If you don't know where you're going, it's kind of hard
If you don't know where you're going, it's kind of hard to get there
April 5, 2005
By Margaret Battistelli
"Chesire Puss," Alice began, "would you please tell me which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends on where you want to get to," said the cat.
"I don't much care where," said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the cat.
Ah, the wisdom of Lewis Caroll. But who knew he could be such a valuable leader in the field of fundraising? Edith Falk ... apparently.
Falk, president of the Chicago-based philanthropic firm Campbell & Co., used that passage from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to caution attendees in her opening-day session, titled "Know Thyself: The Importance of Marketing Your Organization in a Campaign," that having a clear goal in mind -- and an equally clear game plan for getting there -- is essential when undertaking a major fundraising campaign.
Sounds obvious, of course, but Falk makes mention of the head of an organization with which she was working who insisted that the group needed to have a major capital campaign, with a major fundraising goal. Why? Well, two other similarly missioned organizations in town had just launched major campital campaigns ...
Falk stresses the importance of the case statement as a marketing tool for your campaign. The most successful campaigns, she adds, are built around case statements that evolve from a process that defines both the organization's mission and why the particular campaign is important.
"The case (for giving) is not 'We are ... therefore we deserve," she says, explaining that the most effective case statements:
1. Emerge from the organization's mission and strategic plan.
2. Present a vision of "what can be."
3. Serve as an investment prospectus.
4. Present investment opportunities from the prospects' perspective.
5. Talk about opportunity, not needs.
Once the case statement is in&003; place, Falk stresses, it's essential that everyone in the organization -- from the president and board members to the folks who write the literature and answer the phones -- are on board and can speak knowledgeably and confidently about the campaign, whether at a formal presentation or at a cocktail party, on paper or on the 10th green.
Equally important is that all communication from the organization a) coherently reflect the case statement and b) do so consistently, with the same look and language.
The best campaign communications, Falk advises:
1.Build understanding of the institution's vision and mission.
2. Show donors how their gifts will make a difference.
3. Answer the questions that are on donors' minds.
One good way to accomplish those goals, she says, is to build the case statement and campaign materials around information from current supporters. Any chance you get, ask them why they're involved with your organization, how they got involved, what is their perception of the organization and its future.
"You hear so many wonderful stories [when you talk with donors]," Falk says. "People love to talk about it, and you learn so much."
Responding to a question from the audience, Falk discussed also how communications with donors -- both formal and impromtu -- can help you gauge the success of various campaign themes, before you even roll them out. She shares the story of a children's hospital that had been named one of the top 10 in the country and was striving to make it into the top five.
Before the hospital got too far into a campaign that stressed that desire, communications with donors revealed that they just didn't "get" the significance of the designation and how it would make a difference in the care provided. Time to rethink the approach.
Ultimately, Falk says, "campaign communications are not about your organization's campaign ... they are about your donors and their priorities."
She stresses that, once you're presenting the right case, you have to make your message "stick" by including the chosen language and images in everything from the the president's speeches to campaign materials, right on down to clever and creative places such as the construction barriers surrounding the site where your new building will be erected. "Consistent messaging" is key, she says.
Finally, Falk concludes, the best campaign communications are those that tell stories, that put a human face on your mission. The easier it is for potential donors to connect your organization to real people and the alleviation of their real problems or enrichment of their lives, the easier it will be for them to part with their money.
For more information about Campbell & Co., call 312.644.7100