Which Campaign Model Works Best Now?

Which Campaign Model Works Best Now?

June 9th, 2011

by Kris Kindelsperger


In today’s economy, does a major comprehensive campaign make the most sense or is a series of smaller project based campaigns a better approach?

Two commonly used campaign strategies are the comprehensive campaign strategy and the individual project based strategy. Each offers their own advantages and disadvantages.

Comprehensive campaigns offer several advantages:

  • One fundraising plan can address a range of important needs
  • Their mix of components can better match the varied interests of donors in the campaign
  • Their broad scope allows them to address high level strategic initiatives of the institution

While successfully run comprehensive campaigns can be truly transformational for an organization, they also have drawbacks to consider:

  • They take longer to plan and complete
  • They are more expensive to run
  • They can push the limits of donor capacity
  • They demand more of staff’s time and endurance

Individual project campaigns, on the other hand, are effective in:

  • Achieving goals in a shorter amount of time
  • Meeting an obvious and compelling need
  • Minimizing the demand on donor capacity
  • Lowering the risk of fatiguing staff

But consider where the individual project campaign falls short:

  • Its singularity of focus might leave other important needs unmet
  • Donors may find the project fails to pique their interest or meet their philanthropic goals

So which is the “better” of the two options? 

In times of transition or uncertainty, a project campaign may represent a good short-term way of staying engaged with your donor population.  Project campaigns can be a good warm up to a larger comprehensive campaign, testing staff and volunteer leadership and building capacity.

If a compelling strategic plan, proven capacity and strong staff and volunteer initiative is in place, a comprehensive campaign is likely the best use of institutional resources and a successful campaign can truly be transformational for the organization.

The best answer for you may not be one or the other, but rather a grouping of components that provide donor choice but at a smaller total goal that better aligns with capacity. 

This approach may offer most of the advantages of a comprehensive campaign while offering the shorter time frame and more focused approach of the project campaign.

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