“The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” – Robert Burns
Serving in a consulting capacity, my colleagues and I have come to know well the importance of planning in fundraising efforts, especially in anticipation of a capital campaign. If done right, early planning should provide the roadmap for meeting, and in some cases, exceeding the organization’s campaign goals. But, even with the best planning and a solid foundation laid for the quiet phase, the excitement of a new campaign can and does wear off and your campaign can begin to stall.
Organizational leadership may ask themselves, how did we get here? While there will be plenty of signs indicating that your campaign has stalled – no new gifts have been received in some time, attendance at campaign committee meetings starts to dwindle, and/or no one is certain how and when the campaign will end – most organizations struggle to identify or address those things that are contributing to the slowing down of their campaign process.
This is about the time when we get the phone call to help save the day! And while my colleagues and I can bring a fresh perspective, excitement and expertise to help wrap-up the project, it is more effective if the volunteer leadership and organizational staff running the campaign are willing to work to address the underlying issues.
Here are the most common campaign elements that may be contributing to a stalled campaign:
1. Campaign Plan. From the feasibility study, the outline of a campaign plan usually emerges. Campaign plans should include a: 1) description of the campaign structure; 2) work plan with specific strategies and tactics; 3) a timetable; 4) assignments and prospect lists; 5) compelling case statement (revised after feasibility study); 6) naming opportunities, and 7) fundraising goals by giving sector (individuals, foundations, corporations). Most ineffective campaign plans suffer from a lack of specificity and accountability, and are often abandoned when deviations are necessary. The need to revise the campaign plan will arise and it is not only appropriate, but necessary to achieve fundraising success.
2. Case for Support. Nonprofit organizations develop a core case for support to share the many reasons why their organization is worthy of a donor’s resources. An effective case for support should provide enough information to allow prospects to respond emotionally first, and then logically, empowering them to be a part of addressing the identified, unmet community need. At various stages of a capital campaign, leadership must take the time to rethink how to articulate the organization’s vision so that broad community support is gained for its project. Not all messaging will resonate the same among diverse audiences and it is imperative to refresh the overall or elements of the case for giving.
3. Communication. Regular progress reports and updates are critical communication tools in keeping up the sense of urgency, enthusiasm and excitement among campaign staff, volunteers, and donors. Without it, they may move on to other pressing needs or other projects.
4. Project Scope. As campaigns progress, the project scope may change in an effort to reduce the project budget. This is done by a process of re-examining the assumptions about the importance of each feature in the project. Thoughtful revisions to the project plans, especially those that take into consideration the current economy, will be well received by prospective donors and strengthen the organization’s credibility as good financial stewards.
While we at Bacon Lee & Associates stand ready to provide counsel in times of need, it is our belief that nonprofit organizations can look internally first to identify potential problem areas, such as the ones described above, and begin to work toward a solution to get the campaign back on track.
Bacon Lee & Associates www.baconlee.com
P.O. Box 15018
San Antonio, Texas 78212 (210) 733-0893