement fundraising campaigns to engage a wider, deeper donor audience, communicate your “big idea,” evaluate your data, and ready your organization for transformational gifts. Contact CFA today for strategic fundraising counsel.

Developing Leadership Annual Giving to Drive Fundraising Success

By Rob Ruchotzke, Senior Consultant

What is Leadership Annual Giving?

Leadership annual giving is a fundraising term used to describe a nonprofit’s largest repeating philanthropic gifts. Leadership annual gifts, also referred to as mid-level gifts, represent a higher dollar segment than that of baseline annual donors. Depending on the size of your organization, leadership annual gifts typically fall in the $500-$10,000 range. 

When conducting annual giving campaigns, nonprofit development professionals often focus on securing first-time gifts from the base of the donor pyramid or renewing major gifts from the top of the donor pyramid; however, gifts at the the middle of the donor pyramid are just as important. By strategically cultivating and stewarding mid-level donors for leadership annual gifts, you can increase their engagement and position your organization to ask for larger major gifts.  

  • Of note: According to the December 2022 AFP Fundraising Effectiveness quarterly report, annual gifts between $500-$5,000 are generated from 14% of donors and make up over 16% of total dollars raised, while gifts of $5,000+ are generated from a much smaller pool of 2.6% of donors but make up 74% of total dollars raised. 

Leadership Annual Giving Tactics to Raise More Money

The following are my go-to recommendations for clients looking to increase their leadership annual giving:

1. Strategize and cultivate leadership annual giving donors through regular follow-ups utilizing a donor cultivation cycle to manage the donor journey. Assign staff members who have relationship-building skills to your top donors and prospects to personally engage with them and cultivate future gifts. 

2. Monitor leadership annual giving by consistently collecting and analyzing donor data. Tracking giving patterns can help determine the appropriate time to solicit for larger major gifts within your donor moves management system.

3. Launch a giving society for your organization with named giving tiers, such as: Sustainer ($500-$999 per year), Influencer ($1,000-$2,499 per year), Investor ($2,500-$4,999 per year), Founder ($5,000+ per year). Providing meaningful benefits and recognition opportunities can motivate your donors to keep giving and to move up to the next level.

  • Consultant Tip: Host invitation-only events for the giving society to acknowledge leadership annual donors as well as public events where they can invite friends who have the potential to be future donors.

4. Conduct a comprehensive development assessment to analyze your current fundraising efficiencies, and/or a campaign feasibility study if your organization is considering a capital, endowment, or capacity building campaign. Both of these processes can reveal insights about the overall health of your organization’s fundraising practices and opportunities for improvements.

5. Align your frontline fundraising team by setting internal goals and reporting fundraising progress. Set a reasonable number of prospects for each of your gift officers’ portfolios, depending on the scope of the gift officer’s role, the size of your organization, and the goal of your campaign. Set a dollar goal for each gift officer to reach and celebrate wins along the way. 

6. Make donating to your organization as easy and seamless as possible by leveraging a variety of fundraising channels, including mobile giving, mailed forms, and online giving pages connected to your donor database. Keep messaging specific and consistent across various fundraising platforms to clearly convey the ask. 

7. Communicate with your donors to convey the impact of their gifts: once a donor contributes a leadership annual gift, they must be promptly thanked and informed of what has been made possible through their contribution. Connect via phone or video calls, thank-you letters, social media, and in-person meetings. Once a donor has made a leadership annual gift, consistent and regular donor communication is one of the best ways your organization can retain donors and increase future gifts.

Leveraging leadership annual giving is crucial for cultivating a robust pipeline of stable and increasing philanthropic support. Contact Creative Fundraising Advisors today to discuss how we can partner with you to achieve your goals.


Rob Ruchotzke

Rob Ruchotzke, Senior Consultant

Rob Ruchotzke focuses on annual giving strategy, development assessments, campaign feasibility studies, and campaign counsel. Rob comes to CFA with nearly a decade of annual giving experience in higher education institutions. Most recently, Rob served as the director of annual giving at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), where he led multichannel campaigns, developed crowdfunding platforms, managed annual giving vendors, and served as the strategy lead for UNI’s Day of Giving (#LivePurpleGiveGold). A native of Camanche, Iowa, Rob holds a BA in Public Relations from the UNI and resides in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Email Rob

Fundraising Volunteer Engagement: Setting Up Your Capital Campaign Committee for Success

By Joanne Curry, Principal & Head of Client Success

Capital and endowment campaigns are special, multi-year fundraising efforts tied to a visionary goal which present a special opportunity to engage your organization’s fundraising volunteers. By serving on your campaign committee, fundraising volunteers can share their affinity to your mission by influencing new contributions and garnering increased gifts. Campaigns and endowment campaigns can be a win-win for organizations and volunteers when participants are equipped to collaborate in the launch, progression, and completion of the campaign goal. 

At the same time, development officers and philanthropists may struggle with sustaining motivation and enthusiasm in fundraising volunteers over the course of multi-year campaigns. Here are some suggestions to help your fundraising volunteers enjoy the campaign experience while helping reach the campaign goal:

Seven tips to set your volunteer fundraising committee up for success

1. Recruit with intention. The people on your campaign committee must work well together, be able to influence the campaign outcome, and represent diversity in as many forms as possible. Start by recruiting the campaign chair(s) and focus on your most invested and well-connected donors to join your campaign committee. Take time to meet with each person individually to share the campaign goals and a description of their roles and responsibilities

2. Provide clarity. Even the most experienced fundraising volunteers want to work toward a shared vision and align on a plan of how to achieve it. When people volunteer, they need specific tasks and clear expectations. Review your campaign plan at the first committee meeting. If you are conducting a multi-year campaign, ensure that the plan and timeline is discussed on an annual basis with all of your volunteer committee members. 

Volunteers also need to understand the “why” behind the tasks you assign. For example, if you ask a volunteer to call on a colleague for a large gift, explain how the gift will help reach the campaign vision, how you came up with the solicitation amount, and why you think they are the best volunteer to help make the ask. If donor cultivation is the aim, ask one of your volunteers to set up a meeting with the prospect and explain how that will help to move the relationship forward.

  • Consultant Tip: It is important to actively manage and update your donor data. Use the data you collect to keep your campaign volunteers focused on viable prospects. 

3. Practice and prepare for fundraising. Volunteers may not be comfortable asking for money or cultivating donors. Demystify this task by providing fundraising training for your committee members early in the campaign. Equip your volunteers with the tools to succeed by sharing your case for support and a link to your campaign video (if applicable) and walking through these resources together in advance. To prepare a volunteer for conducting an ask meeting without a development staff partner, I recommend providing them with a personalized cover letter that details the amount of the financial request. However, in most cases, I counsel clients to have a staff member present to ensure all relevant details are conveyed.

  • Consultant Tip: At campaign committee meetings, add a storytelling exercise to the agenda. I always enjoy hearing the personal stories of committee members about how they became involved in the organization or why the organization’s mission is meaningful to them. Discuss how sharing these personal experiences with campaign prospects could be fruitful.

4. Keep it simple. If you have a committee of 20 volunteers, avoid giving each member 20 tasks. Don’t expect volunteers to cull through long lists of prospects who may or may not be aligned with your mission and vision. Instead, aim for quality prospects over quantity of asks. I have found that assigning each volunteer one or two prospects at a time is ideal. Keeping people focused on a small number of set targets can help make fundraising volunteers feel accomplished.

  • Consultant Tip: The best tactic for assigning roles is to identify a task that you can’t accomplish without volunteer help, or a task that is better accomplished by a volunteer. For example, if a volunteer knows the prospect because they serve on a board together, the meeting request is more likely to get a response when the volunteer, as opposed to the CEO or someone else on the staff, asks.

5. Track and meet in person. The purpose of committee meetings is to convene and share progress so that volunteers can hear from–and brainstorm with–each other. The peer accountability that occurs during in-person meetings can motivate and inspire action from your volunteers, while also allowing you to record what each committee member promises to do for the campaign. At CFA, we recommend using moves management to record interactions and plan next steps with campaign prospects. 

  • Consultant Tip: Cultivating major gifts is a long-term effort. Convene your campaign committee every other month to give volunteers ample time to demonstrate progress. 

6. Hold volunteers accountable. Knowing when a volunteer expects to accomplish a task is essential to reaching campaign goals on schedule. This can be the toughest part of volunteer engagement! Establish a timeline as part of your campaign plan. Staff members and/or campaign chairs can follow up with volunteers individually between meetings. If it is obvious that a campaign volunteer is not likely to complete their tasks, work with campaign leadership to rethink the strategy for that volunteer’s assignments. 

7. Keep volunteers motivated. Thank volunteers as often as you can and keep them informed of campaign progress. Celebrate wins along the way and recognize how a volunteer’s action translated into a contribution or a positive move for a future gift. 

Capital and endowment campaigns can be a transformative time in the life of your organization when they are executed well and when your volunteer fundraisers feel ownership and success in reaching goals alongside development professionals and other staff leaders. Contact CFA today to find out how we can set you and your fundraising volunteers up for campaign success. 


Joanne Curry, Vice President of Client Success

Joanne Curry is CFA’s Vice President of Client Success focusing on campaign management, prospect development, and membership and annual giving programs. Joanne came to CFA with over 10 years of nonprofit experience in operations management, development, and accounting. Before joining CFA, Joanne served as Head of Revenue and Interim Head of Development at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas, managed fundraising operations and communications with Missouri Contemporary Ballet and Owen/Cox Dance Group and worked with nonprofits as a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor Accountant with Support Kansas City. A native of Port Jefferson, New York, Joanne holds a BFA in Ballet Performance and Teaching from the University of Utah. 

CFA’s Guide to an Effective Nonprofit Campaign Committee

If your organization is considering a capital, endowment, or capacity building campaign and you are not sure if you can inspire and manage the volunteer manpower necessary to carry out the campaign vision, CFA has assembled the following guide on the purpose and fundamentals of effective nonprofit campaign committee management. Read on for best practices to help harness the power of your team to accomplish your philanthropic goals. 

What is a Nonprofit Campaign Committee? 

A nonprofit campaign committee, also known as a campaign steering committee, is a group of volunteers tasked with fundraising and relationship building for a significant campaign outside of annual fundraising. 

Differences between a Campaign Committee vs. Development Committee

A capital campaign is a fundraising effort for a specific project with a defined timeline, and a campaign committee is the volunteer leadership group tasked with the campaign’s launch, progression, and completion. The campaign committee is often formed from members of a campaign feasibility study committee. Members of a campaign committee are not required to be members of the organization’s board of directors. 

Development is an ongoing fundraising activity conducted by staff and development committee volunteers that includes annual giving and major gifts. A development committee is a function of the board of directors of the organization. 

Purpose of the Campaign Committee

Campaign volunteers bring an external energy and impact perspective to the campaign. Volunteers view the campaign from the community’s lens and are genuinely invested in the campaign’s broader success. By leveraging their personal and business connections, campaign volunteers can open the door to new donors outside of the organization’s core networks and expand the overall reach of the campaign.

Campaign Committee Structure and Membership

Campaign committee members are well-connected donors who are passionate about your organization’s mission and are committed to helping raise dollars for a special effort. Most will have been involved with the organization and have existing relationships with staff and other volunteers. It is important that committee members have experience giving before they ask others for financial support, so they are often some of the most invested donors and volunteers in your organization. A campaign committee also includes staff liaisons, such as the executive director and development director. The number of people on the committee depends on the size and scope of your organization and campaign, but is typically between 10-20 members.

The volunteers who lead the campaign and committee are referred to as the Campaign Chair or Campaign Co-Chairs, and they make key decisions about the campaign and recruit other committee members. Many campaigns also have an Honorary Campaign Chair.

Nonprofit Campaign Committee Member Responsibilities

  • Serve on the committee throughout the campaign (3+ years). 
  • Make a significant gift to the campaign, based on individual capacity.
  • Leverage personal and business connections to recruit campaign support.
  • Engage new and prospective donors by sharing campaign information, hosting small gatherings of friends and business associates or on tours of the nonprofit’s facilities, and introducing prospects to other supporters of the organization.
  • Follow up with donors and prospects to close the gift.
  • Thank donors with phone calls and written correspondence as part of ongoing donor stewardship.

Campaign Committee Engagement

Conducting a campaign provides an opportunity for your organization to engage volunteers in different, deeper facets of the organization. Campaign committee participants have an opportunity to actively mold plans and goals for the organization. There are a number of ways to encourage and inspire your committee members through your campaign:

  • Hold regular full committee meetings (bi-monthly or quarterly) and conduct at least one “one-on-one” meeting between the campaign chair(s), staff, and each committee member.
  • Provide job descriptions for every committee member as well as the campaign chair(s) and honorary chair(s).
  • Plan, manage, and track the work of the committee using a moves management system.
  • Inspire committee members by sharing success stories of who your organization has impacted, how different solicitations unfolded, and examples of staff and volunteer achievements.
  • Share campaign progress updates at committee meetings, over email, and on internal dashboards to keep volunteers engaged and enthusiastic about the goals and progress.

Campaign Committee Best Practices

  • Pause to consider each prospect and where they are in the donor cultivation cycle; don’t rush to make an ask with every prospect simply because you are in campaign mode.
  • Ask each committee member to make a personal “stretch” financial gift to the campaign before they ask others to give. Gifts will vary in size based on each individual’s capacity, but the most important metric is that every committee member makes a gift. When 100% of the committee participates in giving to the effort, it sends a strong message to other potential funders that they are seriously committed to the campaign.

When Outside Expertise Can Help

A campaign consultant is a partner to your staff and committee volunteers who helps set the campaign strategy and provides nonprofit fundraising training on how to cultivate, solicit, and close leadership gifts in a campaign. 

Experienced fundraising consultants can bring fresh perspectives to share with the nonprofit campaign committee as they have seen what works in other campaign fundraising engagements. Consultants can also provide the systems needed to track progress and ensure every campaign committee member is confident in asking others to support the campaign.

If your organization is considering a campaign, contact Creative Fundraising Advisors today to set your team up for success.

Fundraising Moves Management: Inspiring Philanthropy One Donor at a Time

By Anne Spears, Campaign Manager

Development professionals must build personal relationships with people who give to their nonprofit so the donor feels connected to both the mission and the people who carry it out.  Donors rarely give to organizations unless they align with its philanthropic vision or have relationships with board members, staff, or other supporters. Whether they realize it or not, donors move organically through a series of stages as they become more deeply involved with an organization. Development staffers can shepherd and track this progression through a process called “moves management.” 

As fundraisers, we must be comfortable cultivating donors and asking for money regularly if we are going to conduct successful campaigns. Moves management is a tracking tool that allows us to inspire donors to give in a way that is most meaningful to them. 

Why use donor moves management?

Moves management is a system of operations that development staff and nonprofit leaders use to strategically elevate personal engagement with donors. Moves management can be used in annual funds, major gifts, and capital and endowment campaigns. 

When I worked at a small private school in College Station, Texas, I learned why donor engagement has to be personal. It was 2012, and we didn’t have a nonprofit donor database or system for tracking donors, so we set out to create one from scratch. The head of the school and I referenced attendance rosters dating back to 1962 and began reaching out to alumni. During the process, we transferred donor information and touchpoints from a spreadsheet to an electronic database and created a centralized, streamlined system by which we could track engagement of prospective donors. We scheduled meetings and hosted tours of the school. The head of the school did a beautiful job of reengaging former families by getting to know them and learning why they loved the school. Alums were overjoyed to be back on campus and felt reconnected to their school. This fresh engagement, which began with the head of the school’s personal invitations, ultimately deepened alum involvement and the completion of a successful capital campaign.

How to implement a donor moves management system

Effective moves management involves examining donor data, tracking donor engagement, and working with staff and volunteers to plan and implement campaign activities ranging from hosting events to asking for campaign gifts.

When CFA is working with a client in campaign mode, we meet to review every lead donor’s giving history, event attendance, volunteer participation, capacity to give, and more. From there, we can gauge the donor’s engagement with the organization, determine where they fall within moves management, and look for opportunities to bring them closer to contributing. We strategize on every activity, assign tasks to staff and volunteers, and set deadlines. For example, the first step with a prospective campaign donor may be for the executive director to ask them to meet. With each successive “move,” we work side by side with our clients to determine the best next step. Many of our clients report that we keep them accountable because they know we will follow up with them on their progress. 

How to track moves

Tracking moves management can be accomplished with a donor database software or a basic spreadsheet. At CFA, we offer a proprietary campaign moves management dashboard customized for each client based on the organization’s goals. Many organizations are not fully utilizing their database software for moves management, so we also provide donor data strategies and training solutions to maximize clients’ existing tools and resources and help them implement a sustainable moves management system for the long run.

Sample plan

Regardless of your system, it’s important to determine and track several key items: Who is the donor prospect manager? Who is the assigned solicitor who holds the relationship with the prospective donor? How much have they given? Do they volunteer or attend events? How much are the ask amounts? What is the next step? Managing relationships, timing engagements, and tracking deadlines is vital to keeping solicitors on task and donors engaged.

  • Consultant Tip: How you collect, maintain, and track donor engagement informs how you determine where a donor or prospect falls along the moves management path. Tracking engagement is also a way to uncover trends that inform the next best steps to reach your goals. Learn more about tracking donor engagement using data analytics.

Key steps in donor moves management

As a campaign manager, I see my role as the conductor who keeps the train moving forward on the tracks. Moves management is how I know which train is going where and when. Here are the five basic steps I follow:

1. Determine the “why.” Why are you acquiring more donors or seeking to increase the number or dollar amount of gifts? Your answer could be that you are growing the annual fund or raising capital for a new building.

2. Learn more about donors and prospects. Examine your data to determine each prospective donor’s motivation and capacity. If you are planning a campaign, consider conducting a wealth screening of your database.

3. Segment and strategize. Utilize the knowledge from examining your data, combined with the “why” of your campaign, to segment your prospective donors into groups and set goals for each group and each donor or prospect. Goals might be to encourage a segment to become recurring donors, to increase their annual donation, or to consider making a planned gift.  

4. Engage donors and prospects. This is where the assigned solicitor personally engages prospective donors by following their inclinations and the campaign strategy. Our job at CFA is to guide our clients and help them set a strategy to cultivate and solicit personal relationships with leading prospects and donors. If you’ve done your job with cultivation, you’ll know the right time to make the ask and the right people to have in the room. 

5. Track progress and next steps. It is crucial to input gifts in your donor database for historical record keeping and tax purposes, but it is equally important to track moves management and identify which strategies worked for which donor. There is always a next step. Check out CFA’s donor cultivation cycle to learn more.  

Final thoughts

The goal in philanthropy is to help people engage meaningfully with organizations that address the issues they care most about. Every campaign is unique, and every donor has individual interests and levels of dedication to the mission. We can each inspire philanthropy when we give special attention to these nuances and build personal relationships with our donors.  

Contact CFA to see how moves management and donor engagement can improve your fundraising efforts


Anne Spears

Anne Spears, Campaign Manager

An experienced fundraiser with over a decade of experience in education, religious, and social service nonprofit fundraising, Anne is energized and inspired by working side by side with our nonprofit partners as a project manager for fundraising campaigns.

Most recently Anne was the Director of Development at the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas where she oversaw a multitude of fundraising initiatives including capital campaigns for Diocesan camp facilities and 87 Diocesan churches. Previously Anne was the Chief Development Officer for Ascension DePaul Services of San Antonio and the Development Coordinator at St. Thomas Early Learning Center in College Station, Texas. She also worked for the State of Montana as a social services specialist serving indigenous and rural populations.

Anne has a B.S. in Sociology, a M.S. in Family and Child Studies, and a Master of Public Administration. She also is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE). Anne lives in San Antonio, Texas with her husband and three children.

Email Anne

Creative Fundraising Advisors’ Capital Campaign Planning Guide

Are you a major gifts officer considering a large fundraising effort but you’re not sure how or when to start? Are you a board member and your favorite social cause doesn’t seem quite ready to launch a planned capital campaign? If you’re wondering how to set the organization up for philanthropic success, we’re here to help. 

We have assembled a short guide on capital campaigns to help you understand basic concepts and key steps toward implementation. We’ve even included a few best practices to help you envision what your organization may be able to accomplish. 

What is a Capital Campaign?

A capital campaign is an intensive, organized fundraising effort to secure philanthropic dollars for a specific purpose within a defined period. Capital campaigns are separate from annual operating appeals, major gift campaigns, and endowment or planned giving campaigns. 

A successful capital campaign can transform your organization and help you significantly impact the people and communities you serve. While capital campaigns are typically comprised of a mix of individual, foundation, and corporate donors, according to Giving USA, more than three-quarters of dollars donated in 2020 came from individuals and bequests.

Types and Benefits of Capital Campaigns

There are three main types of capital campaigns.

Capital – Capital campaigns are launched to fund an organization’s vision with new buildings and construction and may also include major facility renovation or expansion, technology upgrades, and other infrastructure improvements.

Capital and Endowment – Capital campaigns can include an endowment portion designed to help fund the operations of the new building or project. Endowment funding establishes or increases an organization’s endowment to create a regular annual disbursement for operating or a specific purpose.

Comprehensive – Along with Capital and Endowment components, a comprehensive campaign also grows the organization’s annual support and includes every dollar of contributed income raised over a period of time.

Capital Campaign Benefits

There are many benefits to capital campaigns.

Transformation. Allows the organization to improve or change in such a way that it delivers its mission more effectively and efficiently.

Dollars. Increases the number of investments that donors make and potentially expands the base of your donor community.

Engagement. Engages your Board and volunteers in a deeper way through a short-term but intensive effort.

Teamwork. Contributes to organizational unity when the development team is aligned on a singular effort.

Brevity. Advances long-term goals in a shorter period than without a coordinated campaign.

Knowledge. Provides financial development and management training for staff, leaders, and volunteers.

Awareness. Raises awareness of the organization within its community and allows donors to learn more about the organization.

Already know you are ready to tackle your own Capital Campaign? We’d love to connect. Contact us today.

Types of Nonprofits That Conduct Capital Campaigns

Any nonprofit can launch a capital campaign with the required staff and resources. 

According to Giving USA, nonprofits received a combined $471 billion in charitable dollars in 2020, with “religion” bringing in the highest share at 28 percent, followed by “human services” and “public-society benefit” with a combined 24 percent.

capital campaign planning 2020 contributions chart by recipient

Capital Campaign Phases

Many fundraisers might suggest that a capital campaign has two phases: quiet or flooring phase and a public or external phase. It’s important not to forget the pre-work and planning tasks that must go into setting your organization up for success.

Feasibility Study. This initial phase is when you determine if your fundraising goals are realistic and if the organization has the internal capacity to launch and manage a campaign. Feasibility Study Article.

Planning. This phase is where you determine an internal budget with fundraising costs, set your financial fundraising goals, develop your Case for Support and related materials, recruit enthusiastic leaders including a chair or co-chairs, and put a schedule in place for Board approval and a campaign launch.

The “Quiet” Phase. This is the early phase of active solicitations when leadership donors and the Board are solicited and you attempt to raise a percentage of the overall goal before promoting the effort to a wider audience. Typically, an organization will look to raise 75-90 percent of the goal during this early phase, but circumstances impact this decision, and opinions on this subject vary. Increasingly, organizations are skipping this traditional quiet phase and opting to be more transparent about how much they have raised in the early phase of the campaign. When you go public with your campaign has a lot to do with your organization’s fundraising history and your standing in the community.

The Public Phase. This final phase is when your organization is ready to share campaign news with the widest possible audience. This phase is designed to broaden the campaign’s donor base and often garners smaller contributions as well as public attention. Your organization may wish to create a public relations effort and an event to announce the campaign publicly.

Necessary Components of Launching a Capital Campaign

The Big Idea. The better you can express why and how the effort will impact your constituents in a compelling narrative or slide deck, the more successful your campaign will be.

Campaign Goal. Even if your organization’s goal is a “sky-high” wish list, it is imperative that you outline what you hope to raise and what components make up the goal.

Prospects. Successful campaigns often see between five to 10 percent of their donors pledge 90–95 percent of the campaign goal. Review your top 100 prospects early—and consider a donor capacity screening and analysis—to determine if you think this is a possibility for your organization. Donor Data Strategies Article.

Leadership. It’s vital that your organization has a strong development function in place, and important that you have confidence that volunteer leadership from your Board and/or development committee will step forward to give and help raise funds.

Timeline and Plan. Plan for four to six months for a consultant to conduct a feasibility and readiness study and an additional six months for the planning stage. The capital campaign solicitation phase can take three to five years.

Hiring a Fundraising Advisor for your Capital Campaign 

Consultants bring the added benefit of external perspective, previous experience, and new ideas. Finding the right fundraising advisor to walk with you through a campaign from the feasibility and planning stages to the public launch cannot be overstated. What should you look for when interviewing consulting firms?

Expertise. Experience is key, and so is a consulting partner who has their finger on the pulse of what is happening in philanthropy today.

Chemistry. Make sure you enjoy working with the consultant and their team. The right chemistry allows campaign leadership to build much-needed trust.

Social change. Ensure your consultant’s stance on social impact, including diversity, equity, and inclusion practices, matches up with your organization.

Expectations. Many factors can impact the timeline during a campaign, so it’s especially important to ensure everyone’s expectations concerning who is responsible for which tasks are clear.

Capital Campaign Checklist

Some of the highlights for planning and conducting your campaign are below.

  1. Development Assessment. This is an objective review of your internal development program whereby an impartial consultant assesses the readiness of staff to take your organization to the next level. 
  2. Donor capacity and affinity analysis. Part of determining the capacity of each prospect is through research and wealth screening. This typically involves contracting with an external company to compare your donor information with data found across charitable giving and wealth databasesUsing Donor Analytics.
  3. The Case for Support. The case for support is where your organization lays out the most compelling components of the campaign vision to appeal to the hearts and minds of your prospects. 
  4. Feasibility Study. A study is critical to flesh out the necessary components for a capital campaign and is the only way to truly determine when and if your nonprofit will be able to raise funds to support its “blue sky” wish list. Feasibility Study Article.
  5. Internal Capital Campaign Budget. Careful budget planning is critical for launching and operating a capital campaign. Internal capital campaign costs of less than 15 percent of the goal are considered acceptable to most donors; less than 10 percent is considered very efficient. Capital Campaign Budget.
  6. Campaign Committee. Identify and recruit a capital campaign chair or co-chairs and ask them to help recruit and build out a group of enthusiastic people for the committee. 
  7. Campaign Strategy. Overall campaign strategy is comprised of a goal, plan, metrics, and timeline.
  8. Solicitation and Tracking. There are many software platforms and organizational methods to choose from when it comes to tracking the status of solicitations, stewardship, and fundraising cultivation of your donors, which is essential for long-term relationships with your supporters. 
  9. Acknowledgment. No donor can be thanked promptly or often enough, and every gift deserves proper acknowledgment within the campaign. 

Capital Campaign Best Practices

Below are a number of best practices for planning and launching a successful capital campaign. 

Strategic Plan. Your nonprofit must know its goals and objectives for the future. A Board-approved three-or-five-year strategic plan will give your organization a roadmap for how aggressive your fundraising targets need to be to meet your goals and objectives.

Brand identity. Creating a thoughtful, well-developed brand for the organization is a key step in getting campaign-ready. The campaign will have its own slogan and theme with images, typeface, and wording, so it’s important to have a solid brand identity to lean on and into.

Board support. There is a current trend where fewer campaigns are following the traditional practice whereby every Board member makes a lead financial contribution in appreciation for Board members who bring other resources and strengths to the table and may not have the capacity to give. Your organization must set the bar for how you expect the Board to participate from the start, but it goes without saying that 100% participation sends a strong message to other potential funders that the Board is seriously committed to the campaign.

Gratitude and Communications. Sharing campaign news with your donor base keeps donors excited and involved. A gift acknowledgment will be sent out for each donation, but you can add an extra touchpoint with your donors by crafting a regular campaign newsletter or sending coordinated email messages when your campaign achieves a major milestone.

Named Gifts. Giving donors the opportunity to have their name on a building, room, or donor wall allows them to feel valued and can also signal the importance of leading gifts to others.

Stewardship. A well-stewarded gift is your next gift. It’s important to have a thoughtful stewardship plan in place to ensure every donor knows the impact of their gift, which in turn sets you up for success when asking for the next gift.

Are you ready for your next Capital Campaign?

If your organization is ready to tackle the steps above in planning for a capital campaign, and you are interested in partnering with a campaign counselor who can provide tailored solutions that drive positive results, please contact Creative Fundraising Advisors. Our objective is to set your organization up to achieve capital campaign results. We would enjoy hearing from you.