The Pre-Campaign Planning Study
By Norman Olshansky: President
NFP Consulting Resources, Inc.
All too often, nonprofit organizations jump into fundraising campaigns without proper preparation and without a well thought out campaign plan. Initial volunteer passion and enthusiasm frequently results in a “ready-fire-aim” mentality. To achieve goals and “hit your targets”, it is critical to take time to properly “aim” before initiating your campaign. Whether you are getting ready to plan your next annual campaign, special event, capital or endowment initiative, there are several critical aspects of any fundraising initiative which should be addressed in order to develop a useful and realistic campaign plan. Answers to the following questions can help provide important information you will need to begin the planning process.
Do you have a compelling case for support?Why are funds needed? What will be accomplished with gifts to the campaign? How will it improve your organization? Will it provide better service delivery, more clients served, better return on investment, improved facilities, opportunities for expansion, improved quality, etc.?
How much do you need to accomplish your goals?What is your campaign goal? What are the components that contribute to the costs? Have you taken into account all of the projected expenses related to the project? (Staff costs, operations, administration, overhead, fundraising, marketing, events, recognition, reserves for uncollectible pledges, and if applicable, finance costs, capital costs, business interruption expenses, capital reserves, etc.)
Have you identified leadership?
Is your Board fully behind the campaign? Will they personally participate as donors and solicitors on behalf of the campaign? The key to success will be your volunteer and staff leadership. Do you have the right people in place to achieve your goals? Will they have sufficient time to devote to the effort? If you do not have the right leadership, what are your plans to identify and recruit additional leadership and/or staff?
Will you be able to engage and obtain support from your existing donors?
Do they know about your plans? Are they supportive of your case for support? How can you engage, cultivate them and create enthusiasm for your project? Have you identified new potential donors? If not, what are your plans to identify and cultivate new prospects?
What are the internal factors that could impact your success?
Do you have internal systems, staff and back office supports that will be required? Is your database current and able to support your efforts? Do you have the initial capital and cash flow to support your efforts? What have you learned from your previous fundraising activities? What are mistakes that have been made in the past that need to be avoided in the future and what needs to be done to improve on past fundraising efforts?
What are the external factors that could impact your success?What has been the experience of other nonprofits who have initiated similar campaigns? Are there other competing campaigns underway or about to begin that could negatively impact your efforts? What is the image of your organization in the community? What are potential issues that could derail your efforts?
Do you have a sufficient prospect base to achieve your goals?
Based upon your goal, how many prospects will you need at each level of giving to produce the results needed? What is your prospect base? Have you developed a gift chart/pyramid that reflects your goal? What percentage of your campaign will need to come from leadership gifts? Do you have a sufficient number of prospects to reach your goal?
What are the key policy and procedural decisions which need to be addressed early in the planning process, such as:
A. Governance and Committee Structure
B: Engagement, coordination and involvement of fundraising plans with
construction, finance/budgeting, and marketing
C. Recognition of donors and volunteers
D. Decision Making Process-Authority and Accountability
E. Gift acceptance
F. Methods of giving
G. Length of payout
H. Reporting and Accountability
I. Pledge/gift documentation, acknowledgement, billing, and receipting
J. Acknowledgement of in kind donations
K. Staff assignments and accountability
Have you evaluated and prioritized your plans based on the best return on investment of your organization's time and resources, both human and financial?
Fundraising is both art and science. Success requires both.
There are definite processes, sequential steps, ethics, legal guidelines, tax laws, accounting and other requirements that need to be followed to achieve success. This is the science of fundraising. Just, if not more important, is the art of fundraising which focuses on relationships, personality, leadership, engagement and follow through.