How to know if you should launch a major campaign

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When it comes to planning for a major fundraising campaign, people always want to know “what are the indicators that we should launch our campaign?” We suggest that the number one indicator is how well you have conducted your annual giving program. While there are differences and distinctions between an annual campaign, and a capital or major gifts campaign, a successful annual campaign indicates that basic fundraising systems, processes and relationships are in place.

If you don’t yet have a strong annual campaign, we suggest taking the time to build one. Doing so will offer your organization the opportunity to prepare for a major campaign in a less “high stakes” environment. Of course, you can always “build as you go” but the challenges you incur may be more than anticipated and more than you can respond to.

Reviewing the financial and fundraising reports for your annual campaign and meeting with your staff, board and volunteers can help you answer questions that can inform whether or not to move forward with a major campaign.

  1. Has your annual giving program met or exceeded goal over each of the last three years?
  2. Do you have enough donors and prospective donors to give at levels that would support your proposed campaign?
  3. Do you have the capacity and infrastructure to move to the next level in fundraising?
  4. Are your large and consistent donors open to considering a lead gift for your proposed campaign?
  5. What is your annual attrition rate? Does the rate of new donors equal or exceed the attrition rate? Do the funds from new donors replace the funds you are losing from lapsed donors? What does the net of these numbers tell you about the organization’s fundraising?
  6. Do you have complete buy-in for your annual campaign from both volunteer leadership and staff? Do they support the larger proposed campaign?
  7. Have you conducted a formal or informal feasibility study amongst your strongest donors and key volunteers to learn how they respond to the idea of the proposed campaign?
  8. Can you build off the excitement and momentum that surrounds your annual campaign?
  9. Do you have the resources – technology, money, time, volunteers, staff – to ensure the capacity and infrastructure needed for a larger campaign? Can your current resources be built upon?
  10. Do your current fundraising leaders have the experience, skillsets, relationships and willingness needed to lead a larger campaign?
  11. Do your data management systems serve your annual campaign well? Can they support a larger campaign?
  12. Are the cost ratios for your annual campaign within generally accepted guidelines?
  13. Do you believe your supporters and constituency have confidence in your organization’s ability to move to the next level of fundraising?

Bottom line: Look at your annual fundraising as you contemplate a capital or major gifts campaign. Your numbers and people can inform your next steps.

Copyright 2018 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

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