So, you are starting to hear the rumblings of a capital campaign at your organization. But, since you are part of the Annual Fund, this won’t affect you.

That may not be true.

When we talk about capital campaigns, the first thing that comes to mind is transformational gifts from major donors and corporate partners, which are the backbone of all capital campaigns. This is how buildings are built, services expanded, new equipment purchased, and futures secured through endowments.

But isn’t annual giving the lifeblood of fundraising programs, including major giving? Could a capital campaign be the perfect time to bolster your annual giving program?


Annual giving provides for the day-to-day workings of just about every nonprofit. It pays employee salaries, keeps the lights on, and allows you to fulfill your mission – daily.

When a capital campaign is over, the annual fund must continue doing its job. As the goals are met, the receptions end, and the excitement about the capital campaign wraps up, the annual giving program needs to emerge stronger than ever.

This is the time to increase acquisition, invest in a mid-level program, and develop the donor journey. And this is true for comprehensive and traditional campaigns.

As planning for a capital campaign commences and a feasibility study is underway, begin to place focus on the annual giving program in three key areas:

1. Acquisition

Start to increase acquisition. If possible, increase the quantity mailed in your current campaigns, add an additional mailing, or look to digital channels. By investing in acquisition, you are investing in your donor file, bringing in additional donors, and the opportunity to move more donors up into higher giving levels, feeding the major gift donor pool over the course of the campaign. This is an important function at any time, but it can be a vital part of achieving and surpassing the goal during a capital campaign. For a comprehensive campaign, the health of a donor file is imperative. Increased acquisition offsets annual attrition and helps to maintain and expand the donor file. And when every dollar counts toward the campaign goal, making sure you have donors to turn to will set you up for success.

2. Mid-Level Giving Program

If you do not have a mid-level program, now is the time to start one. Mid-level giving is a stepping stone toward major giving. It helps to identify those who have the ability and inclination to increase their financial support. A capital campaign can also help to expand a mid-level program by opening the campaign to donors at this level, providing an incentive for donors at lower levels to reach for. It allows these donors to be a part of the experience and achieve the goals of the campaign, furthering their connection to the mission and the organization and helping to increase donor lifetime value. Major gifts drive capital campaigns, and a mid-level program directly feeds major giving. It is an important relationship to have developed as you enter a campaign. 

3. Donor Journey Development

The donor journey is the bridge between a newly acquired donor and moving him/her up into mid-level giving and beyond. It maps out the potential avenues a donor relationship can take. It helps to engage the donor with the mission to encourage retention. For a capital campaign, you will want to have the donor journey planned from the very beginning.

The donor journey includes all donor communications across channels and includes solicitations, cultivation, stewardship, and engagement opportunities. It is how the donor relationship develops and why donors continue giving. It provides donors with different paths they can follow, ultimately deepening the relationship with the organization and increasing annual giving. Donors can join a monthly giving club, become a mid-level donor, attend events, make an estate gift, and expand their support to major giving. Without the donor journey in place, donors will stay stagnant in their current role and can even stop giving because they have lost interest. The right donor journey will incentivize donors to keep giving and increase their support.

Annual giving programs can be a strong silent partner to a capital campaign. It can continue to feed donors into the major gift pipeline before and during the campaign. At the same time, a capital campaign can be leveraged to strengthen the annual fund program by increasing the donor file, building a mid-level program, and creating a comprehensive donor journey. All of these initiatives will support the goals of the capital campaign while also setting the annual fund up to succeed after the campaign.