Capital campaigns are complicated undertakings, often lasting several years and built to raise more money than your organization has ever raised in a single initiative. When pulled off, their results are transformative—expanding your nonprofit’s capacity to pursue its mission, serve constituents, and grow sustainably for years to come.
As fairly high-stakes projects, it’s no wonder that most nonprofits choose to work with capital campaign consultants for help during one or several parts of their campaigns.
After all, these campaigns require significant investments of time, money, and labor. They involve securing buy-in from many different stakeholders to help you achieve a big-picture vision of what your organization can become. Contracting an expert to help chart your course can be a way to safeguard those investments and maximize your chances of success.
Let’s take a closer look at exactly why and how a consultant can support your organization’s capital campaign.
Capital Campaign Consulting Services
First, let’s review the typical types of services that fundraising consultants commonly provide for capital campaigns. These include:
- Campaign direction and strategic planning
- Case for support development
- Ongoing campaign counsel
- Campaign feasibility studies
- Solicitation and leadership training
- Post-campaign audits and analyses
Beyond these broad categories, consultants may play a range of other roles in a capital campaign as needed. For instance, they may conduct prospect research, optimize your data management and development processes prior to the campaign’s launch, or solve ad hoc challenges as they arise. They may also play short- or long-term roles in the campaign depending on your needs and the specific reasons why you’ve contracted them.
For these reasons, it’s important to understand and be able to articulate your needs before researching potential consulting partners. Many consultants provide multiple or custom campaign services, but you’ll need to know where to start.
Key Benefits of Hiring a Campaign Consultant
So you’ve thought about what you might choose to hire a consultant to do during your capital campaign. But why? What are the benefits of bringing in an outside player to help?
1. Expert guidance and support
Simply put, professional fundraising consultants bring real-world knowledge of best practices from their training and past campaign experiences.
Since most organizations only conduct capital campaigns once a decade or more, chances are high that very few (if any) of your staff members have ever been involved in one before. A consultant’s expertise can ensure you’re building your campaign strategy on solid ground, and their ongoing guidance can keep everything on the right track over time.
2. Outside perspectives
The external perspective of a fundraising consultant gives you a 360-degree view of your campaign plans.
Remember that capital campaigns are significant undertakings. Whether everyone on your team is fired up for your big-picture goals or you’re struggling to convince skeptical board members, how people view the feasibility of your plans can easily be skewed. An outside perspective gives you confidence in your trajectory or the course corrections that may be needed.
Consultants traditionally conduct capital campaign feasibility studies for this very reason. During a study, your consultant will collect stakeholders’ feedback on your plans prior to the campaign’s actual start. Their feedback and the consultant’s expertise are then compiled into a set of recommendations for the campaign’s direction. Their objective position helps to ensure that feedback is truthful and as helpful as possible, which might not always be possible if you conduct the study yourself.
3. Increased buy-in
As mentioned above, it’s fairly common to run into resistance from skeptical board members, leaders, or senior staff. After all, these campaigns are big investments and bring some inherent risks.
An experienced consultant can give you the support you need to secure full buy-in from organizational leadership. With a consultant’s help, you can conduct a feasibility study, refine your plans to maximize the chances of success, and lay out a clear case for why now’s the time for this particular campaign.
4. Learning opportunities
Capital campaigns are full of learning opportunities for your staff, including how to:
- Conduct prospect research
- Manage a prospect pipeline and qualification process
- Build relationships and solicit major gifts
- Follow up and maintain relationships with key donors
- Plan new types of events for the campaign
- Manage complex projects with multiple stakeholders
- Secure and manage corporate partnerships
With an expert guide lending a hand, you can trust that your team will come away from the campaign with experience backed up by industry best practices. These lessons are then invaluable assets going forward as your organization begins the process of completing its funded project and growing its impact through expanded programs thanks to the campaign.
5. Broad fundraising expertise
Many consultants offer more than just capital campaign services. When you engage with a consulting firm, you can discuss their other areas of expertise and how they may play a role in your campaign and big-picture plans.
For instance, as you gear up for your campaign, you may find that your overall donor qualification process needs an overhaul or that your development team needs additional training. Or you may find that you want the help of a consultant with more specific expertise in your sector, like higher education or healthcare fundraising. In any of these cases, a firm that offers a broader range of support will be an efficient way to cover your bases.
Whatever the particular services you need, a professional’s support can give your capital campaign the edge it needs to succeed.
Look for partners with proven experience, ideally working with organizations similar to yours. Define your preliminary needs, start a conversation, and request a proposal. You’ll be working with your next fundraising partner in no time.
Guest Author: Aaron Dahlstrom, Vice President, Digital Marketing at Graham-Pelton
Aaron Dahlstrom is the Vice President of Digital Marketing at Graham-Pelton. Creative and considerate, Aaron plans and executes Graham-Pelton’s presence across all digital mediums, ensuring that those who invest their time engaging with the firm experience the timely thought leadership and bold approach audiences have come to appreciate.