Ready, Set, Go… Campaigns Are Back!

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by Clare Jordan, Director of Marketing & Philanthropic Engagement at CapDev

Everyone who put campaign plans on hold in 2020 is jumping back into it now, along with everyone else who was thinking about starting a campaign in 2021. If that includes you, get ready!

Why now?

  1. We could see this log-jam coming with the pent-up demand for campaigns in 2020 and the increased need for nonprofits’ programs and services during the pandemic. Now is the time to jump out ahead if you can.
  2. Another reason is that Americans have been very generous in response to needs exposed and increased by the pandemic. Organizations in the social sector who have kept in close contact with their donors through this time are reaping the benefits of that generosity. Now is the time to capitalize on the current spirit of giving.
  3. Relief funds are coming. As federal and state funds filter down to regional levels, savvy nonprofits are structuring public-private partnerships and pitching plans for inclusions in government funding cycles. Don’t miss out the big dollars coming down the pike.

Now what?

If your nonprofit wants to embark on a major campaign initiative, get the green light of support from board leadership and get to work planning that campaign now.

“The sooner the better, we’ve been saying,” said Allan Burrows, President of CapDev. “If you were wise enough to focus on strategic planning and donor relations over the past year, now is the time to articulate your vision so you are prepared to get in front of key donors this year.”

How to start?

We are often asked to assess an organization’s readiness to embark on a major campaign. How do you know if you are ready; and if you are not ready, what steps need to be taken?

This self-assessment checklist helps ask yourself questions in the critical areas needed to determine your readiness for a campaign. Additionally, you can use this quick tool to rank your campaign readiness in the four essential areas of: case development, leadership engagement, donor support, and infrastructure.

If you think you may need a feasibility study to gauge support in the philanthropic marketplace for your campaign’s objectives and potential goal amounts, here is a list of three areas to prepare for a feasibility study.

Hiring a firm?

Consideration of hiring campaign counsel is another element of campaign preparations. Some elements you might include in the process of hiring a fundraising consulting firm:

  1. Outline your project or needs.
  2. Understand what consulting services you need.
  3. Do you need a local, regional or national firm?
  4. What is your campaign budget, and how much can you dedicate to consulting?
  5. Seek a firm with relevant experience (ask for references).
  6. Contact potential firms for an introductory conversation.
  7. Ask for proposals (or prepare an RFP).
  8. Meet with potential consultants in-person.
  9. Ask firms to make a presentation to decision-makers.
  10. Further discuss with top firms before confirming a final selection.

Why campaigns?

Major campaigns have long been used not only as a vehicle to raise larger sums and meet organizational goals, but done well, campaigns will also supercharge your development work and build greater donor engagement and overall awareness of your mission. Here’s what campaigns can do:

  • raise awareness of the mission
  • provide the opportunity for deepened donor relations
  • create urgency
  • articulate big visions
  • force structured asks
  • demand board engagement and giving
  • open the door to planned giving discussions (and possible endowment giving)
  • build capacity for sustainable development
  • provide timeline and budget for fundraising

The real benefit of a campaign is not always seen in terms of the dollars raised toward a specific goal, but more in some of these less measurable results.

Don’t get left behind in the rush of organizations embarking on major campaign initiatives as we all emerge from the pandemic. Campaigns can be a big boost, not only to your bottom line, but often more importantly, to your long-term building of sustainable fund development.

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