Should You Consider a Campaign?
Updated: Feb 1
What does that really mean to you?
From the desk of Rolando D. Rodriguez, CFRE
At every turn, non-profits are urged to consider a special fundraising campaign. Campaigns tend to get plenty of publicity and attention, and thus your board asks– “Why aren’t we doing one?” And maybe it’s the right thing for your organization. But what does it really mean?
The details of a successful campaign can be extensive. But they aren't only for big universities, hospitals and museums. Even a small organization can benefit if the right elements are in place.
It’s not for everyone, but a fundraising campaign can elevate an organization and its board entirely. Your first steps are to identify the key actions and resources required to consider whether a campaign may be right for you.
What is a Campaign?
A campaign is a focused effort led by a small group to achieve an audacious goal that grows and grows as the enthusiasm expands. It leads to new money, improved capacity, and launches an organization into a higher level of impact.
It creates sustainable giving by introducing new donors to the cause, while supporting immediate needs which are transformative to an organization’s mission.
A campaign takes place over a defined period of time and highlights an exciting goal that your organization desires to reach.
Are you ready for a Campaign?
A fundraising campaign assumes that you have basic development plans and leadership in place, at whatever level is appropriate to your organization at the given moment. Which of course, is never enough.
The goal of a campaign is to elevate and focus your existing capacity, but you must begin from a reasonable starting point.
Campaign objectives typically include:
A focus on leadership gifts
Elevating board giving
Attracting new donors
Differentiating the cause
Each one of these need to be clearly identified, defined and backed up by a solid implementation strategy.
An effective way to learn about a campaign is to invite someone who has successfully been through one to come and share their experiences with your board or a small leadership group. The group can directly learn how financial goals and timelines were set and how the potential resources were identified. This can set the stage for decisions and reasonable expectations.
WHAT IS THE MOST CRITICAL PHASE OF A CAMPAIGN?
All campaigns start silently, as leadership gifts are obtained and credibility established. But before this silent phase, comes the critical pre-campaign analysis phase. This helps identify what you require to achieve success.
This is the time to define goals, justifications, leadership, and required resources. It can easily take a year or more to properly prepare, and it is this phase more than any that will lead to success.
Unfortunately, I have seen too many organizations hire staff (often without complete experience) and prepare for a campaign while skipping this critical step. “We need the funds now” – they believe – “and must begin now!” And then they sit and wait while everything stalls and staff moves on through a revolving door.
THE ROLE OF A FEASIBILITY STUDY
A feasibility study is usually handled by an independent professional who reaches out to board members, donors, and community leaders, to secure confidential feedback. It should be conducted only by someone with a deep contextual knowledge of our unique community, in order to avoid false positives. It doesn't have to be lengthy or painful, it just has to be done right.
Do you already know most of your donors’ attitudes and beliefs about your organization? Has anyone privately assessed whether current donors and board members would give more than they do now?
If you have already been in a period of analysis, planning and organizational reflection (such as after a financial crisis or a lengthy strategic plan) you might be able to do without.
But otherwise, it’s hard to succeed without a credible study.
Is a campaign right for you?
Let us walk you through a process that will help
determine if a campaign is right for your organization.