Arts LeadersBest Practices

Capital or Comprehensive Campaign? How Should You Decide?

By April 14, 2017 No Comments

In our arts and culture sector, campaigns are happening everywhere we look. And they continue to transform organizations—but only if they’re planned strategically from the start. When you’re in that early brainstorming phase, the type of campaign structure that you’ll pursue is one of the most important strategic decisions you can make.

For many years, higher education and healthcare organizations have led the way with comprehensive campaigns that combine all fundraising needs into a single, integrated financial goal (sometimes known as the “Go big, or go home!” strategy). Cultural organizations have historically been reticent to adopt this streamlined campaign model, but now, the comprehensive campaign model is now becoming more common across the artistic sector.

How does a comprehensive campaign model work for arts and culture? At DUNCH, we know firsthand how unique each campaign and each organization can be. Both campaign models have certain attributes that may make one better for your effort than the other.

Here’s a primer:

Traditional Capital Campaign Model

The traditional capital campaign model requires your organization to administer multiple fundraising campaigns at once:

  • You’ll continue your existing annual fundraising campaign to support your organization’s regular operations.
  • You’ll simultaneously mount a special, one-time campaign to fund your extraordinary needs—a building, an endowment, operating reserves, etc.


  1. FOCUS: Creates excitement and directs focus to this special, one-time need.
  2. TIMING: Offers maximum timing flexibility to achieve a campaign financial goal without a set timeline.
  3. MESSAGING: Helps large, complex organizations focus campaign messaging around a distinct, and pressing need.
  4. STRUCTURE: Utilizes a classic campaign structure that most donors and campaign leadership easily recognize.

Comprehensive Campaign Model

This model bundles your multi-year annual fund goals over all the campaign years with your additional fundraising needs, including capital and endowment support. It results in a single, integrated multi-year campaign goal and a single, integrated fundraising effort.


  1. MOMENTUM: Instills a broad sense of momentum across the entire organization and its full universe of supporters, with all activity under a singular campaign effort.
  2. STRONG BRAND: Streamlines all development communications into a centrally branded campaign, therefore reducing donor confusion.
  3. DONOR CHURN: Minimizes the chances of decreased or lapsed annual fund giving by automatically incorporating annual fund solicitations into multi-year, comprehensive campaign solicitations.
  4. LARGER COMMITMENTS: Helps leverage larger, longer-term commitments throughout the campaign effort and beyond, because multi-year gift requests become the norm and not the exception.

Though both models have their pros, there’s more to consider: what strengths do your team members and Board bring to the table? What other campaigns has your organization launched and when? How substantial is your fundraising goal? What’s the ideal timeline? The list goes on…

By weighing these various factors in relation to your organization’s goals and campaign needs, you, along with your staff and leadership, will be better equipped to determine the right format to achieve success.

By John Holden, Vice President