Planning for a Successful Campaign in Today’s Environment

Planning for a Successful Campaign in Today’s Environment

April 29, 2021 by Lee A. Ernst

Whether you are in a campaign now or considering the next one, it’s essential to reflect on what has changed during the past year and what the best path forward is in the current climate. Here are some tips to help you plan for a campaign in today's environment taken from a recent webinar I conducted with my colleague John Keith. Campaign Planning Blog

Current Campaign Trends

Most would likely agree that we are in a “recovery mode” after 2020 and that planning continues to be more challenging as the pandemic continues. Think about what has shifted in the last year—and what further adjustments are needed in programs, timelines, etc. As you make decisions, keep your donors informed. You will want to communicate more often, particularly if plans change—and it gives you a good reason to stay in contact with donors and see how they are doing.

 

Donors who support your mission may temporarily adjust HOW and WHEN they give, but WHY they give will likely remain the same.

Monitor your progress and adjust as necessary per your campaign projections . . . but keep moving forward. Being nimble continues to be a good rule of thumb.

At JGA, we have seen our clients continue with campaign work, engaging their donors with good results. Many have focused giving conversations around the board, volunteer leadership, and those who were already in a solicitation process.

But we have also noticed an uptick in discovery calls. It is easy to connect for 20 minutes, and generally people seem to want to communicate in the current environment. This tactic has proven successful for many organizations. Some have gotten creative with donor calls, for example one client sent a coffee mug in advance of a Zoom call to create a virtual coffee date.

Don’t forget to include planned giving in your donor conversations as appropriate. You may find some planned giving donors even want to pay those future commitments now. During the Great Recession, donors who chose a bequest commitment came back in later years to pay it forward because they wanted to see the impact of their gift in their lifetimes.

 

How do you know when you are ready for a campaign?

It is not always easy to judge when is the “right” time for campaign. We often hear clients say they need a campaign because, “We haven’t had one in a while,” or “Our 40th anniversary is coming up.” While these might be tangential factors, these do not often inspire people to make their best or most thoughtful gift. Successful campaigns are founded on a compelling vision, commitment from the board and leadership, buy-in from lead donors, and an appropriately resourced advancement team.

If you are trying to determine if your organization is ready for a campaign, ask yourself some key questions.


Strategic plan:

  • Do you have a strategic plan in place that is supported by leadership and establishes a clear vision? Does it need any adjustments based on the pandemic?
  • Have your philanthropic priorities been identified?

 

Case for support:

  • Can you articulate your vision and plans in a way that inspires donors and clarifies campaign components and funding levels?
  • Can you describe the change that will result from funds raised?

 

Board and stakeholder interest and commitment:

  • Are your board members and key stakeholders committed to and in agreement about campaign components?
  • Are your board members ready to support a campaign?
  • Do they understand their role?
  • Are your major donors engaged and cultivated? Have you reviewed and updated your prospect portfolios and done a recent screening to look at capacity and engagement?

 

Internal readiness:

  • Have you assessed if your advancement team, leadership, and internal processes are prepared for the rigors of a campaign?
  • Do you have advancement policies in place that meet best practices, including gift acceptance, gift recognition, naming policies, gift counting, and stewardship policies?
  • Have you assessed if any areas in your advancement department need additional support to undertake a campaign?

 

Let’s face it, though there is definitely some advance work to do before you jump into a campaign, the effort is well worth it. Thoughtful preparation can make all the difference in how your campaign is perceived, how it progresses, and its ultimate success.