A capital campaign is an organized and systematic approach to seeking funds – typically donations. A land trust determines its need for major capital projects in a set timeframe, such as a five year period. For example, it may want to purchase conservation easements on a number of ranches in a foothill area. The land trust estimates a total price tag of $10 million: $8 million for the easements, $1 million in transaction costs and staff time, and $1 million for a conservation easement stewardship fund. Marketing and fundraising materials are put together describing the organization’s vision, the campaign’s financial goal and specifically what can be accomplished when that fund-raising goal is met. The staff and governing body then work to raise the funds from individual and corporate donors.

A capital campaign can attract much greater attention and larger contributions than the usual requests for donations, and are particularly appropriate when there is a big goal to achieve. Projects that are defined through an overall vision often have a special momentum and people want to be a part of their success.

Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.”
— Daniel Hudson Burnham (1846-1912)


Conservation organizations can acquire some of the funding needed for their work in the form of donations—gifts of money or land given by private individuals and corporations. Some donations are earmarked by the donor for specific purposes, such as the acquisition of a parcel of land or a conservation easement, sponsorship to support an event, or to honor an individual. Donations may also be given as general support for the land trust’s activities and operations and thus provide a source of unrestricted funds for the organization. Due to the unpredictability of donations, they are not ideal for funding operations, stewardship or administration. However, many land trusts are dependent upon donations to meet these needs due to lack of viable alternative

In certain circumstances, donations may qualify as a charitable contribution and may provide tax benefits to the donor.

Additional information on charitable contributions can be found at:,-Charitable-Contributions-1

Initial donations can lead to multiple donations so continuing cultivation of donors is essential. Building relationships and having board members and staff with fundraising and donor relations expertise is highly


Conservation organizations may apply for and receive grants to help fund their conservation activities. There are two basic sources of grants: public agencies and private philanthropic charities such as foundations. Grant programs focus on specific topics such as land conservation, energy, or education. Grants are generally based upon an agreement to achieve a goal such as acquiring a specific piece of property, holding community meetings, developing a conservation plan for an area, implementing a restoration project or building a trail system. Generally grants are awarded for a specific project, although the funding from that one award may stretch across multiple years. After a grant proposal is submitted to the agency or foundation, there is a time delay before an organization is notified if it will receive the grant. Most granting agencies and foundations require grant recipients to submit updates of how the grant money is used and how the project is progressing.

Grants are awarded competitively; while they are an important source of funding, they are neither assured nor continuous. Grant-making priorities change, and the amount of money agencies and foundations have available to disburse through grants can be impacted by economic downturns. Most granting agencies do not allow the money to be used for stewardship, operations, or administration.