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  • Writer's pictureFrances Roen

Five Key Questions To Consider When Drafting Your Campaign Costs

Updated: 5 days ago

Planning for a capital campaign? Whether you're dreaming of a much-needed renovation or a groundbreaking program, taking time to plan is crucial before diving into fundraising. It's like knowing your destination and plotting the route before hitting the road. A key part of this planning process is figuring out your campaign costs—identifying what your campaign will support and understanding the financial resources needed to make it happen. Estimating these costs early on sets the stage for important conversations about feasibility and helps you avoid surprises down the road.

Here are five key questions to consider when drafting your campaign costs:

What are our objectives?

Identify the specific projects and investments your campaign will fund. Whether it's a major renovation, hiring staff, upgrading software, or contracting consultants, make sure your objectives are clear and precise.

How much will it cost to accomplish them?

Estimate the expenses associated with each objective. While exact figures aren't necessary at this stage, strive for realistic estimates. Conduct research or consult experts to get accurate figures, and don't forget to include a buffer for unexpected expenses.

How much will it cost to run our campaign?

Consider overhead expenses like consulting fees, fundraising costs, systems and technology, staffing, marketing, events, and program startup expenses. Plan for these costs to be between 8 and 10% of your campaign's goal. Remember: you should add these expenses into the cost of your campaign.

What are the values of our organization in relation to expenditures?

This question serves as a compass, directing attention to the underlying principles that drive your comfort level with expenses. It prompts introspection, encouraging evaluation of organizational spending patterns through the lens of core values. While one organization may justify higher expenses in pursuit of excellence, another may prioritize resourcefulness and sustainability. Neither approach is inherently superior; rather, each reflects the unique ethos of the organization.

How much risk are we willing to take on?

Capital campaigns involve significant investments of time and resources, so it's essential to balance ambition with feasibility. Discuss total costs with your board and gauge their thoughts on risk tolerance. The answers from this discussion will help you determine if you need to make changes to your campaign costs prior to your feasibility study. 

Your goals and estimated costs will become part of your campaign case, which you'll test through a guided feasibility study. Insights from donors will help you refine your campaign case, determine a fundraising goal, and generate support and excitement for your campaign.


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Frances Roen is a Georgia girl at heart, and has been graciously adopted by beautiful, snowy Minnesota. She is a forty-something daughter, friend, mom, wife, and entrepreneur, and is always on the look-out for a perfectly fried piece of chicken.

Frances is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) with nearly 20 years of experience fundraising and has raised over $200M for nonprofits. She has held fundraising positions at The Bakken Museum, Augustana Care Corporation, and YouthLink and consulted with dozens of nonprofits clients across the globe. In these roles she has been responsible for all aspects of fundraising including comprehensive campaigns, major and planned gifts, annual funds, events, communications, corporate partnerships and volunteers.


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