By Teresa Midthun, Senior Consultant
Recently, a community food pantry called us in to help raise urgently needed funds. They were ready to start construction and they asked us to help them raise $2 million in 12 months, which is quite fast for most any campaign. Our first question was: How well do you know your donors?
Even before launching a feasibility study, it’s important to prepare for a campaign by taking some strategic steps:
- Know your donors. Find out what excites donors about your work. What concerns them and how do they see themselves connected to your mission? Are they ready to be asked for a major gift? Ask donors for advice. Listen and apply their suggestions. If, for some reason, donor relationships have gone stale due to turnover or organizational change, it’s even more important to take the time to reconnect before starting a campaign.
- Identify effective leaders. Ask yourself, “Will these folks prioritize our organization and project?” “Will they open doors to philanthropists?” We can’t stress enough how important effective leadership is – regardless of the size of the goal. Time and again, we find that leaders who take ownership of the campaign will ensure its success. In contrast, when campaign leaders aren’t able to make introductions or choose not to prioritize the campaign, the effort can flounder.
- Step up your stewardship. Make sure current donors know their gifts matter. Publicize your organization’s positive impact and return on investment as a result of donor support.
- Prepare your team. Is your executive director, board and development team ready for the increased workload required for a successful campaign? Will you need help or training? Having these resources in place and ready for the campaign can make all the difference.
In the end, the food pantry’s campaign surpassed its goal. It’s true, the organization’s strong name recognition in the community helped and we did attract some new donors in the process. It was the strength of the relationships with major donors, however, that led to a few early lead gifts and set the pace for a successful, expedited campaign.