Campaigns are Won and Lost in Preparation
"Pennants are won and lost during Spring Training" Tommy Lasorda, the legendary Dodgers manager tweeted last week.
"To be prepared is half the victory," Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes wrote 500 years ago.
In fundraising, you have to be prepared to achieve your potential.
I might like to run the Music City Marathon this spring. I used to love running. However, if I embarked on a 26.2-mile run tomorrow, it would not be successful. It wouldn't be pretty. Why? Because I'm not prepared. It has been years since I ran.
When talking about campaign success, we often use sports analogies. An organization may want to raise significant funds — for a building, for a new campus, for an endowment or for programs. And the case for support may be valid and may resonate, but without sufficient preparation the campaign will likely fail as swiftly as my imaginary marathon run.
We've found breaking larger campaigns into phases is very effective. This helps you ensure preparedness before moving on to the next stage.
Sometimes we work with a client that has a great concept, but the details have not been evaluated from a donor's perspective. If we're looking at testing the concept in a campaign feasibility study, it may take some time just to coach the client on finalizing the ideas and having answers ready to the questions potential donors may ask —even before formally testing them in study interviews.
One of the most important preparation factors is having a sufficient number of prospective donors — including former donors (your best prospects) —to achieve your goal. Fundraising is both art and science and there is no substitute for having sufficient qualified prospects to achieve a potential goal. Prospects become qualified by cultivation and engagement — before a campaign begins. Preparation is key!
For a small project, you might get by with little preparation (though not recommended). But if you are looking at a major project, begin the planning process early. And be sure that you take the right steps.
As author and fundraiser Harold "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."
Be prepared — it has an incredible impact on your fundraising!
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.