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Great Capital Campaigns Have Great Business Plans

Dan Cosgrove headshot webDan Cosgrove, Director of Operations + Senior Consultant

You’ve made your donor call lists, put together a sleek brochure with a spot-on narrative and pretty graphs, organized the Steering Committee and pulled together the Gantt chart clearly stating how the capital campaign will progress. Are you truly ready to launch the campaign?


You might want to pause for a bit to consider the end game.  What happens after the capital campaign concludes? Or, more importantly, what do you have to show when a donor asks “What are your plans for long-range sustainability?” Or, perhaps “I will only contribute once. Are you sufficiently prepared to cover costs during the ramp up period?”

This is where a strong business plan for the new project is crucial.  Have you really thought through what new and sustainable opportunities will be created?  This plan identifies the organization’s models, missions and objectives. It clearly delineates the staffing, location, marketing and financing requirements that are needed to meet those objectives.

Excitement for a project is always high during the run up to a capital campaign launch. Often the feeling is that the business planning can wait until the capital campaign is nearing completion.  However, a strong plan with vision beyond the campaign will give you extra credibility with high net worth and business-savvy donors.  Planning also allows you to gain momentum in securing repeat donors as your confidence and thorough preparation will be evident.

Take the extra time to focus on what the long term sustainability of the project will be worth.  You also might gain some new perspectives on improving existing operations.  And the team could subsequently dust off the old strategic plan and bring it in line with current thinking.

People often ask “What is the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan?” A strategic plan is an evolving document that will keep your organization focused for a 3 to 5-year timeframe.  A business plan coexists and provides the crucial underpinnings of a successful strategic plan.  The strategic plan alone is typically much more broad in scope and does not detail specific plans of action for each individual operating unit within an organization.

A successful capital campaign with careful business planning will clearly communicate to the donor that once the goal is reached, the plan is ready to be executed so that services will be delivered in a timely manner. Business planning forces the organization to think past the general numbers proffered in the case for support or brochure.

Consider these questions when formulating your plan:

  • Is the project true to the mission of the organization?
  • What are revenue projections for one to three years?
  • What are the realistic costs of operations?
  • Who is my customer? Where are they located?
  • How will the newly financed offering provide a return on investment? Are there new revenue streams?
  • Who is going to staff the new operation? What qualifications are critical for success?
  • How are the new offerings going to be marketed?
  • What are the benchmarks for success?

A detailed business plan will more thoroughly prepare your solicitation team to answer the deep dive questions from potential funders and give the organization a head start on implementing the vision once the campaign is completed.

Now you are ready and set.  It’s time to take off and GO raise money.

Does your organization need help in developing its business plan?  JB+A can provide the best practices, guidance and support you need.  Reach out to Dan Cosgrove, Director of Operations and Senior Consultant at or at 816.237.1999. 

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