A campaign, sometimes called a “capital campaign”, is a highly intensive exercise usually over a defined time period, anything from 12 months to 3 or 4 years. It is usually additional to the fundraising activities and experience of most fundraisers and organisations; and therefore requires some specific consideration and skills.
Good preparation is essential for a successful fundraising campaign. The right preparation will better inform your campaign plan. In some instances, you may be advised to delay for a period, or not proceed with a campaign that is unlikely to succeed. The key exercise for this preparation is the Feasibility or Planning Study. This is best conducted as an objective exercise by outside counsel, because of the confidential nature of the interviews in order to get honest answers to sensitive questions.
However, there are some important things to consider before hiring a campaign consultant. This information will be needed for the campaign consultant to effectively conduct the study.
- Are you clear about your campaign objectives, project, etc?
- Do you have an idea of what the campaign goal might be?
- Do you know what level of lead gifts will be needed?
- Is the Board in full agreement and committed to the campaign?
- Have you engaged your potential lead donors in the planning process?
- Do you have sufficient volunteers and donor prospects?
- Is the organisation in “good heart”? Is staff morale high?
- Is the leadership and governance trusted and working well together?
The Study, conducted among both internal and external stakeholders will inform you on various important factors to enable a campaign plan to be developed:
- Stakeholder perceptions of the organisation
- Your ability to conduct the campaign successfully
- Stakeholder views on the project’s case for support and messaging
- Potential leadership for the campaign
- Major donors prospects
- Timing, competitive campaigns, potential risks
The Study Report will present findings on all aspects of the campaign with recommendations for the Board.
Following a decision to proceed with implementation, you will need to decide what you want the campaign consultant to do.
A campaign has several phases which run sequentially: quiet phase for leadership gifts, public and community phases, closing and clean-up phase. Do you want full campaign management with the campaign consultant on site most of the time, or part-time counsel to direct the campaign and advise your staff?
The answer will depend upon what is the best way to ensure that the right things are done, in the right order, in the right way, at the right time, by the right people. Someone, either the campaign consultant or a staff member with campaign experience needs to manage the campaign to ensure it stays on track and does not stall.