What Goes Into a Nonprofit Campaign
I get asked a lot about what I do, and to be honest I’m not always great at explaining it! So for this blog I want to give you a peek into what it looks like when I run a nonprofit's fundraising campaign. If you're thinking of working with me in the future, this may give some idea of how I can support you as well! I will preface with it depends on the specific project and what all I'm being hired for!
The first step for me is a deep dive into evaluation. In order for me to take on a campaign or help in any capacity, I need to know what's been done before. Typically this means some time spent visiting with the major players who have been there. It also means diving into the data - looking not only at the totals but what's behind the totals. How many gifts helped fund that goal, who the constituents are, notes they may have written when they made the donation. I dive in as much as I can to get a feel for who is giving, why, what they expect, what worked and what didn't work.
The next big piece (for some campaigns) is to help organize 1 or more teams to spearhead the effort (think fundraising committee & maybe a stewardship committee). Leadership is everything. Often behind any failed campaign you will see a lack of leadership and buy in. People want to do more than just give money, they want to be involved. In certain circumstances I will help an organization put together a group of people that can help reach new donors, sponsors, etc. It's important to keep this group up to date as wins happen as well.
Leadership is everything. Often behind any failed campaign you will see a lack of leadership and buy in.
Next is working together with that team to determine goals for the campaign. We talk about ways to grow the fundraising effort from last year - from dollars raised, to reach, to number of unique donors, to engagement, etc. There are so many ways to improve a campaign, and it takes a team to determine what's most important.
From there we work on the narrative and case for support. We have to get straight on what we are telling and asking people. Why should someone give to us? What good can we do? I help with developing campaign materials and creating an ask.
Another important piece I help with is creating & fine tuning your target audience — helping create the list to target for direct asks, direct mail, email marketing & social. It's important to make sure you are asking the right people the right way at the right time. Again this is where digging into data is key.
In some circumstances I may even help organizations with making donor asks and sitting in on meetings. I typically do not do this by myself, but utilize the volunteers and leaders that have the relationships. I can help with prep for the meeting and helping with the conversation if the team feels they need support in this area. I often help with making sure the sponsors get what they need in terms of paperwork and getting their logos.
The biggest part of my time often goes to this piece of it - project management. Project management is that piece that everyone often forgets is key. If you don't have a single person managing the project, making sure timelines are moving forward, things are getting reviewed, the right people are in the right conversations.. well, it's going to be rough. This is a role I often play when working on a campaign because it's how my brain is wired.
One other critical component of a good campaign is to make sure that you have the systems in place to handle it. I'm talking technology systems and personnel processes. I will work with organizations to make sure they have a good system in place to capture, measure and report on the necessary information. Even if a campaign is really successful - you risk having a low donor retention rate if you are not organized behind the scenes. Many nonprofits are too focused on just getting money in the door as fast as possible, but it will ultimately hurt them in the long run if they don't get serious about back end management. I will help with getting organizations on new donor management systems (though this is a separate project in and of itself), working within their system to create links to give, etc. I will also work with their team to make sure processes are in place so that all money is accounted for and donors have a good user experience.
Many nonprofits are too focused on just getting money in the door as fast as possible, but it will ultimately hurt them in the long run if they don't get serious about back end management.
Next is the fun stuff - content. I will work with an organization to create a content calendar to map out the schedule for all campaign materials (print and digital). Then comes the actual creation of content! This includes email marketing, social media, and often print. Often I partner with another awesome mom-preneur like Randi Skinner and Madison Newman because this is where they SHINE!
First comes content love, then comes... editing. This is the kicker. When I'm working on a campaign I review everything. Every graphic, all verbiage, everything. I review all digital and print materials as they are created, updated and about to be sent out. There's often a lot of back and forth exchange here. This involves circulating all materials to the necessary review people and sending those edits back to the designer. Then again, and again... and again. Again, project management.
The campaign runs, it's rainbows and butterflies, and donations come in. But it doesn't stop there! From there I help with implementing stewardship. This looks different depending on the size of the campaign and how hands on I am within it. For some this might mean just setting a plan for them to implement. For others it means coordinating all stewardship activities - phone calls to donors, thank you emails and cards, etc. I help with setting standards for what size of gift receives which thank you type and making sure the proper folks make it happen.
Ultimately, I just want to make sure donors are being thanked and organizations don't skip this essential part of the campaign.
Last but not least are the random things that aren't included in any proposal. The random kick-myself-ideas I get at 2 in the morning like picking up balloons to tie on a sign for North Texas Giving Day. I love to give my work all I have for that time, and it can look a lot of different ways!
Honestly, the list goes on. It’s a lot! But it’s what I love to do! I hope this helps give you a glimpse at my crazy world!