Building A Successful Campaign In Uncertain Times
From capital improvement projects to growing your endowment, fundraising campaigns can be used for a multitude of things to ensure organizational longevity and stability. For many nonprofits, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an air of uncertainty around campaigns – organizations are left wondering if it is right to move forward as planned or change course entirely.
To address the number of challenges brought on by the pandemic, Caroline Moulton, Senior Associate Director, and Shea Hermann, Associate, walk through the key components of building and continuing a successful campaign in uncertain times using the four pillars of fundraising: case, leadership, donors, and systems.
A feasibility study – which assesses the organization’s current fundraising efforts and explores opportunities to expand its footprint in the community – is an essential first step in planning a successful fundraising campaign. Through internal discovery, environmental scan and landscape analysis, and stakeholder interviews, Orr Group works with our partners to analyze the potential to raise philanthropic revenue and to create a plan that identifies optimal structure, strategies, and resources for success.
If you have not already completed a feasibility study for your upcoming campaign, consider delaying until the economic effects of the pandemic become clearer and you have the ability to determine realistic goals given the new normal.
Any campaign starts with determining fundraising goals that align with your organization’s strategic plan. What are you fundraising for? How much do you need to raise to achieve this? What is compelling about this need? What makes your organization’s need unique and why should a potential donor give?
Now is the time to focus on your case statement to ensure it articulates your organizational needs or, if applicable, highlights how your organization is uniquely positioned to respond to COVID-19 in the present and future. Once you have a case that demonstrates need, urgency, and organizational impact, you can still test the materials with your key stakeholders: current and prospective donors, volunteer leadership and experts in the space to keep them engaged. Be sure to check out our article on “Reframing Your Case For Support” for more ideas on ways to update your organization’s case for support.
While you may not be able to activate a volunteer leadership structure at this time, this is a great opportunity to cultivate and recruit top donors, organizational champions, former and current board members, or subject matter experts to assist in your fundraising efforts. Top prospects include your most invested stakeholders, leaders in the community, and individuals you would like to get more involved in your work. It is especially important to stay engaged and spend extra time with those expected to lead your campaign. During this time, ensure your volunteer leaders have clear directives and utilize them to be organizational ambassadors and provide guidance for staff leadership.
Engage your organization’s senior leadership in donor cultivation and stewardship to continue to build strong relationships with your top donors and prospects and expose them to the fundraising landscape.
Even though solicitations may not be entirely appropriate at this moment, your donor communication should not waver. Continue to check in with your top donors and prospects to see how they have been impacted by the pandemic and provide an organizational update to keep them engaged. If you want to expand that communication to a broader audience, try a virtual townhall or webinar for all stakeholders.
Also take this time to recalibrate and re-prioritize campaign prospects – look at your gift table to ensure you have the right prospects at each gift level, and systematically work through portfolios to ensure continued cultivation. We recommend a 4:1 ratio of prospects, meaning for every four prospects in your pipeline, statistically one will become a donor. Keep in mind it is best practice to discount your pipeline according to the donor stage.
If you haven’t already, look to leverage planned giving or blended giving in the current climate.
Important to implement, and one of the final keys we’ll discuss, is a clear moves management system. We see moves management done most successfully using a CRM or a donor management system, however, even if you are working from a spreadsheet, you have a responsibility to guide donors through the different donor stages and track donations properly as they’re received.
While your campaign timeline might have shifted, capitalize on this time to make sure your systems are in order and your gift acceptance policies are compliant with any new giving vehicles you might explore. Ensure donor records are up to date and that your systems are serving you properly.
Interested in learning more about campaigns, especially in this time of crisis? Listen to our webinar, “Nonprofit Campaigns: What Now?” led members of our Management and Senior Leadership Teams as they discuss the impact of a global health crisis on fundraising campaigns.