The latest edition of The Curtis Group e-newsletter, Raising Money: Winter 2014, outlined the four phases of a capital campaign. Additionally, our team recently hosted a webinar and conducted a training session through Tidewater Community College’s Academy for Nonprofit Excellence—all focused on campaigns and campaign readiness. Now, we will explore the transition from Phase One, the campaign planning study, to Phase Two, preparing for and launching the quiet phase of your campaign, and some potential questions as nonprofits work to shift gears.
If completed correctly, a campaign planning study will lay out a plan for four key areas: case for support (Does your message resonate with potential donors?), leadership (Are there strong leaders willing to help?), internal readiness (Are systems and staff in place?), and donor potential (Can money be raised for your campaign?). However, more and more we are finding our clients dealing with complex issues during the transition from planning study to campaign mode.
With many moving parts and many decisions to make, it is important to remember that this shift does not occur overnight, and it takes serious effort and planning to implement the recommendations outlined in a planning study. However, does this mean that an organization should hit “pause” on their campaign plans as they work to make this transition? Though this certainly varies from organization to organization, most find that these questions can be answered, with help from fundraising counsel, while moving into campaign mode. When considering when to launch, an organization should remember that the following key issues are often addressed in the early stages of a campaign:
Funding Priorities: While tested in the planning study, often organizations need to spend time refining these priorities and putting the details in place. In today’s campaigns, nonprofits are not just raising money for one tangible project (i.e., a gym for an independent school, or a visitor’s center for a historical society). More often, we see a menu of campaign investment options for donors – encompassing capital projects, programs, growth capital, etc., all under the umbrella of a single campaign.
Leadership: One of the very first steps in a campaign is leadership recruitment. This means listening to the results of the study and understanding if this is a strength or a weakness for your organization. Repeatedly, we see campaigns fail or succeed based on leadership. It is the most important element of any campaign. In addition, it is important to remember that not all leadership is recruited at once; some volunteers may be ready to attend the first campaign meeting, while others will need to be cultivated and shown progress before it is appropriate to ask for their help.
Cultivation: Just because a campaign is launched does not mean that all donors are ready to be asked for support. Along with leadership recruitment, the cultivation of leadership prospects should be top priority for your organization. During campaign mode, specific strategies will be implemented based on the individual donor’s needs.
Internal Readiness: Does new staff need to be hired? Is your donor database up to date? Are the policies, procedures and infrastructure up to the challenge of a campaign? These are all questions that the planning study answered, and most are best addressed during the beginning of a campaign.
The time after a planning study can feel daunting – there are many important decisions to make and many elements to consider. However, don’t let the hard work ahead deter you or your board from taking the next step for your organization’s future. If your planning study returned positive news, you can feel confident that many of these issues are best addressed during the first months of a campaign, with proper professional guidance. And remember, a campaign is about more than just raising money – if properly executed, it will positively impact and strengthen nearly every element of your organization.