FEB 04, 2020
Imagine the day…you are just about to make the announcement with your board chair that your organization will launch a major gifts campaign as part of its 25th anniversary year celebrations!
You have an ambitious goal and many of your large gift donors are ready to make the first gift to support the new campaign. You believe your current staff and volunteers have the interest, enthusiasm and skills to support the campaign.
But are you really READY?
Evaluating Your Resources
Many nonprofit organizations operate with staff and volunteers who have the knowledge and skills needed to support existing operations.
It is important for the organization to have fully evaluated its readiness. As planning begins for new events and/or campaigns, it is critical to determine what additional staff, volunteers and support services are needed to successfully carry out the tasks to achieve campaign results.
There are several steps involved in both planning and preparing for new campaigns and supporting current campaign work. It is important that the organization assess current staff and volunteer roles and responsibilities.
If your organization is in “survival mode”, you should carefully evaluate readiness and the decision to move forward with a new fundraising campaign.
Survival mode is different for each organization but may include these situations –
- often struggling to keep up with current activities
- missing meeting deadlines
- periodically or frequently late with materials/reports and/or overworked staff/volunteers
Donors expect organizations to be efficient and effective in all aspects of the organization – including delivering programs/services, meeting or exceeding fundraising goals, communicating in a timely manner, preparing materials with attention to details – both large and small, meeting deadlines, etc.
10 Questions to Ask
Let’s consider 10 key questions that should be discussed by organization leadership and department direct services staff and volunteers.
These questions are specific to planning and preparing for a major gifts campaign and determining organizational readiness. The conversations may reveal important information that can be used to reevaluate the next steps.
1. Who are the TEAM players?
Identify each of the staff and/or volunteers involved in supporting the CURRENT annual giving campaign.
Create a chart/worksheet/flow-chart that identifies each person in the campaign and his/her role. Be as specific as possible including individuals responsible for planning the campaign, gathering/preparing campaign materials, meeting with donors/prospects, conducting prospect research, sending acknowledgments, entering data, etc. The information should be as specific as possible.
2. What are the skills/expertise of the current volunteer/staff team?
Gather information about the knowledge and skills of each staff member/volunteer involved in the annual campaign.
3. Are there peak activity periods or times when staff members/volunteers are overwhelmed with work/tasks?
Identify the “peak” months/weeks for each staff member/volunteer.
4. Are there activity periods or times when staff/volunteers have available time to assist with new work or projects?
Identify the months/weeks for each staff member/volunteer.
5. What is needed for a NEW CAMPAIGN?
Begin the process of analyzing activities, deliverables, action items, technology, organizational support services and any other needs for the NEW CAMPAIGN.
Include in the planning an estimate of the number of staff/volunteer hours needed for the new campaign on a quarterly/monthly basis. Be cautious when making time estimates as the 1st time a campaign is run there may be a steep learning curve and often times the work is more complicated and time-consuming.
Build-in hours/weeks for a buffer.
6. Are the current team members who can help with the NEW CAMPAIGN?
If the answer is yes, begin to match assignments/work to team members who have the capacity and/or reorganize the team so one or more team members can be assigned to the NEW CAMPAIGN for all/majority of the time needed.
Discuss if there may be a negative impact on the quality or effectiveness of their current workload? Develop a plan to address any difficulties.
It may be unreasonable to expect a team member to be able to remain fully dedicated to the annual campaign while also taking on tasks/responsibilities specific to the NEW CAMPAIGN.
We all love the excitement of NEW projects that often come with bright and shiny new features and responsibilities.
7. Are additional staff/volunteers needed to help the organization achieve the planned results of the NEW CAMPAIGN?
Additional staff may be needed for the duration of the campaign or maybe needed during specific time periods. Plan for a 12-month period and be specific about additional staff/volunteer needs.
Plan and carry out a strategy to recruit/hire/train the additional members of the team. Have an organizational structure in place that keeps communication and planning processes as simple and easy as possible.
The use of outside consultants and/or temporary work staff may be an option.
8. What additional training and/or knowledge is needed for members of the team to be prepared for and successful in all aspects of the NEW CAMPAIGN?
9. How is the NEW CAMPAIGN impacting existing operations of the organization, including impact on annual giving and other fund-raising activities?
If there is a negative impact, organization leadership should re-evaluate staff/volunteer roles and responsibilities to reduce/eliminate the negative impact.
10. Is the organization able to achieve campaign goals for annual campaigns/events as well as NEW CAMPAIGNS?
This goal progress analysis should be reviewed frequently (ex. Monthly) and include organizational leadership and other key staff/volunteers in the discussion.
Changes to campaign timelines may need to be made, staff assignments may also need to be adjusted and/or additional staff/volunteers added to the team.
It is important for the organization to have the capacity to successfully plan and carry out a major gifts campaign WHILE CONTINUING to meet/exceed annual giving campaign goals.
Both new and sustaining donors are important stakeholders to the organization.
Planning and progress evaluation are both needed and integral to a successful campaign.
Ruth has a 30+ year career in executive leadership in the non-profit sector. She has skills in program development, human resource and facility management, strategic planning, donor stewardship, fund raising, systems planning, grant writing, finance, marketing and social entrepreneurship. She has worked with local, regional and national nonprofit organizations in executive leadership positions. Currently she is a nonprofit consultant. Ruth is a graduate of Rollins College, Crummer Graduate School of Business, Executive MBA in Winter Park, Florida. She graduated from Florida State University with a B.S. degree in Business Management.