Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

Bianca BNE Author: Bianca Williams

Campitelli Consultancy is one of many great service providers delivering complimentary services to Strategic Grants, with the shared vision of building capacity in the nonprofit sector.

We asked Gregory Campitelli, the Director and Founder, to share his expertise and experience in delivering Capital Campaigns. Working in the nonprofit and education sectors for 35+ years, Greg’s knowledge in fundraising, marketing and strategic advice is extensive – and he is generously sharing this knowledge with us.

We asked Greg a few questions about Capital Campaigns; the preparation, learnings and the how to’s……enjoy!

What were the key learnings from your first-ever capital campaign?

The first campaign I stepped into, to use an apt metaphor, was like going from the frying pan to the fire – luckily I had great mentors. The campaign was already well underway when I was thrust into the fray. Four challenges were evident: 1) the client had conducted their own feasibility study which skewed both result and interpretation; 2) this was further complicated in that the philanthropic chair to lead the campaign had not been secured; 3) we were also instructed to keep the Board at distance on minimum involvement; and 4) the project was not a building but a program. Nevertheless, though the appeal did not quite make the overall target, the outcome was still relatively successful.

What internal systems does an organisation need to establish before commencing a Capital Campaign?

Critically, a dedicated budget and appropriate human resources. Many campaigns fall short on both. Additionally;

* A major donor database (or the ability to rapidly build one) with a capacity to generate candidate profiles

* An inspiring ‘transformational’ project that has not yet started - I was once asked to start a capital appeal for a project that had already finished!

* and most importantly, a passionate and committed Executive Management Team and Board who are fully engaged and understand their pivotal role in success in the ‘Big 5’; personal giving, candidate identification; function hosting; asking and stewarding.

What are the key milestones that you have identified within a Capital Campaign?

There are many but the major milestones are:

* Allow adequate campaign preparation including well-established budget, resources and realistic time line;

* Develop the Project Case – I base mine on the ‘Bernard Ross Model’ (love this!)

* Build a robust candidate list and rate – remember to utilise wealth scan identification techniques as there may be hidden jewels

* Commence candidate profiles

* Conduct an independent Feasibility Study at least 40 – 60 interviews; the more the better

* Produce a Campaign Blueprint – what’s the ‘architectural’ plan for raising the $$$ as there are many best practice methods that work but avoid a cookie cutter approach

* Secure a volunteer leadership team – Campaign Chair & Patron to join the CEO and Board Chair as the ‘Gang of Four’

* Develop appropriate recognition points

* Develop collateral e.g. prospectus and video - for me these are the ‘sword and shield’ for the asker

* Secure approx. 20% in advance gifts; then conduct a private launch for around 50 – 100 High Net Worth Individuals

* Swing into private asking phase – work extremely hard!

* Don’t go public until 80% reached

* Steward and steward over many years

Given your experience, what advice would you give organisations who are looking to undertake a Capital Campaign?

Develop a project that will truly create transformational change for the clients you work for; the organisation itself or the sector. Ask yourself does it generate the ‘WOW’ response?

Invest in developing a robust and dedicated major gifts program; have well-developed profile protocols; engage the Board and Executive in their critical role in leading the appeal (this is where the consultant is key); don’t fall for the trap of hiring the fundraising experts who will go away and deliver the money.

It’s important to have a genuine understanding 90/10 rule which is based on the 80/20 rule in business that means 90% of the money will come from 10% for the donors. Further, make sure you focus on the ability to listen to what the donor wants to give too - not what you may need the money for.  Never ask on the basis of need, everyone needs money including the people who are giving it. Try and construct a genuine win / win environment – most still approach this win / loss.CapitalCampaignImage3

What role do you think Trusts and Foundations have in securing funding for a capital campaign?

Incredibly important.  I always counsel a key plank in any capital appeal is a well-developed Trusts & Foundations strategy after all their raison d’être (purpose of existence) is to give money away! That starts with the identification of eligible entities which is where specialist partners like Strategic Grants can assist so much. Jo and her team are brilliant. Trust & Foundation’s need to be treated as major donors and they want projects that have extraordinary outcomes. I have formed the view that some clients just don’t engage in this area as they think it’s too hard and leave it up to the same old successful applicants who are well-drilled in how to access and leverage these opportunities.

Do you have an affirmation that you use for inspiration?

As a former English teacher language is key - fundraisers need to be great story tellers.  Language can deliver a powerful narrative. Some of my favourite lines are:

“You have two ears and one mouth & use them in that proportion.” – ie most people don’t listen.

“Whole is greater than the sum of its parts” to paraphrase Aristotle and latter-day Gestalt theory. Avoid consultants who position themselves as guru experts – rather than a key member of the team and together the team will develop great solutions.

What’s your final tip?

Ask. Most people actually don’t ask. Better still invite people to participate in a project you are passionate about.

Of the four possible responses you will receive only three are acceptable in a capital campaign:

1. Yes, I will give

2. Yes, I will give and help

3. No, I won’t give

4. Yes, I will help….

The first three are fine, the 4th one “Yes, I will help.” is not acceptable in a capital appeal.

Best wishes with your next campaign




Bianca BNE

Bianca Williams


Three members of the SG team attended the FIA Conference in Melbourne last week, and claimed it was one of the most vivacious FIA conferences yet!

‘Your time is now!’ was the theme of this year’s conference and by all reports the 1,000+ delegates who attended were inspired and motivated to make it their time….now!

SG team members Jo, Charlotte and Nancy were busy bees in our garden of grants exhibition booth – in keeping with our theme of ‘Pollinating your Grants Program’. The team were kept busy talking to existing nonprofit partners, funders and new organisations about how to cultivate strong funder relationships, establish evergreen organisational processes and reap a successful grants harvest. (We've even had feedback that some of the folks who took our packets of seeds have planted them and are awaiting new shoots!)


FIA Conference 2019 from Strategic Grants on Vimeo.

The team did have a chance to attend a couple of the sessions, here are a couple of key take-aways;

A culture of philanthropy leads to excellent fundraising practice

Andrea McManus of the ViTreo Group (Canada) presented onBuilding a philanthropic culture and literacy in your organisation.’

“When philanthropy happens, good fundraising happens….”

There is no point having a good fundraising strategy if the organisation doesn’t have a culture of philanthropy:

Everyone in the organisation is a fundraiser.

When attending Major donor meetings – bring in a frontline worker where relevant – engage all staff to engage your funders!

Organisations need fundraisers at the ‘Executive Table’ – they need to understand donor-centricity and accountability.

Lots of organisations lack solid strategic plans and outcomes measurement – and they are not measuring the value of their relationships (if this rings true, look into SGs’ Evaluation Services).

Many organisations lack culture of philanthropy – there is a lack of board engagement.

Fundraisers need to challenge the status quo – ‘how can we make change that strengthens our ability to deliver on our mission.’


The most focused and energetic organisation wins every time

Alan Clayton in the Opening Plenary‘A new Ambition’

“Great fundraisers are awesome people – the most focused and energetic organisation wins every time”.

Fundraisers should not be afraid of putting the emotion in fundraising – tell it as it is; see vulnerability as a fundraising strength.  

Fundraisers are relentless; and must have unrelenting self-esteem

Fundraisers must forward plan; stay focussed on what’s coming up next

A number of Awards were granted at the 2019 FIA Fundraisers’ Gala Awards Dinner – the SG team had a ball catching up with so many of our nonprofit partners from across the country. A huge congratulations to all the Award winners in receiving recognition for your amazing work in the sector;

2019 Arthur Venn Fundraiser of the Year, Meredith Dwyer FFIA CFRE (Queensland)

2019 Fundraising team of the Year, Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation (Victoria)

2019 Young Fundraiser of the Year, Alan White MFIA CFRE from Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

The SG Team had a number of conversations with existing nonprofit partners (who came to say hello!) and many delegates who wanted to learn more about what we do, and how we do it. Key challenges discussed, which are experienced across most of the sector were:

* Many organisations are increasingly aware of the risks associated with relying on a single major funding program (generally state or federal government); they wanted to diversify their revenue streams and see developing a strong grants program as a key way to do this

* Organisations working in a specific sector and/ or location were interested to access a prospect list that targets grant opportunities best suited to their specific programs and target population groups

* Most fundraisers report a lack of resources and time! How can SG help?

One visitor to our booth was the FIA Conference National Scholarship winner (we love being the Scholarship sponsor!) – Ineke Unsworth from Free School popped by to introduce herself, and thank us for the opportunity to attend.

It was a busy, energetic and inspiring 3-days. Jo, Charlotte and Nancy LOVED meeting so many of our nonprofit partners face to face and hearing how Strategic Grants is integral to their grant seeking. 

We look forward to being a part of next years’ FIA Conference (February 2020 in Brisbane) – hope to see you there!