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Capital Campaign Falling Short of its Goal? Take These 6 Steps

by Amy Eisenstein on Mar 05, 2020

When it comes to capital campaign anxieties, not making campaign goals is at the top of the list. If you’re one of the many who are worrying about your campaign falling short-- you’re not alone!  

The fact is, no matter how hard you work, or how positive you remain, campaigns don’t always work out in the end. You need real solutions to implement when your campaign is falling short. 

It’s hard to believe, but there’s actually a brightside to this scenario: capital campaign shortfalls can create opportunities. They can inject a burst of energy into the final stretch of the campaign. 

With that in mind, here are six steps to take if your capital campaign is falling short of its goal.

Here’s What to Do When Your Campaign is Falling Short of its Goal
1. RESOLICIT UNCOMMITTED PROSPECTIVE DONORS

Go back to those individuals (and organizations) who have already been solicited for the campaign but have not yet made a commitment. Let them know that they have an opportunity to take the campaign over the top.

2. RESOLICIT THE LARGEST CAMPAIGN DONORS

Have your solicitation team meet with several key donors to ask them to help close the gap.

3. RESOLICIT ONE-TIME DONORS

Invite all donors who have made one-time gifts to extend their gifts with a second- or third-year pledge.

4. EXTEND THE DEADLINE IF NECESSARY

People are usually far less concerned about the specific date than about the overall success of the campaign. If your deadline comes and goes and the campaign has not quite reached its goal, it does not mean that the campaign has failed. You’re just a little late in announcing your success! That being said, don’t extend indefinitely.

5. CREATE LEVERAGE

Identify a matching gift/donor to help finish the campaign and encourage other donors to help close the gap.

6. LOWER THE GOAL AND ADJUST THE PLANS

When all else fails, it’s time to lower the goal and adjust the plans. While not ideal, you can celebrate everything you’ve accomplished through the campaign to date. Sure, poor campaign preparation could be to blame, but even the best campaign planning doesn’t guarantee that gifts will come in as expected.


It’s easy to ignore problems and to keep going as though nothing’s wrong. But when it’s clear that the results are disappointing on all fronts, find the courage to take stock and review your options.

It Takes a Team to Tackle Campaign Shortfalls 

This is not a problem you can solve by yourself. Recruit your campaign leadership to help identify opportunities and solutions. There’s no shame in regrouping. In fact, it’s likely to breathe new life into the campaign and come up with the spark that enables you to succeed.

You will likely find your solutions with lead donors and campaign chairs. They have every reason to want the campaign to succeed. Once the options are understood and a revised plan is in place, everyone will be relieved — even if goals are modified and the timetable has changed.

NEVER EXPECT YOUR COMMUNITY TO BAIL YOU OUT

It’s tempting to believe that people will send in money if they know an organization is in trouble. The reality is that while people will often send money if they read a heart-wrenching story, they are seldom inclined to support a failing campaign or a failing organization.

Some Insider Tips to Help Your Campaign’s Success

At the Toolkit, we encourage you to keep your campaign “quiet” until you’ve raised at least 65% of your campaign goal (usually more). Before you announce a public campaign goal, you can adjust the goal up or down based on what you raise in the most critical stage of your campaign. This will help prevent your campaign from falling short.

However, if you do find that you’re falling short, use these techniques combined with the many tools inside the Capital Campaign Toolkit to help close the gap and get you to your goal!