Capital Campaign Check List

I recently had the fun opportunity to speak at the 2015 NAYDO (North American YMCA Development Organization) Conference where I presented to a group of 100 YMCA professionals about preparing their check list in preparation for a capital campaign.  Here is a re-post of a blog I wrote about on the same topic.  Click on the link below to access NAYDO’s blog or continue reading.


The master site plan has been revised and board approved.  The Chief Operating Officer is sharpening his pencil and adding batteries to his calculator.  The costs are tallying into the millions and the Chief Development Officer has a sneaking suspicion that the board, CEO, COO, and program directors are all staring at her.

The stares can only mean it is capital campaign time and aside from your desk, computer and a blank notepad all you have is the check list in your head of what needs to get done so you can celebrate your millions.

Win Your Campaign on Paper
This is the fun part, the dream on paper.  The staff and board have already dreamed up a new dining hall overlooking the lake, or a new facility Y to help revitalize a fledgling part of town.  No matter what the project, start to write down the following:

Outline your Case Statement
This isn’t the Gettysburg address, just a clear story on the following:

  • Your impact on the community
  • Why your Y is an excellent steward of its finances and resources
  • How these new capital projects will allow your Y to better serve your mission and provide a greater impact down the road.

Who is your lead donor?
Let’s say you want to raise $10,000,000. How many million dollar prospects have you identified to get you that first gift?  The rule of thumb is that it takes 4 prospects to get you that one million.  Where are you in your cultivation to keep your lead prospects informed and engaged with your mission?

What does your Top 25 prospect list look like?
How many six figure donors have you identified?  Who gave during your last campaign and can you raise their sights this campaign?  Have you continued a relationship with these donors so they continue to feel vested and involved with your Y?  Who among your board can give; are they prepared to step up and give in a significant and meaningful way?

Who on your board is a strong campaign chair?  If not on your board, are they involved with your Y?
Can they make the lead gift or top 25 gift?  Are they influential and willing to ask others to give?

Who do you want to visit for a feasibility study or to cultivate?
As you put together your prospect list it’s time to start moving them closer to a gift and that means assigning them to a staff person or volunteer and meeting them to start sharing the plans and getting their feedback on these plans.

Storyboarding your communications
What are your communication vehicles you are currently using? What stories do you want to share to tell your Y story, its impact, excellent financial stewardship and how these capital needs will advance the Y?

If your budget can afford it, a campaign consultant can provide an objective perspective to the campaign.  Staff can get bogged down with the day to day of running the office, and a consultant can redirect and get staff  and volunteers focused on advancing the campaign to a close.  Campaigns can get intense with board members and/or CEOs not receptive to staff direction and vice versa.  The consultant can step in and say what needs to be said while validating and helping to construct plans.

Feasibility Study
Feasibility Studies can be completed by a consultant or be completed internally. (Learn how to do an internal study at our May 21st webinar.) The study helps you determine the following:

  • Favorable Public Image
  • Understanding the Y’s Needs
  • Opinion on the Plan to Meet the Needs
  • Is the goal attainable? (Lead Gift, Top Ten, Next Twenty)  Start putting together their prospect list
  • Strength of the Board as Donors and Volunteers
  • Is the timing right

Development Audit
The start of a campaign is the perfect opportunity to evaluate your Development Office, the CEO and Board’s strength as strategic planners and fund-raisers and make constructive changes in these areas to ensure fund-raising success.  A consultant can complete an audit to help you determine whether or not you have:

  • An adequate Development budget
  • An experienced staff capable of designing and conducting fund development programs
  • Records kept of all development activities.
  • Gift acceptance policies; overall development policies exist

Facility Planning
Make sure that your facility planning is aligned with your fund-raising plan.  The Facilities Taskforce is responsible for providing valid and confirmed construction costs as well as preparing renderings and floor plans to be used in campaign marketing.  Timelines for when pledge payments come in related to when projects are shovel ready are important.  It shows good planning and shows donors that their investment is being put to good use.

As Chief Development Officer for Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA, Brenda Marsian has established the infrastructure for a $12.35 million comprehensive campaign having completed a feasibility study, enlisted volunteer leadership, closed the Ys first $1 million gift and coordinated the public campaign kick off.  In 2014, Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA received NAYDO’s Eagle Award for Fundraising Excellence.  Prior to joining the YMCA, Brenda was Director of Development for eight years at Springfield College where she led a successful $40 million campaign. A CFRE, Brenda was a consultant with Ketchum, and managed major gifts for Western New England University, University of Connecticut and Northfield Mount Hermon School. She holds a master of arts in communications from the University of Hartford and a bachelor of arts in English from Western New England University.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s