Campaign Planning

A successful fundraising campaign begins with planning. If you haven’t planned well, your campaign is guaranteed to fail.


Articles about Campaign Planning

Accountability & Job Performance for Nonprofit Fundraisers

How and what development professionals are held accountable for are two of the most important questions nonprofit organizations and their fundraisers face. Accountability is a necessary tool for managing staff and fundraising efforts, but it is only as good as the foundation upon which it is built. Early in my career as a fundraiser I struggled in achieving the goals and actions for which I was being held accountable. I would work hard with the best of intentions. But when it came time for my bosses to tally up my successes and failures they saw me as falling short. The result was frustration. I kept trying to meet the standards—usually only a dollar amount to be raised—placed in front of me. Being chided for my failure to do so seemed to leave me with only two alternatives: Quit the field of fundraising because I was unsuited to be a professional development officer. Hang on and keep trying until I was able to move on to an organization where I might have better luck. The first of those choices would force me to accept that the problem lay solely within me. The second assumed that a different organization would yield a different result—that luck of the draw was the difference maker. I was not ready to give up on myself. Nor was I willing to relinquish control of my fate or my organization’s to a belief in luck. What if, I began to wonder, the fault lay not in what I was doing, but in the accountability metric? What if the criteria by which I was being judged lacked validity?... read more

Accept Fundraising Feasibility Study Results
No Matter How Painful

As I was in the midst of writing this article, my wife entered the room modeling a dress she thought would be perfect for an upcoming special event. She asked my opinion. I looked her up and down, examined the garment, and then suggested that it might be a bit too dressy for the event. When will I ever learn? It wasn’t the first time she had rejected what I had to say. Nor is she the only one to ever do so. As someone who has been asked by nonprofit organizations to produce campaign feasibility studies, I’m familiar with what often happens when you tell people what they don’t want to hear. We perform feasibility studies to determine whether to go ahead with major fundraising campaigns such as capital or endowment. A feasibility study is essential for an organization in order to assess the likelihood of success before entering into a campaign. An organization that doesn’t conduct a feasibility study puts at risk the campaign, the project for which the money is to be raised, and sometimes even the organization itself. Things You Don’t Want to Hear from Your Feasibility Study but Need to It’s a sad fact however that all too often when a finished feasibility study is presented to an organization, board members and staff leadership balk. They resist implementing the recommendations simply because they find themselves being told what they don’t want to hear. It’s hard to believe that the friends of their organization—people they themselves put forth as knowledgeable and caring about the organization—may be critical of the organization’s operation and their leadership. To those... read more

How Long Should Donors Have to Fulfill Fundraising Pledges?

In my hands is a slick, well done brochure for a capital campaign. The nonprofit organization that has produced it wants to build a new $6.5 million facility. Dates are given for ground breaking, commencement of construction, building completion, and dedication of the new facility. It tells of several encouraging, pacesetting donations that have already been received. An impressive campaign leadership group is identified. Attractive naming opportunities are listed. Everything in the brochure speaks to a well thought out project. It’s a great brochure touting a well planned project and campaign. All looks good, except for one thing—one sentence: “Pledged donations may be paid over three years.” Eight words, such a small thing, but those eight words are the seeds for potential disappointment, even failure. Let’s suppose I’m a prospective donor, a supporter able and quite likely willing to make a gift of $100,000. But, for a variety of reasons I will want to pay my pledge over five years not three. I’ve got taxes, personal obligations, and commitments to other worthwhile organizations to think about and plan around. Think about how being put on notice that I cannot make my gift according to my timetable is likely to impact my receptivity to solicitation by the organization.  But the Money Is Needed Now Organizations raise money because they need it to meet expenses. Annual-fund campaigns designed to cover operational shortfalls are the best example of the need for explicit payment schedules. The money they raise is needed to cover anticipated expenses in the coming year. In many ways the same holds true for capital campaigns such as the building... read more

Challenge/Matching Gift Programs for Your Fund-Raising Campaigns

Challenge Grants Can Multiply Your Success Challenge grants are indeed challenging to fulfill, and once secured, they are unusually rewarding opportunities for non-profit organizations to greatly energize and enhance their fund-raising campaigns. They can significantly increase the chance to raise more money than would be possible otherwise. Challenge Grants may be utilized to jump-start a campaign, or as a mid-course correction to energize a flagging campaign. The best thing to know about Challenge Grants is that they almost always are a required key element of capital and endowment campaigns, but are equally effective and productive when they are employed in annual fund, sponsorship and underwriting campaigns. From Whom and for How Much? To help identify a potential Challenge Grant donor, your best source is your Board of Trustees. Perhaps one of your Board members has the financial capability to lead a challenge, or knows of another individual, company, family or community foundation that has such potential. It is always best to identify several possible donors in priority order. The amount of the Challenge Grant request will depend on a variety of factors: The need: based on the Fund-Raising Campaign Goal. The rated capability of the Challenge Grant prospect. he rated potential of those in your donor base from whom you will seek matching funds. Do you have reasonable certainty that you can match the challenge dollars at least on a one-for-one dollar ratio? Based on your fund-raising potential as indicated above, you can determine if you will seek the usual one-for-one (dollar for dollar) match, or increase the ratio to perhaps, one-for-two, or even one challenge dollar for every... read more

A Campaign Deferred Is a Campaign Defeated

Disasters and crises can occur anywhere, at any time. Hopefully they won’t have the impact of mega-disasters such as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks or of 2005’s hurricane Katrina. However, even disasters of considerably less magnitude can impede the fund-raising efforts of non-profit organizations located in areas where they occur. Flood, drought, storm, and other natural disasters are obvious candidates to impact an organization. Major accidents, industrial or otherwise, can hit hard too. On top of these gloomy possibilities there is always the crisis that could result from change. A key supporting industry moves away or closes. The local economy enters into a general malaise. Add to all those, the results of bad publicity hitting a non-profit organization or the impact of what happens when a well-known national charity is embroiled in scandal. When problems of this magnitude arise in an area, officials of local non-profits can be tempted to question openly whether they should proceed with regular fund-raising, let alone dare to tackle new initiatives. But local events aren’t the only occurrences that can weaken a non-profit’s fund-raising resolve. Terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. and hurricanes striking the Gulf Coast can chill the fund-raising climate across the nation if officials of organizations allow themselves to believe calamitous events hundreds of miles away will seriously affect their community’s capability or willingness to give to local causes. No Excuse Is A Good Excuse A few months ago, a major institution in my state announced a huge deficit for its current fiscal year. A spokesperson for the institution placed a significant part of the blame for the... read more

Major Gifts Campaign Checklist

A successful Major Gifts fund-raising campaign is not magic. It is a straightforward, concise process of executing well-defined components arranged in a step-by-step progression. I know this to be so because I have seen it done over and over again—starting at A and working through to Z, successfully carrying out campaign after campaign and achieving goal after goal. Looking at the nuts and bolts of a Major Gifts fund-raising campaign is the best way I know to make its success probable and its process understandable. Breaking down a campaign step-by-step, point-by-point, lets you present it to staff and volunteers of your non-profit organization in a way calculated to increase acceptance of over-all goals and individual responsibilities. However, if successful fund-raising is simply hard work on the part of the thoroughly prepared, then that preparation must begin before a campaign is planned. An organization contemplating a Major Gifts campaign needs first to assess and evaluate its readiness to raise money. To that end, I suggest that the checklist below be used to self-evaluate your organization’s Major Gifts fund-raising readiness at a special board meeting, at a staff retreat, or as a one-on-one survey of trustees and staff. Try it yourself and see if it changes your own understanding of your organization’s readiness to raise money from Major Gifts. It’s easy to do. Just check each statement that you can honestly claim to be true for your organization. Our Major Gifts Fund-Raising Program: Works from a General Development Plan Operates with other campaigns without diluting any of our resources Has a solid base of major gifts from our Board of Trustees... read more

In Search of the Elusive Major Giver

What a Major Giver is How to find them What you need to have in place before conducting a Major Gifts Campaign Your organization needs money. Big money. The kind of money you can’t raise by going out and asking for donations of $10, $20, $100, or perhaps even $1,000. Maybe you need the money to expand your services. Maybe you need it to build a new wing. Maybe you need it to match the largest grant you’ve ever been awarded. Maybe you need it just to stay alive. Raising big money is a different proposition from chasing down contributions to the annual fund. Let me draw an analogy. Money is the sustenance that nourishes an organization. Just as food nourishes our bodies, money keeps the organization alive, healthy, and growing. It is the lifeblood. The great majority of us get our food in restaurants a meal at a time and from grocery stores a bag or two at a time. That’s not unlike what we do in most of our fund-raising efforts. We go after small money—enough to keep us going for a cycle. That cycle can be measured in time—a few months or a year. Often it is measured conceptually—a specific project or program. Raising big money is more like growing our own food and then preparing every meal from scratch. That means we’d have to clear the land, plow the ground, plant the seeds, cultivate the crops, harvest the yield, and store it. And that’s if we’re vegetarians. I don’t even want to think about what I’d have to do for a steak. The point I’m... read more

Consulting Agreement for an
Annual Fund Campaign

The following example of an annual fund development agreement between a non-profit organization and a fund-raising consultant is suggested as a guideline for: Organizations having little or no experience in drafting such documents. Experienced development professionals beginning a new career as development consultants. There may be occasions when a contract more formal in its nature, intricate in its wording, and legalistic in its phraseology is needed. However, my experience has been that simpler is better This sample annual fund agreement can be easily adapted for capital, endowment, sponsorship, and underwriting campaigns. The purpose of the fund-raising campaign and some of its jargon might be different, but for the most part, the steps in the fund-raising process are the same. That can be confirmed by reviewing my website’s articles and plan outlines for those respective fund-raising campaigns. A good campaign plan must layout what is to be done, when it will be done, and who will do it. The same is true of an agreement between an organization and a consultant. Clearly defined and agreed-upon expectations are at the heart of any successful contract. Contract Between Fund-raising Consultant and Non-Profit Organization for Counsel for an Annual Fund Campaign Introduction Annual fund campaign gifts to the Non-Profit Organization (NPO) provide the entry point of support for most of its donors. Annual funds comprise the foundation of the NPO’s overall operating support, and they are the steppingstones to special and major gifts. As personal contacts by NPO volunteers with donors continue, those donors are made more and more a part of the NPO family through a process of cultivation. As a result,... read more

Campaign Feasibility Studies: Taking the Time to Find Out whether the Time Is Right

A campaign feasibility study is a tool a non-profit uses to determine whether it should go ahead with a capital or endowment fund-raising campaign. It is essential for an organization to assess the likelihood of success for a campaign before entering into it. A non-profit that does not do so puts the campaign, the project for which the money is to be raised, and even the organization itself at risk. An assessment of the feasibility of a campaign can be conducted by the organization itself or by outside professional counsel. If the organization is very well prepared (more about that later), it should be capable of making an internal assessment of feasibility. However, if a full-blown feasibility study is needed, then that study is best conducted by outside counsel having no ties to the organization. The reasons for this will be delineated later in this article. At one time, a feasibility study for a capital or endowment campaign was little more than a process of identifying where the money was—who had it and how much they might be willing to give. No longer. In today’s donor-centric world, an organization needs to assess the: Community’s perception of the importance of the need for which money is to be raised. Feelings, both positive and negative, about the organization and its mission. Size of the potential donor base and its ability to give. Availability of strong campaign leadership and effective volunteers. Internal resources available for the campaign and the preparedness of the organization to undertake it. External factors that could influence the outcome of the campaign. Let’s take a look at these... read more

Campaign Solicitation Kits

“For Want Of A Kit A Campaign Was Lost?” A little neglect may breed mischief: “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe, the horse was lost; for want of a horse, the rider was lost; for want of a rider, the battle was lost.” B. Franklin: Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1733 A little “neglect” of the packet of information we produce to support our fund-raising campaigns “may breed mischief” as solicitation kits are the support mechanism for solicitors in the field. When solicitors sit alone at the phone, preparing to call prospects for an appointment, all they have to fall back on for inspiration and guidance is the packet of materials they received at the campaign kickoff meeting. For this reason the solicitation kit must: Instill confidence Provide needed information Be easy to use The kit instills confidence by looking thoroughly professional and by providing data on other successful campaigns—reporting, for example, how much the annual campaign raised the previous year and explaining how the goal was achieved. It helps solicitors answer questions by supplying comprehensive background information on the organization and the current campaign. A solicitation kit is easy to use when it is well organized, contains support materials and tools designed for the current campaign, and eschews extraneous materials. There is a temptation to put every printed piece available into a solicitation kit. “Do you think they can use this, Mary?” “I’m not sure, Joe.” “Well, lets go ahead and put it in just in case.” Resist that temptation. A packed solicitation kit is not a useful tool. It requires solicitors... read more

Campaign Assessment and Review: What Was Accomplished and What Was Learned

It’s over. The campaign is finished. The thank-you’s have been said and the money counted. However, before closing the book on a campaign for good, you should take one last look at it. The days immediately following a campaign are the time to analyze what went wrong and what went right, which fixes worked and which didn’t. You should assess and review every fund-raising campaign, and you should make a record of what you find. Evaluation is the final procedure in a well-organized fund-raising campaign, and the report you write based on that evaluation is the organized record of the knowledge you acquired. File that report and it will be a database for you to draw on. Hindsight is 20/20. Turn it into foresight for the next campaign. All the participants in a campaign should be asked to evaluate their area of responsibility and the volunteers with whom they worked. You want to determine what the campaign did well and not so well, which expectations were realistic and which weren’t, which tools worked and which didn’t, and who performed well and who didn’t. Solicitors, team captains, division chairs, and campaign chairs should each make their own evaluation, but no evaluation is more important than that of the staff members charged with designing, organizing, and running campaigns. They, after all, are the ones who are going to have to manage the next campaign, so it is from their perspective that we will look at the evaluation process. The First Rule in Evaluating a Campaign Is Don’t Wait The farther away you get from a campaign, the less you and others... read more

Fitting Annual, Endowment, Capital, Sponsorship & Underwriting Campaigns
into Your Organization’s Plans and
then Making Them “Sing”

Remember those great old movies with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland? The ones in which the “kids” had a money-raising dilemma that perplexed and perplexed them. All of a sudden Mickey would light up with youthful exuberance and optimism. He’d turn to Judy, and say, “I know, let’s put on a show! We can do it!” An hour and a half later, after a liberal dose of movie magic, they’ve put on a production worthy of Broadway, the problem is solved, everybody has had a good time, and Mickey and Judy are in love. There are non-profit organizations that operate in much the same way. Faced with the dilemma of growing financial need outstripping static resources, officials of those organizations will turn to one another and say, “I know, let’s put on a fund-raising campaign!” Unfortunately there is little movie magic in the nonprofit world. Too often the campaign fails, the problem is still there, nobody has a good time, and love isn’t exactly what the campaign managers are feeling for one another. It’s not that fund-raising campaigns aren’t the answer to financial need. In the end, where else is a nonprofit organization to turn than to generous givers? The problem is that, unlike Mickey’s and Judy’s show, the current campaign isn’t the first or the only one the organization will put on. It has to fit into the context of an overall development plan. Today’s campaign, follows yesterday’s, and precedes tomorrow’s. The trick is to make sure that each and every one of an organization’s campaigns is successful. That’s the job of a general development plan. A Fund-Raising... read more

Rating and Evaluating Prospects:
Whom Do You Ask For How Much?

No one would argue the fact that every fund-raising campaign needs a goal and that everyone connected with the campaign, including prospective donors, needs to be aware of that goal. Then why do people so often fight the setting of a goal for each prospective donor and sharing that goal with the prospect? Trustees often blanch at the idea, and it is the rare solicitor who the first time he or she is told that there will be a suggested giving amount for each of his prospects does not respond with, “I can’t tell people what to give!” They’re right. Solicitors shouldn’t try to tell prospects what to give, as this will engender a great deal of resistance. Yet setting a personal goal for all prospective individual donors, letting prospects know what their goal is, and helping them see where and how it fits under the umbrella of the campaign goal is probably the most important element of a campaign. No matter what sources you are approaching, you need to be ready with a suggested giving amount in line with what each prospective donor is capable of giving. Dealing with foundations, corporations, and government funders in this manner is easy. In fact, it is usually required. Grant application forms have a blank space where you fill in the amount requested. But when it comes to individual donors, we seem to think it is a different kettle of fish. It isn’t. Individual Donor If a fund-raising campaign is to have a realistic chance at succeeding, we must in the case of every prospective individual donor: Rate and evaluate the ability... read more