What determines the right time to launch a campaign? Is it tied to the economy? Other campaigns in your community? The time of year? We believe the “right” time is more an internal issue than an external or environmental one. It is really about your organization’s capacity to support your fundraising.
When it comes to fundraising, many nonprofit leaders – including board members – believe raising money is about people giving to your organization. There is an unconscious thought process that goes something like this: We are doing good work. We need money to continue our work. People should give to us. That’s it. The money should just arrive. This expectation is often rooted in someone else doing “the work” and is seldom accompanied by an understanding of what “the work” is and what it costs in terms of time, money, and other resources.
Here’s what experience has taught us: a focus on service, teaching, research, or advocacy is not enough. You have to build the business infrastructure to support your mission and vision. You have to allocate time, money and talent to ensuring your financial viability. Very few organizations are able to survive solely on the goodwill of others. That goodwill has to be cultivated and sustained. And that is a business function.
It starts with your strategic plan. Your campaign goals and priorities should be an outgrowth of this plan and should be tied to budget projections for implementation over a multi-year period. This financial forecast needs to be discussed and agreed upon by the board, staff leadership, and – believe it or not – staff across the organization and your donors. You want to build complete buy-in across your organization, both internally and externally.
You also need to build the capacity and infrastructure that will help ensure you can raise the funds you need. This means recruiting and retaining staff and/or contractors skilled and experienced in fundraising, marketing, social media management, project management, and more. You’ll need a case for support. That is a document and/or video that clearly and concisely communicates the value/rationale for supporting your organization or institution. This core message needs to be communicated with your prospective donors. This is where your awareness and communications team comes in. But you can’t communicate with everyone. You have to define your audience, which means knowing who your prospective donors and funders are and how to reach them.
No matter how much money you have, you can’t buy everything you need. The critical ingredient is your committed volunteer leadership. These are the people who will support your executive director, president, or CEO in cultivating and soliciting gifts and grants. They include board members, donors, and community leaders who believe in the work of your organization and are willing to ask for financial support.
This is a tall order. And only just the beginning. You need time to plan. If you’re going for “big money”, there should be stability and tenure amongst your leadership, and a track record of successful annual fundraising. Build your organization’s capacity to support fundraising and you will find it is the right time.
Copyright 2023 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Video and phone conferencing services always available. Let us help you grow your fundraising. Call us at (901) 522-8727 or visit www.saadandshaw.com.