Doing Campaigns the Right Way

Doing Campaigns the Right Way

August 25th, 2010

by Ted Grossnickle

It’s no revelation that our very tough economy is causing many nonprofits to have to deal with a range of issues and decisions that are new for them.

As we work with our clients, those of us at JGA occasionally hear something like this:

“Look, we know that there is a right way to do a campaign, but we need funds now. Why not just go out and start campaigning right now?” 

This impulse is one that has organizations willing to ignore:

  • the lack of readiness of their donors
  • uninformed and disengaged staff or volunteers; and,
  • their own half-completed planning and preparation.

The implicit trade off is to sacrifice preparation and “just go raise funds…”

Activity associated with a campaign often seems to suggest progress, to create enthusiasm and excitement and to hold promise of better days and more resources. And we all know that sometimes activity is a terrific camouflage for not dealing with the real issues. It is an understandable impulse.

What we can say in our experience over many years is that the track record for campaigns which had their genesis in a hurried up idea without adequate preparation is lousy. Some of the best known campaign failures are those which got their start in this fatally flawed manner.

A successful campaign must be rooted in:

  • a sound business model and strategic plan
  • board and staff leadership on the same page with regard to a Case for Support
  • volunteers and staff oriented and trained to get the most from prospective donors
  • a sense that you are ready for whatever the world may throw at you.

When hit by tough issues or economic hard times, campaigns that have done the right stuff up front respond and respond well and go on to succeed. Properly planned campaigns take the time to get it right so that when the inevitable uncertainties and problems arise, they know what they are doing and have thought about contingencies and can move ahead with dispatch, confidence and some elan’.

We have an old carpenter’s saying here in the JGA culture: “measure twice and cut once.” It’s even more important in bad times than it is in good ones.

Despite the pressure, stick to your guns and do it the right way….

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