Campaign Success Series Part 5: Five Things That Might Go Wrong When You Close Your Campaign (and How to Resolve Them)
Guest Post by Erin Lynch Moran, Partner at The Solas Group
This is the final post of a five-part Campaign Success Blog Series. Read the series from the beginning here.
You did it! You reached the end of your fundraising campaign, and hopefully, you’ve exceeded your goal. Unfortunately, however, the campaign has only “ended” for the members of your community. As a campaign director, you still have a lot of work ahead of you.
There is the closing celebration, of course. It must be as good or better than the kickoff celebration. Then there’s all the additional thanking you will need to do: the letters, the donor walls, the plaques, the hard hat tours, the site visits to connect donors with beneficiaries. There’s also no small amount of reporting you must provide to volunteers who will be eager to hear how their hard work paid off. The post-campaign analysis you need to conduct to ensure your next campaign is even more successful. In short, as you reach the end of the campaign, you are suddenly aware of how much work must be done before the campaign is truly finished.
There are several challenges you are likely to face as you come to the end of the campaign. Here are four you should expect to happen, along with tips for how you might overcome them:
- Staff Turnover. Be aware as you get close to the end of your campaign, you will see a great amount of turnover. There are several reasons for this, but the main one is that people often want to stay in their jobs to see the campaign through to a successful end. In fact, brace yourself for the possibility that you could lose the chief development officer, the president of your organization, or even both. If the thought of losing people all at once keeps you up at night, a good strategy is to think about contingency plans for how you might cover staffing gaps in the event of a key colleague’s departure. Think about who else is on your fundraising team who might be able to take the work on, or consider whether there are other organizational leaders or key volunteers who might be able to assist in a temporary leadership gap.
- Not Meeting Each and Every Goal: Not meeting your overall campaign goal is truly a worst-case scenario, but typically you will have seen this coming and addressed it well before the campaign closes. A more common scenario, however, is falling short on one or more sub-goals of your campaign. Sometime near the middle of your public phase, take an honest look at how your sub-goals are progressing, and if you have concerns, formulate a plan. It may be that you need more prospects (iWave can help with that) or it may be that you need to revise the solicitation strategies for the prospects you have. Regardless, prepare for the fact that you may not hit each and every one of the goals you set for your organization. If that happens, think about how you will communicate that to the volunteers and internal stakeholders who are likely to be disappointed. If you’re close but just not at the mark, consider a post-campaign push to reach the finish line of the unmet goal. Recognize that your volunteers and top donors may be discouraged and think about how you can keep them upbeat. They will need to stay motivated and to know their work is valued.
- Analysis Paralysis: The last thing you feel like doing at the end of a campaign is an in-depth analysis, and many campaign directors don’t know where to start. But a detailed post-campaign study is critical to improving your fundraising program for the long term. Unfortunately, this analysis can’t wait; it should be conducted while the campaign is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Compare your planning tools to the campaign outcomes: what went according to plan and what didn’t? If you have areas that fell short of the goal, when did things get off track and why? Perhaps most importantly, it’s important to understand whether the campaign has increased your “baseline” capacity to raise money, and by how much. A detailed data analysis is a great place to start and surveying your key volunteers and donors is also very helpful. Blending both qualitative and quantitative data, you will want to emerge with a 360º understanding of how you can make your next campaign even more successful. If you’re overwhelmed at the thought of conducting this much work just as the campaign winds down, consider retaining an outside firm that specializes in data analysis. (The Solas Group can help!)
- Donor Fatigue: At the end of your campaign, you will likely hear a lot of concerns about donor fatigue coming from staff and volunteers. Before you begin to address donor fatigue, however, make sure there is even a problem to address. Hopefully, you have been listening to cues from your donors, keeping them updated on what their generosity has helped you accomplish, and making sure they feel thanked in a meaningful way. If so, many of your donors might be ready to make another gift sooner than you think. If, however, you aren’t sure you’ve conveyed your gratitude enough, there’s no time like the present. Donors want to know they made a difference in the lives of the people your organization helps. Bottom line: make stewardship an ongoing practice and try not to dwell on the notion that your entire constituency is tired of being solicited for money. As one of my friends likes to say, “don’t write your own review.”
If all of this leaves you feeling anxious, remember that anticipating challenges is more than half the battle. By thinking ahead and imagining what might not go according to plan, you’ll be prepared to meet any obstacle at the end of the campaign head-on.
About the Author: Erin Lynch Moran is a co-founder and partner at The Solas Group, which provides industry-leading modeling and analytics that help organizations plan, manage, and evaluate fundraising campaigns. Erin is a founding member of aasp and has worked in fundraising for 25+ years, including serving as an associate VP of advancement services and as the campaign director for a successful, eight-year comprehensive campaign. You can learn more about Erin and The Solas Group at www.thesolasgroup.com.
Stay Up-to-date on Fundraising News and Resources