Assessing campaign readiness

My organization is considering a fundraising campaign. How do we know if we’re ready?

A successful campaign offers a number of benefits, including achieving important priorities that strengthen mission; raising the profile of the organization; building development capacity for the future; and establishing and strengthening relationships with key stakeholders.

A poorly planned and implemented campaign also carries risks, such as burnout of leaders and volunteers; too much emphasis on immediate results; loss of focus on larger mission and vision; a post-campaign fundraising lull; and long-term impact of failing to reach goals.

As these two scenarios suggest, it is essential that “all systems are go” before an organization attempts a campaign. Here is a checklist of key elements that will help you know if a campaign is in your near future:

  1. Do you have adequate commitments of time and support for campaign activities from the board, CEO and development staff? And do they understand and embrace the roles they will need to play?
  2. Do the goals and purpose of your campaign emerge directly from a formal visioning exercise or strategic plan? There must be a direct connection: the sole purpose of a campaign is to support mission.
  3. Are fundraising goals realistic and connected to related plans and budgets? A “pie-in-the-sky” goal helps no one.
  4. Do you have a compelling case for support? Why should donors care about your campaign priorities?
  5. Is competent staff in place in the development office? Staffing a campaign with inexperienced development officers who have no relationship with major donors and other key stakeholders is a tall order.
  6. Can you allocate adequate funding for campaign expenses? Campaigns can require 10 cents of every dollar raised to pay staff salaries, produce communication materials, organize special events, and more.
  7. Will you retain an outside consultant who can help create campaign strategies and guide board, staff and volunteers in implementation? To raise a lot of money in a short period of time, campaigns cannot afford to spin their wheels.
  8. Are you willing to invest in a formal feasibility study that helps determine if volunteer leaders and major donors are available to support the campaign? Particularly in today’s uncertain economic climate, such a study is essential.

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