PUBLISHED IN F&P MAGAZINE - 9 OCTOBER 2019
Everyone is doing it. Major campaigns are where it is at. Millions, actually almost billions, are being raised through major campaigns across Australia right now. This very minute, boards and executives across the country are asking their fundraising teams to work out how they can get their slice of the pie. Now. But are you really ready for this?
Planning a major fundraising campaign is huge. It requires additional resourcing, research and planning, donor and prospect engagement, events, meetings, collateral and so much more. Many are not ready for what lies ahead simply because they have not yet had the chance to really assess where they are and where they want to be, along with what they need to make it from here to there.
I have worked with many organisations as they plan a campaign, working through its feasibility – assessing the organisational readiness and the likelihood of donations and support from those closest to the organisation. Sometimes the timing is just right, and other times alarm bells start ringing loud and clear.
So how do you assess the feasibility of a major fundraising campaign? Here are the top three indicators that your organisation is ready to run a successful campaign.
1 YOU ARE RESOURCE READYHave you ever heard that it takes money to make money? Well never was this truer than with a major fundraising campaign. Every successful campaign is backed with the financial and human resources it will need to succeed.
Ideally, your campaign will be resourced with between 10-20% of the total campaign target. For example, if your target is $5 million, you will have a budget of $500,000 to $1 million to ensure its success.
This budget will be required for any additional staffing needed to run the campaign, including consultants and outsourcing. More staff and support will likely be required to undertake prospect research, develop engagement strategies, ensure record keeping and database maintenance, provide administration, support approaches and asking, run events and meetings, and steward donors.
You also need to ensure that you have the collateral and technology required to undertake a successful campaign.
2 YOU ARE INSPIREDUndertaking a series of loyal supporter interviews can be a great way to understand the support for your cause and a major fundraising campaign. These interviews will allow you to test messaging, understand your networks and their reach, and better understand your current and prospective donors and how they will support a campaign. These interviews should start with your board.
The chairperson and the board of your organisation must share the passion and not only understand the vision, but be able to articulate it in an inspiring way. Why? Because if your board members don’t understand the reason for the campaign beyond the fact it will raise more money for your organisation, then they cannot effectively act as advocates, influencers and champions of your cause.
I recently spoke with a chairperson who had taken part in a series of loyal stakeholder interviews. When asked why the campaign was important and urgent, the chairperson answered: “Well it isn’t really. It is important to us because we want more money to do more things, but it is not really urgent to others.”
That comment was not only concerning for the success of the campaign, but it was also not true. The campaign was urgent. In fact, it could affect hundreds of thousands of people across the country if successful, potentially improving health outcomes and social inclusion in communities everywhere. But the chairperson didn’t understand that and didn’t hold the vision, choosing to focus on the economic benefit to the organisation not the cause itself. If one of the main influencers in your organisation is not on board, then it is time to reassess your readiness for a campaign.
Not only should the highest level influencers in your organisation (I mean your board, CEO, trustees and patrons) be aligned with your vision and understand the urgency and importance of your campaign, they should also be willing to donate.
I have long advocated that if you are going to ask someone to make a significant gift to your cause – perhaps the most significant gift they will ever make – you should also make a donation that is significant to you. The CEO and the board are not exempt from this – they should lead by example.
In fact, I once worked with an organisation where 100% of staff working at the foundation gave to their cause. This is a powerful statement when discussing a gift with prospective donors.
3 YOU ARE SUPPORTEDIs your case for support well-articulated?
Can you engage someone in just one sentence and will they feel compelled to learn more?
Articulating your vision is so important to securing support. It is even more important that everyone in your organisation is able to do this in a way that is relevant to their audience.
Let’s say you have the vision. Do you have the networks? It is time to pull out the gift chart. Let’s say we want to raise $1 million. Ideally we need to secure at least one gift of $100,000 and a number of gifts above $25,000.
Do you have current networks, donors or influencers who can introduce you to the people who can help you raise that amount? If you don’t immediately have four prospects in mind for that gift of $100,000, given a 1:4 success rate projected for major gift asks, then you are already in a bit of trouble. If this is the case, it may be time to dig deeper into your database, build up your appeals and community engagement program, or consider some marketing activities to build your profile before launching a campaign.
Campaigns are exciting, challenging and can be world changing. But they can also be a disaster if due process is not followed. So my advice? Take your time. Plan, plan and plan. Talk to others in our industry who have had experience in planning and managing a campaign. Talk to your stakeholders, internally and externally, until you get your messaging right and grow your networks. And finally, when the time is right, jump in. It is exhilarating seeing a campaign come to fruition.
I wish you the best of luck – but you won’t need it because you will be ready!