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Since the inception of capital campaigns more than a century ago, much has changed in the world around us. One of the most significant changes is that today more than ever before, we are able to access information and knowledge. More often than not, literally at our fingertips and instantly.

The changes we are witnessing are part of a larger transformational shift that focuses high-quality professional expertise where it is most valuable. Whether legal, medical, accounting or fundraising, knowledge is no longer held by a select group of experts who deliver it through one-on-one consultation. With platforms like LawPath and WebMD, new internet applications make it possible for people to access knowledge easily and efficiently.

In their highly acclaimed book, The Future of the Professions, Richard and Daniel Susskind argue that as the expert information of professionals becomes available online, prices become lower, information is of a higher quality, practices are more transparent, and the best information and expert advice is available to many. They assert that “today’s professions should and will be displaced by feasible alternatives” made possible by new internet technologies.

Many would argue that web-based platforms cannot totally replace professional services, asserting there is a difference between the ‘science’ and the ‘art’, between knowledge and experience. It is clear that even in the fundraising arena, we live in an age where access to knowledge has never been more readily available. This is especially true when it comes to capital campaigns.

A successful capital campaign demands all the tools and savvy of the fundraising profession. And with today’s technology, the delivery of those tools has never been more effective.

Along with internationally recognised capital campaign experts Andrea Kihlstedt and Amy Eisenstein, Craige Gravestein and myself have been collaborating on a new platform to deliver Australasian organisations the ability to conduct their own capital campaigns.

Recently launched in Australia, ‘Capital Campaign Toolkit’ (capitalcampaigntoolkit. has been developed with acknowledgement of four important trends.


The period of time to plan, implement and complete a capital campaign has practically doubled over the past 20 years. This trend is continuing. I recently asked Andrea Kihlstedt, author of Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work, about the length of capital campaigns in the US.

I was surprised when she told me that on average, in the US they now take three years to complete. Surely, in a country known for its philanthropic culture and mega-donors, it should take less time to raise money through a capital campaign?

However, they face the same issues that we in Australia and New Zealand face when dealing with high-net-worth individuals (HNWI) and ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWI). We live in a world of increased mobility.

Today a key stakeholder may be in Sydney, tomorrow in Melbourne, next week in London or New York. The mobility of those who may be influential in a capital campaign’s success results in delays to gain meetings or to complete actions.

Let’s be real, the influential volunteer role for your organisation or cause is generally a lesser priority than business or family demands.

The second factor relating to time is both a positive and a negative. The growth of philanthropic gift planning that began with the establishment of private ancillary funds (PAFs) has continued.

The active role of philanthropists, and often their families, in planning their giving has increased the time needed for gift decisions to be made. The result is more thoughtful and engaged philanthropy, but gift confirmation is often a process rather than a quick decision.


I recently came across a copy of the BRW Rich List from 1991. That year Australia’s only billionaire was Kerry Packer. Fast forward to 2018 and according to the Australian Financial Review, Australia has 76 billionaires. Less than 30 years ago, you needed to be worth $25 million to make the Rich 200 list.

Today you need to be worth close to $400 million. To quote Alex Wade, when discussing the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, “No other part of the wealth pyramid has been transformed as much since 2000 as the millionaire and ultra-high-net-worth individual segments.”

If the wealth pyramid in Australia has changed so much in the past 20 years, are we surprised that a giving pyramid reliant on the same demographic reflects this? The increase in capital campaign gift size means that the number of gifts required to reach a capital campaign target is substantially less than it was.

When combined with better tools to identify and quantify campaign prospects, the result is a much more focused capital campaign with clear strategic donor pathways. All good news for capital campaigns, but bear in mind that the larger the gift, the more intense the due diligence on the organisation the donor is being asked to support, the project, and its community impact.


Outside of your board, the days of influential volunteer committee meetings are basically over. One mention of the word ‘committee’ sends influential volunteers running. The concept of being able to gather a gift-seeking committee together around a table must be put aside. The principle of peer-to-peer influence though retains as much importance now as it did in the first documented capital campaigns of the late 1800s.

There is good news in this changing big gift fundraising landscape. Firstly, roadblocks to communication have been toppled by technology. People now choose to be unavailable rather than uncontactable.

Secondly, influential and successful gift seekers (advocates) have a huge appetite for applying their skills, resources and networks to help solve society’s ills and challenges. In fact, these advocates often seek out such projects to provide balance, fulfilment or even entrée to a new peer network.

Yes, you still need to provide the tools that volunteers require to facilitate an effective ‘ask’, and yes, many of them will require coaching in effective gift solicitation. However, a suite of comprehensive capital campaign tools and modern technology allow for much more efficient ways to engage and coach the influencers your campaign needs.

Today, engagement with advocates is one-on-one and much of this is facilitated via document sharing, telephone and conference/web calling.


Capital campaign consulting is one of many professions that is undergoing change. The tactics and tasks we employ today are totally different than in the 90s when I worked on my first campaign.

Over the decades, fundraisers have sought to embrace new technologies as they appear. In the 80s personalised direct mail was the new medium, in the 90s it was telemarketing and the emergence of websites. The noughties delivered on-the-street face-to-face solicitation and the beginning of social media fundraising.

More recently, a plethora of individualised web and app-based fundraising programs place the donor in control of their own peer-to-peer fundraising program, giving them choice, control and peer credibility as they contribute to what they are passionate about.

Over this period capital campaign consultants found it is easier to adapt and innovate by increment rather than identify the ‘game changer’. That has changed.

It is now possible to deliver the knowledge and tools developed over decades of professional practice more efficiently than ever before. The collaboration of global experts within a culture of innovation now presents the possibility of the do-it-yourself capital campaign to all organisations. This change makes it possible for organisations of all sizes to enter the market of asking for big gifts, many for the very first time.

Newly launched platforms like Capital Campaign Toolkit empower organisations to look behind the curtain and access the documents, templates, and even advice they need, so they can run their own capital campaign. Capital Campaign Toolkit provides a complete roadmap for your campaign with comprehensive step-by-step guides and over 125 capital campaign tools. It includes a suite of practical online tools to help the fundraising practitioner get a fast start to their campaign, specifically designed for Australia and New Zealand.

Moving forward, consultants will function more as partners, providing context and experience, rather than as the holders of information. They will work more collaboratively with your organisation in adapting the material to fit specific situations. They will play important roles as coaches, guides and trainers during these ‘one opportunity to get it right’ fundraising campaigns.


If a capital campaign takes longer to conduct and influential volunteers require individual engagement, under the old consultancy-delivered model, capital campaigns can only cost more. By using online resources like the Capital Campaign Toolkit, a wealth of information, organised in a clear and effective manner, is placed into the hands of an organisation.

It lets the organisation take the wheel. If knowledge is power, access to that knowledge empowers an organisation to conduct their DIY capital campaign. The organisation can reduce consultancy costs by pinpointing where it most needs consultancy expertise and support.

The world around us is shifting the way it does business and now that inevitable shift is taking place in the fundraising arena. It is a shift that requires both organisations and consultants to rethink how they conduct a capital campaign and reposition their services to ensure that more organisations can raise their capacity to deliver their mission.

For more information about the Capital Campaign Toolkit: Everything You Need for a Successful Campaign, visit


Brian Holmes FFIA CFRE

Brian is recognised as one of Australia and New Zealand’s most experienced and successful capital campaign consultants. Over a 25-year consultancy career, Brian has assisted organisations across Australia and New Zealand to realise their dreams, collaborating in the raising of over $1 billion through capital campaign and major gift programs.

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