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How to Think Like a Capital Campaign Consultant

Scrabble tiles on an orange background with four tiles on top spelling PLANHeading into a capital campaign? Then you’re probably going to need a capital campaign consultant. But perhaps not for the reasons you think you do.

Capital campaign consultants have one primary quality that, no matter how hard you try, you don’t have. They are outsiders!

You can’t be an outsider to your organization. As a staff person or board member, you’ll never have the kind of external credibility and political power that an outside expert will have.

That said, other than being an outside expert, you can do many things to move your campaign along just as well as—or even better than!—a consultant.

Here are five ways to think and act like a capital campaign consultant.

1. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Successful campaigns rely on a few large gifts. Most consultants are very good at forcing the focus on those big gifts. They make it a priority. And you should too. At every campaign meeting, review and push the work that has to be done to identify, engage, and solicit the top 20 campaign gifts.

2. Develop and Maintain a Clear Plan and Timetable

Because capital campaigns usually extend two or even three years, it’s easy for people to lose the thread. Successful campaigns follow a standard pattern. Develop a clear plan and make sure that staff and volunteers understand it. Keep the big picture of the campaign front and center so everyone understands what’s going on and sees the progress toward the goal.

3. Get Good at Meetings

Good consultants know how to plan and facilitate great meetings and you can too. Make sure your campaign meetings begin and end on time. Create agendas that flow naturally and end with a summary of action items. Spend the time you need to adequately prepare the person who will lead the meeting and others who will play important roles.

4. Communicate Strategically

Consultants know that successful campaigns depend on a sense of forward momentum and confidence. You can build that sense of excitement by working strategically on how, when, and with whom you share campaign information. Develop a communications plan that refines your messages, audiences, and media according to the phases of your campaign plan.

5. Get Out of the Weeds

Because consultants are outsiders, they seldom get lost in the weeds. But you, with a development shop to run, are likely to get submerged unless you find a way to maintain your big-picture, big-gift, campaign focus. To do that, you may have to shift some of the day-to-day work of your annual fundraising to someone else. Do that early in your campaign so you can maintain a laser focus on those big gifts. (See item  #1).

Put Yourself in the Driver’s Seat

Whether or not you engage a capital campaign consultant, you should play an important and active role in your organization’s campaign. Its success will be your success, but its failure is likely to stick to your reputation too. So you can’t afford to simply turn your campaign over to an outside expert.

Learn as much as you can about capital campaigns and make yourself familiar with all of the up-to-date campaign tools. Get a free step-by-step guide to your capital campaign at

Speak with capital campaign consultants and learn everything you can from them. But don’t be lulled into believing that they will be driving force for your campaign. That’s just wishful thinking.

Andrea KihlstedtAndrea Kihlstedt is a capital campaign expert. Visit her websites and Her book, Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work (4th edition), is an essential campaign resource.

Topics: capital campaigns Capital Campaign Consultants