Why plan? Because it works

Why plan? Because it works

July 13th, 2009

by Ernie Vargo

It is not unusual to get a call from a potential client that needs our help. They have started a capital campaign and are stuck. Initially all went well. The organization secured a lead gift and they went forward with a campaign. Eighteen months into the campaign, they’ve stalled.

Board and staff often get caught in the excitement about a new project. “It will transform the institution.” “If we don’t start it today we will lose our lead gift.” “It can be accomplished with just a few donors.” “How could they not support this project?”

The reality is that they are speculating about support for the project. Of course, it may be worthwhile, but do their donors think it is important? What would major funders do differently if they had proper input? Is this the right time?

What they often forget is to plan properly.

During my 11 years of consulting, I have found that the most successful organizations are disciplined in their approach to philanthropy. They engage potential funders in the planning stages. Ask for input. Cultivate them about the need for the project. Engage the board and the organization’s major constituencies. They create a time line that sequentially lays out the steps to a successful campaign. Then most importantly, they follow the steps. The timing is secondary to the sequence.

JGA has a saying to “measure twice and cut once.” Do your homework. Make certain the project has a chance to be successful. Then and only then is it time to move forward aggressively.

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