Eight Anchors for a Successful Major Campaign
Your organization is thinking of embarking on a capital, endowment or comprehensive campaign. It is what you do before you embark on a major campaign that ensures success.
Baseball legend Tommy Lasorda once said, "Pennants are won and lost during spring training," and the same is true with successful major fundraising campaigns. It is the preparation—the right preparation—that will make your campaign seamless, energizing and successful!
Here are eight anchors that should be in place before you begin the vital pre-campaign phase, a phase that should include a campaign feasibility and planning study:
1. Effective staff and board leadership. Leadership is the most important factor. Having the right staff and board leadership builds donor confidence—and the right leadership that can recruit eventual campaign leaders.
Your leadership must be committed to a culture of philanthropy. This includes a commitment of time and resources—and expectations of board giving and engagement. The CEO and senior staff must embrace fundraising best practices.
2. Successful ongoing programs. You need a demonstrated track record of institutional program success. That is vibrant programs that support your mission with a level of excellence. You'll want measurable outcomes with a track record of success—as well as vivid personal stories that bring this to life.
3. Effective strategic plan. A proper strategic plan should be driving your fundraising initiatives. Successful planning does not occur in a vacuum—it should be a process that engages key constituents. A great planning process—and plan—builds confidence and provides focus.
4. Financial strength. I learned early in my career that most donors will not give to a sinking ship. The crisis "we are going to close" mentality does not motivate most to make major investments in the future. You need to demonstrate your ability to sustain programs and that you have sound management and are worthy of support.
5. Successful annual fundraising. Annual giving is the foundation for successful major campaigns. It is a predictor of success and critical to identifying major gifts prospects. Annual giving is an excellent "training ground" to develop stronger donors, fundraising volunteers and staff.
6. Strong case for support. The case for support is the rationale for your campaign—it is flexible and can evolve over time. Eventually it is developed into a campaign case statement with other materials and messaging. The case should reflect compelling and well-defined objectives.
7. Prospective donor engagement. "You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere," says Lee Iacoca. To build the foundation for a successful major campaign you need comprehensive prospective donor identification, cultivation and donor stewardship. Effective communications are key—from broad-donor awareness to more strategic efforts targeting your best friends. And in today's world these need to be multichannel.
This also includes a robust prospective donor pool—a pipeline that includes a growing number of donors, repeat donors and donors who are increasing their gifts. It also includes strong volunteer opportunities to build engagement and taking advantage of tools such as wealth screening and peer review of potential donors.
Prospective donor engagement includes the process of:
- Identifying prospective donors
- Informing them about the organization
- Engaging them in dialogue
- Involving them in the cause
- Requesting their gift investment
- Recognizing for their investment
- Informing - about the impact
8. Appropriate technology and systems. It is attention to detail that builds the net. Attention to detail and systems need to be in place before a major campaign. You need to be able to process gifts of all types and sizes in a way that shows the donor honor and appreciation.
Fundraising legend Si Seymour wrote, "If you want to raise alfalfa, you can get several crops a year. But if you want to raise oaks, it will take a little longer." Thus with the preparation for a major campaign.
Be sure that these eight anchors are in place—then move to a pre-campaign phase to include a campaign feasibility and planning study. You will find increased success in a shorter timeframe—and a joyful experience for donors, volunteers and staff—and a life-changing impact on those you serve.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.