Pre-Campaign Planning: The Key to Success
Jean Tickell, Senior Consultant
Does it seem to you – or to your Board – that your organization is perpetually running in campaign mode? Schultz & Williams strongly recommends taking a strategic time-out to engage in long-range planning for the next campaign.
A solid plan always begins with a self-assessment. With your CEO and Board, examine the history of fundraising at your organization. Look for successes and for areas that need to be strengthened before launching a campaign. It’s important to be as objective as you can.
You may need to conduct a study with a select group of insiders who know your organization well. Explore such questions as:
- What kind of trajectory is your fundraising taking? Was your annual fund strengthened during the last campaign, or has it declined?
- What are the prevailing perceptions of your organization’s leadership? This is also the critical time to determine whether there will be any changes in top positions over the next few years. What succession plans are in place for key leaders?
- Is your mission well understood now, or do you need to redefine your case for support?
- Are your donors engaged, or are there signs of donor fatigue?
- Do you have an effective staffing structure in place to sustain your current fundraising program? To increase your fundraising efforts in a new campaign?
This candid look in the mirror will reveal specific steps your organization needs to take to gear up for the next campaign. Test the results by assembling a preliminary campaign checklist, one that is realistic and also captures all the ambitions of your organization’s future:
- Case for Support:
Look for a clear and compelling need that requires an extraordinary level of financial support. If there are signs that your organization cannot fulfill its mission without X – whether X = facility expansion, new program area or another critical item – then you have the basis of a strong campaign case.
- Cultivated Constituency:
Take a hard look at what you learned about your donors since the last campaign. Are there under-cultivated constituencies that could get excited about a new fundraising initiative?
- Organizational Leadership:
Be sure that you see agreement among your executive staff, your Board, and other influential leaders about the future course of the organization. You need indications now that they will galvanize around a new campaign. Begin to identify potential members of a campaign steering committee: are they ready to engage in a formal campaign planning process, or do you need more time for cultivation?
- Organizational Infrastructure:
Assess the current roles and responsibilities of the development office and also of key program staff. Are they operating efficiently, or would you need to shift duties or add staff to complete a multi-year campaign? Evaluate support systems, including your donor database and gift acceptance policies.
A pause between campaigns to take stock and create an action plan gives any campaign a better chance for success. Schultz & Williams has led many clients through this “look in the mirror,” and we find that it strengthens organizations for the better – every time.
Schultz & Williams is a national consulting firm based in Philadelphia providing management, fundraising and marketing consulting for nonprofit organizations, along with full-service direct marketing, database and creative/production services.