The Road Ahead with a realistic and well-executed plan of campaign.

Everyone wants to raise more money for their organizations, but to do so your organization needs a plan.  A realistic plan will incorporate the various elements of successful fundraising, as well as the Campaign Principle.  At the very least your plan of campaign will target a specific amount of money,  define the specific purpose for which the desired funds will be used, and establish the amount of time it will take to raise the funds.

A realistic and well-executed plan of campaign

Can you raise $10 million or even $100 million?  Given an unlimited amount of time ANY goal is possible, but few development directors have an unlimited horizon of time to accomplish their goals.  How, then, will you align your organization’s finite resources and time to achieve your goals?

The elements of your plan of campaign are integral to the whole and must be combined to further support your organization, and your donors and volunteers who are working to advance the institution’s mission and purpose. 

The Campaign Principle:

  • A specific dollar goal provides a measure of success — so that everyone knows when the job has been successfully completed. With a goal, we can also determine how much each donor prospect should be asked to contribute.
  • A specific and worthwhile project, purpose, or cause gives the enterprise a mental, emotional and spiritual focus — something that’s worth working for.
  • Finally, a specific timetable creates a sense of urgency and allows the campaign to build and sustain momentum. As much as we all dislike deadlines, they help to maintain a critical mass of interest, involvement and commitment to the task.

Before rendering your plan of campaign you must complete a realistic assessment of all your resources and create an appropriate strategy for marshalling these resources to attain your stated goals.  This will likely involve your board leadership as well as the active participation of other volunteers and donors . . . and herein lays the value of a solid plan.  An effective plan will build the confidence of your team and guide their productive participation.  Ultimately the greatest long-term benefit of a successful campaign is success itself, which will build stronger life-long relationships with your volunteers and donors.

We know that securing large pacesetting leadership gifts is the preferred path to achieving ambitious goals, and that most organizations will require the active participation of capable and committed volunteer leadership to create and navigate solid pathways to sufficient financial resources.  As such, the best plan of campaign will be formulated through the participation of both professional staff and volunteer campaign leaders.  While the number of paid fundraising professionals in the nonprofit sector has grown dramatically it’s possible to lose sight of the fact that our volunteers don’t work for us, but that we work for  them.  Because their contributions of time and financial resources are voluntary, they must be inspired and self-motivated to take action on behalf of your organization.

This human element remains both the most important and the most difficult aspect of creating a realistic and attainable plan of campaign today.  The manner in which nonprofit organizations interacted with their leaders, volunteers and donors changed dramatically during the pandemic, and in many respects our society was already changing and shifting before Covid.  Many of our communities and cities have more diffuse leadership structures and direct peer relationships are becoming more difficult to identify and to leverage.  There is also a rising new generation of wealth and evolving leaders that have yet to fully participate in community-based fundraising.  How does our fundraising profession best work to navigate these changes?

The importance of a realistic and then well-executed plan of campaign is as necessary today as it has ever been.  Human nature has not changed, nor have the essential elements of fundraising success.  How we as fundraising professionals engage our communities, constituents, and volunteer leaders may be evolving; however, the  task of aligning these elements into a winning plan will continue to be an artistic process that combines the best science of our sector with the unique and immensely rewarding course of personal interaction.

Your plan of campaign should strive to create the discipline of personal solicitation.  As the saying goes, “people give to people.”

Just as people give to other people, they also give in relation to what others give. That’s why the most effective advocate for giving is one who has already given as much or more than the amount they are asking for. The force of example is far more powerful than any words of persuasion. This also explains why the results of leadership gift solicitations invariably have a decisive effect on the outcome of the entire campaign.

Your plan of campaign should also establish a selective and sequential progression of solicitation.  We therefore give priority to those who have an existing relationship with the organization.  As the campaign progresses, others will always expect a strong show of support from your institutional family. If those closest to your organization — those who know it best — will not validate the campaign through a concrete expression of their support, then outsiders can hardly be expected to do so.

A truly successful campaign will strive to invite a larger corps of individuals as volunteers to your purpose and pursuit of your Big Idea, whereby each person participating has a definite and limited responsibility.  In this manner, enlisting individual participation in your campaign is more attractive because everyone knows what is expected of them and each role is significant and impactful without being too burdensome.

Your realistic and well-executed plan of campaign will ensure that our next generation of volunteers and leaders are guided through a successful and personally rewarding experience with our organizations and that our nonprofit sector remains vibrant and essential to our communities.

Links to previous Road Ahead Blog posts: