As I See It | Missy Gale, CFRE | President & CEO

Campaigning: Is it time to jump in?

Nonprofit organizations who set aside major projects and campaigns when the pandemic hit last year are beginning to contemplate getting started again.

Most nonprofits were unprepared to manage all their operations remotely, especially fundraising, where programming had to shift to attract a virtual audience. Campaigns that were already underway continued quietly while fundraising slowed due to the inability to meet face to face, provide tours, or host gatherings typical of campaigning. Others who were thinking about a campaign put their plans aside to focus on critically necessary operational funding.

But organizations are starting to feel more comfortable looking ahead again, and with fundraising in the spotlight, many nonprofits are reconsidering a campaign.  

What factors should your organization analyze before jumping in?
  1. Operational reserve. Rebuilding any lost operational reserves is critically important to safeguard against any emergencies or potential loss of traditional revenue. Depending on its revenue mix, nonprofits will continue to see fluctuation in 2021 and into 2022 from changes in government funding to shifts in giving trends and relaxing of giving post-emergency.
  2. Annual fund stability. Traditional fundraising tactics have shifted and 2021 is looking to be a hybrid year. Organizations who had to decrease fundraising budgets, let go of staff or slow programming will need time to ramp back up.
  3. Project readiness and need. Planning for the project itself, the impact it will have on the organization and its mission, the location, size, effect on operations, cost analysis, cash flow needs are all necessary before entering into any campaign. Both project and fundraising feasibility studies are necessary in advance of campaigning.
  4. Staff preparedness. Training staff for their role in campaigns can’t be underestimated. Last year was tough on all our team members, and most new organizational demands have not gone away. Campaigns are more than the added fundraising demand. Project planning includes building plans, renovations, relocations, organizational impact studies for expanded programming and staffing requirements, and more. Nonprofits shouldn’t expect their staff to fully realize the burden a campaign brings, and organizers should plan for increased staffing to ensure all organizational goals can be met.
  5. Volunteer leadership availability. Similarly, preparing and training leadership volunteers is a critical component of campaign success. During the pandemic, many volunteers have stepped up to help during the crisis. Others had to step back as they could not meet physically or had to focus on family and job situations. Take stock of volunteer availability and readiness and begin training well in advance of your campaign.
  6. Donor interest and readiness. Funders who shifted their giving toward operations during the pandemic are open to funding capital again and are feeling optimistic. Hopefully, your individual donors are feeling the same. In advance of a campaign, it’s important to examine your donor base, giving trends, and especially your major gift pipeline. Individual giving is the most critical piece of campaigning.

All of the factors highlighted above are those that should be analyzed before starting any campaign, any time. Campaigns are marathons, not sprints. The more your organization prepares and trains, the easier the run will be.


About the Author

As president and founder of M. Gale & Associates, Missy Gale has dedicated almost three decades to crafting unique strategies and solutions to complex fundraising projects and organizational issues, resulting in transformational fundraising success for her clients. With more than ten years at the helm of M. Gale & Associates, Missy has assisted nonprofits in North Texas and the Southwest in healthcare, arts and culture, social services, and education. Missy is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington and holds the Certified Fundraising Executive credential. She has presented at numerous international, national and regional conferences. In 2014 Missy was honored as the Outstanding Professional Fundraiser by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Fort Worth Metro chapter. She has also served as national chair of the Association of Philanthropic Counsel (APC)