Ready! Set! Go! Are you ready for a fundraising campaign?

A fundraising campaign is won or lost long before the kickoff.

How do you know when your fundraising campaign will be successful?  It’s when the right people are asking the right prospects, in the right way, for the right amount of money — for the right reason and at the right time. Sounds like an easy walk in the park — right?

Getting to that right point in your fund-raising campaign means that you have successfully orchestrated several elements through a delicate process.  This will more than likely include volunteer involvement and recruitment, strategic or operational planning with internal peers, and perhaps external constituents, development of a strong case for support, more than likely a planning study, and leadership cultivation. . . just to name a few.

Most fund-raising campaigns are won or lost long before the kickoff.  By the time your campaign kicks off the public phase, it should already be gathering momentum.  Reaching this goal is impossible without advance preparation.

A state of pre-campaign readiness is essential to success.  This phase is important for a number of reasons. It is an essential organizational planning exercise to research and discover the right reason for a campaign.  Equally important, the pre-campaign phase is a process of volunteer and stakeholder involvement, that is essential to building effective advocates for your campaign.

Select and enlist members for ad hoc committees to assist with the planning process.

No individual can manage the intricate process of managing a campaign single-handedly. Even if it were possible, it would not be a wise decision to “do it all” yourself. Empirical research consistently demonstrates that volunteers donate at a much higher frequency than non-volunteers.  Thus, the key part of the equation is to simply get more people engaged at an early stage in your campaign efforts.  By dividing assignments among committees with clearly defined responsibilities, the planning for your campaign can proceed in a more orderly fashion.

Volunteer committees can be organized to examine your organization’s mission and programs. Another group can conduct prospect research and identification, and in time others may review and approve the case for support, organize and conduct awareness and cultivation events, and plan the kickoff.  The most important committee should be your campaign steering committee (or your Board’s standing development and/or executive committee).  The committees should be constructed with individuals representative of all your significant constituencies, including administrative staff, trustees, foundations, friends, and the community-at-large.

Implement a strategic planning process.

The best way to determine your fund-raising objectives, and to set directions for a more vital future, is to use the strategic planning process.  While we increasingly hear from some development professionals that it is no longer possible to plan five years into the future, we remain steadfast in our belief that planning for the future is a critical element for the successful non-profit organization.  Donors give, in our experience, to organization’s that can provide a solution to a known problem and a more desirable future.

This series of steps will enable your organization to become more effective in fulfilling its mission in several different ways.

1. Articulate your mission and relate your fund-raising goals to it.  When interpreting your mission in context of fund-raising, the perspective must always be that of the prospective donor.  Your goals should be oriented toward the future; and, how your organization will better serve the community and fulfill its mission, as the result of a successful campaign.

2. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.  Examine the human, financial, and material resources available to your development program.  Your plans should be informed by the input and opinions of a variety of external sources or experts. Identify areas that may impede the progress of a campaign so that you may address them before they become a serious problem.

3. Consider various possible scenarios and then pick the best one.  At this point you will be finalizing your strategic plan for the organization and defining the scope of your fund-raising campaign.  You will be effectively advancing from what you might do to confidently determining the general purpose and goals of your campaign.

Your goals should be oriented toward the future how your organization will better serve the community, because of a successful campaign.

4. Validate the financial plan.  For this, organizations typically conduct a fund-raising planning study; a series of personal, confidential interviews with those who are in the best position to make your campaign a success.  The study tests the potential donors and key stakeholders’ perceptions and attitudes toward your organization, and helps you determine your level of readiness to conduct a campaign.  The study will give your most important constituents a voice in planning the campaign; thus, it also will encourage them to feel ownership for it and to commit to making it a success.

A fund-raising planning study will give your most important constituents a voice, encouraging them to feel ownership for the campaign.

Making It Happen.

It takes a high degree of research, energy, and direction to advance your fund-raising campaign to the point where the right people are asking the right prospects, in the right way, for the right amount of money, for the right reason, at the right time.  Our experience has been that successful development efforts are those which are strategically conceived, carefully planned, and professionally implemented.

It is not unusual for organizations to begin talking with professional consultants as much as two years before starting the campaign.  You can make your campaign happen in the most successful way if you prepare appropriately, set in motion the series of steps toward success, and go with an experienced fund-raising firm.

(click here to download FRM Issue No. 59)

For more on Ready, Set, Go!, The Essentials of Preparing for a Campaign, access Goettler Series Volume 1