Last week, we started a discussion about what to do when you find your campaign at the bottom of the dip and stalled. There are four key elements to every campaign – case, leadership, prospects and a plan. Today we’ll consider the importance of prospects and a plan.

    pause-stop-relaunch-300x2361Consider these questions about your prospect base:

    Do you know who your Top 20 prospects are? Do you know their likes, their loves and why they may be compelled to support your cause? If not, you have some relationship-building work to do. Prospects rarely consider making a gift to a cause they don’t know.

    Are at least half of your campaign cabinet or steering committee also Top 20 prospects? By virtue of their involvement, their interest will increase… as will their giving.

    Has your campaign chair made a lead gift? If not, perhaps you need to recruit additional chairs. Co-chairs, tri-chairs, quad-chairs are becoming standard for many campaigns. This allows your current chair to retain their title and position, while also spurring activity and momentum in your campaign.

    While we talked about this somewhat last week, it’s important to remember to respect the Law of Lateral Asking. It is very unlikely to be successful asking for more than you have given yourself. The law of lateral asking means that you tend to ask at the same level (or lower) that you gave. (For example, a $1MM donor asking another prospect for $500K.) Well-meaning volunteers often show unconscious resistance to “asking up,” causing a campaign to stall. In other words, you may have the prospects, but no one in a position to ask them for their support.

    champagne-glass-500x500Remember, the giving distribution in modern capital campaigns looks more like a champagne glass than a pyramid. Your Top 20 and Next 30 prospects will account for $85% of your campaign.

    Finally, when a campaign is stalled, take an honest look at the plan.

    Do you need to adjust the timeline given your current situation?

    • Consider putting off the ground breaking for 6 months or 12 months (or longer). A course correction is a not a failure.
    • I was given some great advice from a major donor in Nashville: “YOUR timeline is not MY crisis.” If your donors aren’t ready, the campaign won’t move forward.
    • Don’t fill the gap with debt! Debt isn’t evil, but unreasonable debt shifts your focus from the community to the bank.

    Do you need to recast your campaign goal? For example, if your goal was $10MM and you have raised $8MM, re-launch the campaign with a $2MM campaign goal. This feels more attainable even though the numbers haven’t changed. Think of it as a relay race: recruit new volunteers, donors and prospects (i.e. “fresh legs”) to get you across the finish line.

    Lastly, celebrate and encourage your volunteers and staff every step of the way. This is tough work. Every campaign will hit a dip – guaranteed. Take time to say thank you. Take time to acknowledge good work during committee meetings. Take time to write notes. Take time to leave that unexpected voice-mail of thanks.

    Case, leadership, prospects and plan – these are the four critical elements of every successful campaign. If your campaign is stalled, first push the pause button, then assess your campaign and re-launch. There are some instances when you must take the bold step of stopping the campaign if, after your assessment, the campaign won’t be successful. The gift you can give to your volunteers and staff is to make that call boldly and move on.

    What have been your experiences with stalled campaigns? Share how you climbed out of the dip in the comments below!

    Posted by Bruce Berglund on May. 6, 2014
    Bruce Berglund

    Written by Bruce Berglund

    Bruce Berglund, CFRE, is the founder and President of Donor by Design Group, LLC, a national firm providing comprehensive fundraising services to nonprofits, churches, community colleges and schools. Donor By Design is currently managing more than $1 Billion in capital, annual and endowment campaigns. Bruce is a highly sought-after writer, speaker and teacher.

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