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Running a campaign

Campaigns can be described as a series of intensive and time-specific fundraising efforts organised by an institution to publicly proclaim its need for private gifts in support of a specific set of objectives (see David Gearhart, 1995). Using a mixture of communication and engagement activities such as advertising and events, campaigns bring together the stakeholders of an institution such as its faculty, students, administrators, the governing board, alumni and the public at large in support of its aims.

An advancement office cannot conduct a successful capital campaign by itself. The first step must include getting campus leaders’ commitments to make personal gifts to the campaign, raise money from their friends, and be visible, enthusiastic supporters of the cause.

Buy-in from top leaders is not enough. Faculty, staff, and students must understand the campaign’s significance, and communicate with a unified voice. Getting academic leaders involved from the beginning and regularly communicating with faculty, staff, and students about a campaign’s progress are essential.

Alumni volunteers are one of the key sources of support for a campaign. The time, talent and resources that your alumni volunteers are willing to give are essential to the success of your campaign. Volunteers can serve as spokespeople for the campaign, provide leadership and expertise as well as getting involved in the solicitation of major gifts from those in their networks.

Every donor wants to know the university’s vision, so craft a story showing the impact the institution will make with donor support. Develop a case statement, or campaign story, by talking with faculty and leaders to find ways to integrate various passions, creativity, and frankness. Not only is this process helpful for designing the campaign but the document can be a touchstone for donor engagement.

Campaign readiness checklist

  • Is your donor base ready to sustain a campaign? One of the key questions you should ask before you think about starting a campaign is whether your donor base has enough resources to sustain a campaign.
  • Are your priorities achievable and universally supported? Priorities should come from the academic community rather than the fundraising office.
  • Do you have enough qualified prospects to sustain a campaign? Set an attainable goal. Mine your constituency to determine the level of support you can seek from them. Hire a consultant to assess fundraising potential.
  • Does your development office have the talent and tools for the campaign? Do you have enough gift officers to cultivate and solicit your key prospects? Have you implemented staff recruitment and retention strategies to prevent turnover mid-campaign? Do you have sufficient budget for travel and special events?
  • Is campus leadership committed to the campaign? The campaign must be a priority for your institution. Leadership must commit time, attention, and resources.
  • Do you have enough volunteers?
  • Do you have a sound strategic plan? The strategy should include plans for announcing the campaign, creating and distributing marketing and communications materials, recruiting and involving volunteers, pro- cessing gifts, managing data, and stewarding donors.
  • Are you prepared to spend money to make money? Before launching a campaign, develop a reasonable budget. A good goal is to spend no more than around 10 percent of your overall campaign goal.

This chapter was adapted from an article written by Nancy Mann Jackson which appeared in the November/December 2014 issue of Currents published by CASE.