The reason capital campaigns are so named is because raising some factor more than an organization's annual budget (which is generally part of what defines a capital campaign) takes time. Maintaining momentum, knowing where the organization stands as time marches on, and what to do differently in each stage of a campaign is what makes for success. And the key to an effective campaign is a plan.
Someone who has been through a campaign before, someone who knows how to perceive the "lay of land" (in this case, who are the prospects, what do they care about, how much can they give, what will motivate them to do so, etc.) and someone who can galvanize others (in other words, a leader) is needed to develop a plan that will carry the organization through from alpha to omega in the process. Needless to say, this plan must be strategic and visionary - in other words, it must consider the big picture and the long range. It also must be flexible, identifying key indicators that call for this option or that. It must also have milestones so everyone involved can see what progress is being made and that trigger certain activities from specified people.
In my friend's case, the lack of a campaign plan became clear to me because of several things she mentioned: 1) they were moving into "Phase 2" of the campaign, 2) they were beginning the public appeal process, from which they expected to raise $250-500k, and 3) they still needed to raise a third of the total. For starters, most campaigns have three or more fundraising phases, the last of which is the public appeal. This may seem counterintuitive: why wouldn't you want to let as many people know about the campaign as early as possible so you could raise money from as many people as you can? Well, the reason is that most campaigns raise the largest amount of funds from a few major donors. For example, my friend's $15M campaign has already raised $10M, and only about 20 people have committed funds so far. This is pretty typical.
Also, the "public appeal" raises the smallest dollar amount, but involves the largest number of people. Because of this, it signals the time to make a big public announcement of the campaign. And this takes place when the overall success of the campaign is assured. (No organization wants to face the reputation crusher of a campaign announced that doesn't reach its goal or fails altogether!) It is a very important phase, galvanizing the entire community around the cause, but it should not be announced prematurely - whether by email or snail mail or any other tactic.
Finally, when my friend told me her organization still needed to raise a third of their total (~$5 million), but that they were starting the public appeal from which they expected $250-500k, it was clear that the overall logic and sequencing of the campaign had not been worked out. When a campaign plan is weak or missing, a common result will be debates over the merits of tactics, instead of evaluating them based on a common understanding of the campaign's phases and overall momentum. These debates can degenerate into full-on conflict if the organization doesn't address the underlying issue - and fast.
There are plenty of fabulous new ways to raise money these days - and discussing the merits and options among them is a great idea. However, one thing hasn't changed and isn't likely to: raising big money is a big undertaking and requires big leadership with a big-thinking plan. That's why a capital campaign is still just that - a campaign.