Who Gives to Capital Campaigns?

Unless the nonprofit organization is a national one, almost all the money raised for a capital project comes from local funders, including foundations, businesses, and individuals. Capital projects sometimes get funding from the state if the project is a large public-use facility such as an arena, hospital, or convention center. State and federal governments do not generally provide capital in response to a grant application; capital allocations are often made as agreements between representatives and civic leaders. A grant writer can assist a capital campaign in securing government dollars by adding equipment purchases into relevant programmatic proposals.

For instance, a school might seek computers for staff under the federal Safe Schools–Healthy Students grant program as a part of a goal to increase communication among teaching staff and implement standards-based outcome reporting. The purchase of those computers might then reduce the needed budget of a capital campaign to build and equip a new middle school.

The Kresge Foundation in Southeastern Michigan is currently the only foundation that provides capital-grant funds to organizations without regard for where they are located. For several years, the foundation has structured its grants around a “capital challenge” requiring its applicants to identify new sources of funding in their local communities to match the Kresge grant and close out the campaign.

The Grant Writer's Role

Though every community and every project varies in who gives what and in what amount, often, the grant writer will raise up to half of the campaign goal through formal proposals to local foundations. The grant writer may also be involved in writing a case statement for the campaign brochure and in crafting letters the organization will send to various individual donors.

Most grant writers, unless they are the directors of the nonprofit organization, don't get involved in organizing the campaign, performing the feasibility study, convening a campaign cabinet, or determining naming opportunities. Instead, these functions are left to the expert consulting firms to perform.

Naming Opportunities

Most capital campaigns include opportunities for donors to name the entire building, rooms within it, or other purchases made with donated funds. Some foundations like naming opportunities; others don't. Be sure to ask in your initial meeting with the foundation whether they wish their donation to be commemorated in a naming opportunity or in a more simple way such as a plaque in the building lobby.

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