What's the Right Timeline for Your Capital Campaign?

When planning for a new project, whether it’s a wide-scale renovation, a new athletic facility or other improvement, most school districts must turn to the local community and hold a capital campaign to raise the necessary funds. Capital campaigns require a lot of innovation, teamwork and, most importantly, planning to execute and reach success.

However, there's a right way and a wrong way to go about a capital campaign, and it's critical to have a sound strategy in place from the start. Following a carefully planned timeline will allow your district's fundraising committee to effectively reach the right donors and get your campaign on the path to success.

Below is seven-step process we've found to work well when it comes to K-12 capital campaigns:

Step one: Identify campaign needs

The first step in your capital campaign requires the school district to examine its needs and identify the primary opportunities that will assist you in reaching your campaign goals over the next six to 12 months. To begin, create an exploratory committee comprised of school board members, staff and community members to develop a list of ideas. Then, you can narrow down those ideas and determine the ones that are worth pursuing.

Next, enlist the help of an outside fundraising consultant to formulate the scope of the campaign based on your committee's ideas.

Step two: Determine next steps

It will not always be the appropriate time to begin a capital campaign in your community. Thus, your school district must determine if, when and how it will move forward with a campaign once the outside fundraising consultant has deemed the campaign feasible in its strategic analysis.

Over one or two months, the district should make adjustments to the campaign to better align with community funding limitations based on community feedback—and outline a case for why the community should support the campaign.

Step three: Finalize campaign strategy

Before the campaign is ready for launch, your district should take an additional one to two months to finalize and ensure everyone involved understands the campaign strategy. This time should also be used to appoint a campaign cabinet of nine to 12 members and identify and rank prospective, high-impact donors.

Step four: Solicit leadership gifts

When the campaign officially begins, the first group of gifts to be solicited are the "leadership" (or largest) gifts. The district should schedule requests for leadership gifts, make appointments and personalize the necessary materials. In short, it's important to make direct contact with wealthy potential donors to get your campaign off to the best-possible start.

Typically, leadership gift solicitation can take two to three months.

Step five: Solicit major gifts

Once leadership gifts have been solicited and received, the district may prepare the materials and scheduling of major gifts. This process is very similar to the leadership gift process, but it's important to note that major gifts should always be collected after the leadership gift phase.

Step six: Solicit community gifts

The final step for your capital campaign is to solicit gifts from the broader community. This process includes outlining your community outreach strategy with things like mailings or community events. When the solicitation plan is finalized, these smaller-sized gifts can be solicited and can serve to round out your fundraising efforts.

Step seven: Wrap-up and project implementation

After the successful completion of your school district’s capital campaign, your committee will want to wrap up any loose ends and prepare for the next step, which is to implement the project for which you fundraised.

By following a carefully set timeline, school districts are much more likely to achieve success in their capital campaigns, raising the money they need to move ahead with critical facilities projects.