Private School Capital Campaigns

When it comes to assuring the future growth and success of private schools, few activities will yield as significant an impact as a private school capital campaign, helping the private school to take a substantial leap forward in the fulfillment of its mission.

What is a private school capital campaign?

A private school capital campaign is an intense effort on the part of a private school to raise significant dollars in a short period of time, typically for acquiring, constructing, or renovating a building. Increasingly often today, however, the campaign’s focus may be on raising funds to develop athletic fields and facilities, initiate a new program, build an endowment for the future, purchase major equipment, retire debt, conduct renovations, or any combination of these or other purposes.

How long does it usually take to run a private school capital campaign?

A private school capital campaign will generally proceed through four distinct phases: an initial Pre-Campaign / Feasibility Study, followed by the three phases of a comprehensive campaign: a "Quiet" Leadership phase, a Public Campaign phase, and the Fulfillment phase.

The pace of your private school capital campaign will depend primarily on three things: 1) how well your campaign activities are planned out, 2) how timely your campaign committee members are on following through on their assignments, and 3) your donors’ timing. Some donors will give you a final answer during the same visit that you ask for a gift. Others may require more time in order to pray, consider, and discuss before making a final decision.

In general, most private school capital campaigns take 12-18 months to complete the planning and the active campaign phases, and up to three years for pledge payments to be fully collected.

What are some common mistakes private schools make in conducting a private school capital campaign?

  • Not conducting a Pre-Campaign / Feasibility Study
Comprehensive pre-campaign planning is an essential element of a major capital campaign—many private school capital campaigns have been scuttled by a premature or ill-planned launch. A capital campaign is too important to the future of your school to proceed on blind faith! When considering a major capital campaign, an internal assessment of your school’s readiness, and an external assessment of the willingness and ability of the school's constituency to support the campaign should be conducted. The purpose of the Pre-Campaign / Feasibility Study is to provide objective data to assist in making critical decisions to determine the likely success of a private school capital campaign.

  • Going public too soon
The success or failure of most private school capital campaigns is generally determined before they are even publicly announced. For almost any major private school capital campaign, it is almost impossible to reach the final goal through small gifts. One of the most common mistakes is to assume that if you get some good publicity the whole private school community will rally to the cause and give once you formally announce your campaign. They will, but they won’t give at the level you will need to succeed. The major gifts you raise during the Quiet / Leadership Phase of the campaign will make or break your eventual success. Don’t rush to make an announcement. Focus first on the face-to-face meetings with these key major gift donors – they are critical to the eventual success of your private school capital campaign.

  • Not seeing the campaign through to completion
When most people think of a private school capital campaign they think of only the public phase, which represents the middle part of the campaign. Truth is, however, the success or failure of most private school capital campaigns is determined at the beginning and the end. The most important part of the campaign is in the early phases, when most of the planning is conducted and the major gifts are secured. The end stage of the campaign is also critically important, however. Most people who give to a private school capital campaign will do so with a multi-year pledge. Too often campaign committees pack up and go home once they have secured a sufficient amount of cash and pledges to complete the project. But what if a sizeable amount of these pledges are not collected? Or what if once building commences the costs of the project are a little higher than anticipated? At the end of the day, the campaign is not going to be a success until the project is complete and all the pledges are fulfilled. The Fulfillment Phase of the campaign is important to ensuring that the vast majority of pledges are fulfilled, and that new gifts are continually being secured to replace that small percentage of pledges that will go unfulfilled and/or to offset unexpected cost increases or overruns, ensuring that your private school is not burdened by unforeseen cash flow problems down the road.

Why should we choose to use a capital campaign consultant to provide capital campaign counsel to help us with our private school capital campaign?

A private school capital campaign is one of the most significant initiatives your private school will undertake. It is a complex undertaking, and is critically important that it be done right. To succeed, a private school capital campaign must have a very high profile. This means that if it flops, it will be a high-profile flop. You also generally only have one shot at getting it right. There are many ways that a private school capital campaign can “go off the rails”, and when it does it can be very difficult to get it back on track.

With so much at stake, most private schools wisely choose to retain a Capital Campaign Consulting Firm to help guide them through their private school capital campaign to a successful completion.

What are the benefits of retaining a Capital Campaign Consulting Firm to provide private school capital campaign counsel for our private school capital campaign?

As the saying goes, when you need expertise hire an expert.

At Keystone Consulting, our consultants will work with you to craft a customized private school capital campaign fundraising plan to help your private school turn your vision into reality.

Whether you are looking to conduct a campaign for new buildings, athletic facilities, debt reduction, an endowment, a combination of the above, or any other type of major fundraising campaign, we are experts in providing the counsel and assistance to successfully complete a private school capital campaign that will help your private school take a substantial leap forward.

Keystone Consulting personnel have extensive experience in guiding private schools through successful campaigns. We have helped hundreds of private schools just like yours raise hundreds of millions of dollars for their private school capital campaigns, and would welcome the opportunity to assist your private school in meeting its goals.

For more information please call us at (800) 382-0094, or via email at