Guest post by Charles Whelan, president and founder of The Whelan Group. He will teach our upcoming May webinar series Get Ready for Your High-Impact Fundraising Campaign.
If there is a fundraising campaign in your organization’s future, you may be thinking about taking a few steps to get your staff and stakeholders ready. You already know you need to get your board behind the campaign plan, and, we hope, recruit an enthusiastic campaign committee. What you may not realize is that the campaign preparation process presents an unmissable chance to improve your fundraising fundamentals: stakeholder engagement, donor awareness, and voluntary leadership.
Some will tell you that a campaign is a drag on your organization, leading to board fatigue and reduced annual fund participation. With the right preparation, the opposite is true: your campaign should revitalize your donor pools and leadership, engaging them more deeply and effectively than before. And in addition to putting you on solid footing for your capital or comprehensive campaign, good readiness activities can have positive repercussions throughout your organization.
There are three major areas of readiness you should consider before you launch a new fundraising campaign:
Institutional Planning: Every good campaign case begins with a coherent mission, vision, and institutional plan. If you are planning your campaign “because it’s time,” rather than to address specific capital or organizational needs, you might consider the value of a strategic planning process to identify your organization’s most compelling and mission-driven needs.
In addition to identifying—and justifying!—the programmatic and financial needs that will drive your campaign, a good planning process gives your stakeholders a chance to participate in building the future of the organization in a tangible way. Done well, planning interviews and focus groups make your board and major donors feel more connected to your organization, more essential, , and, ultimately, more willing to give both their time and their treasure.
Voluntary Leadership: Your board is the engine of your campaign. They provide the personal connections that spark major donations, and their financial commitments serve as a model for your entire donor community. Campaign preparation is the time to make sure that your board is functional and active. Strong board development policies, clear communications about roles, and the recruitment of new members can prepare your board to lead your campaign to success. Taking moves now to improve these practices and identify new leadership can lead to dramatically better campaign performance, but also to improved governance in the long term.
Prospect Management: Once you have the right plan and you have the right people, the final step is to ensure that you have the right tools. For most organizations, a campaign will represent a drastic increase in outreach: more communications, more meetings, and more contacts. Being able to manage all the top prospects in your pipeline is essential.
Start with your current donor database. Is it missing names, or entire groups? Can you reliably report on the status of each prospect, or your progress towards a specific goal? Do you have a method for identifying and rating the giving potential of new prospects? Take the opportunity to strengthen your systems prior to the campaign, so that during the campaign, your focus can be on getting out of the office and sealing deals!
If you take the time to strengthen these areas BEFORE your campaign, you will not only be in a better position at the beginning, but, with your improved governance and fundraising capacity, you can continue to take advantage of opportunities more efficiently and effectively well beyond this one campaign.
In our upcoming May webinar series, Get Ready for Your High-Impact Fundraising Campaign, we’ll be considering each of these areas in greater detail. We hope that you will join us to learn more, including:
- How to use institutional planning to engage major donors and other stakeholders
- The qualities that make a strong campaign board, and how to ensure your board has them
- How to identify and add constituencies to your database intentionally
Get Ready for Your High-Impact Fundraising Campaign is a 3-Part series that takes place from 2:00 to 3:30 pm ET on May 8, 15 and 22.
-- Charles Whelan