An Annual Campaign Story Part 1: 6 Simple Steps to Success

An Annual Campaign Story

A Trio of Posts on Re-energizing an Annual Campaign

Part 1:  6 Simple Steps to Success

As non-profit fundraisers, we all face new campaigns with equal parts excitement and trepidation. Our goal: to reach the successes of the past, plus attain the incremental growth that is baked into the budget each year.

But is that all there is?  Trudging through the same actions in hopes to eek out a 3% increase over last year’s result? Hardly enough to get us fired up every morning.

I am here to share a radical concept that you cannot only meet your numbers, but exceed them on the way to record-setting results!

Before you think this to be a too-good-to-be-true infomercial in the middle of the night or a segment on Shark Tank, we want to share a few real life strategies that deliver a significant return on your investment of time and human resources to achieve the goals your boss and board demands from you and that you demand from yourself.

You Can Do It!

Will these dramatic improvements in your results take a monumental shift in what you’re currently doing? Not really. The largest step is to change your attitude about fundraising by adopting a philosophy of “by any means necessary” to accomplish what may seem to be the impossible.

Non-profits by nature, and in turn their leaders, are driven by the desire to serve as many as possible. A simple fact is there will never be enough money to accomplish all of our goals. Each of us understands this on some basic level, but we’re still tasked to do the impossible at times. If you’re like me, you embrace this challenge and get to work. So let’s go to work.

Context

For the organization in this case study, the annual fundraiser had fallen into the trap of modest expectations and stagnant returns. Projecting robust growth did not seem probable for a campaign that had twenty-plus years of maturity and no real underlying factors why expansion or contraction were imminent.

What follows in this post and two subsequent articles is a recounting of the most recent annual fundraising project. Included are some of the strategies we employed to breakthrough our same ole, same ole results and we share a few tips we hope can be of use to you in your next fundraising effort.

We wish you well on your next campaign, but for now here are some of the activities that led us to the most successful fundraiser in the history of the organization as measured by the number of donors and total revenue generated.

Track Your Success

In creating the pathway for dramatic growth, we began by setting a stretch goal for ourselves. We long had a goal of 1,000 donors but had reached the 600-700 level but had plateaued in recent years.

As an important first step – we decided on a strategy of counting donors rather than contributions. Tracking is a topic discussed by many, but we have found for our fundraising efforts that raw numbers translate easily into donations. Working towards a goal of 500 or 1000 donors is a lot more psychologically satisfying then looking at a somewhat insurmountable goal of $200,000 or $500,000 – even though the outcome will essentially be the same.

By choosing to monitor the number of donors, we found it much easier to address our constituents with a message of trying to reach 1,000 supporters rather than a huge financial sum. With a published goal of donors, it was easy for fans to understand and to join as they realized there were 999 others standing right along side them. Semantics? Possibly. Marketing impact? Absolutely.

Set Your Calendar

Once we set our goal, step two was to set our calendar. By asking ourselves “what do we have to do by what date” allowed us to put benchmarks in place and formulate a timeline to all of our actions.  Commitment from all members of the team was imperative and the structure allowed us to work with a literal – if not actual – ticking clock in the room.

Given the campaign was to be conducted over a six to eight week period, we blocked out holidays and other dates where we would scale back the messaging, and wound up with a full-out seven day per week, multi-media, multi-channel appeal to share the message and the goals of our campaign.

Choose Your Media

When outlining the campaign’s media plan, we implemented a “no stone unturned” approach. If there was a media outlet we could use to get our message out, we were determined to use it to the best of its ability.

Social – check.

Email – check.

Direct Mail – check

Video – check.

Onsite event fundraising– check.

Telemarketing – check.

Personal outreach – check.

(There’s an abundance of info to share on this particular topic and I will post in a future post)

We determined that the only way for us to reach our goal was to be full out and at the end of the drive, if we didn’t achieve our goal, it would not be due to leaving something on the table.

Before We Begin

But before we begin, we should back up a bit to review.  As all good content marketers will tell you; it’s the work that is done prior to the campaign that captures the imagination of your donors, tells your story and allows supporters to determine why they will support you before you ever begin the campaign.

Never forget this important first step and as you prepare for your next appeal. Today is never too early to begin telling your story in fun, entertaining and inspiring ways.

Choose Teams

As we set out on our mission, we knew we needed to build our team from office staff, volunteers and other individuals who were to become our best friends over the next few weeks as we shifted into high gear.

Author’s Note: Fundraising campaigns should always be looked upon as a project similar to a major event or programming initiative. It is important to determine from the very beginning that the entire resources of the organization will be at your disposal. It really is THAT important!

Assigning roles and responsibilities to each of the members of paid and unpaid staff, along with a schedule of activities goes a long way to get the participation you need to reach your goals. It goes without saying that treating paid staff in the same way you would your most dedicated volunteers is a must.

With our goal in one hand, the calendar in another and twenty or so paid and unpaid staff behind us we began our expedition. Sure to be fraught with cliffs and crevasses, potholes and problems, our intrepid party set out to reach our 1,000 ‘foot’ plateau.

Check out the next installment of our Annual Report Trilogy when we explore six tips to improve fundraising results. 

Thanks to the team at YEA! for their work and contributions on this campaign: Brad Martin (fundraising), Mike Simaska (tech), Allison Watkins (social) and Dieter Wiselogel (media).

About

Sean King has been consulting with small businesses and non-profit organizations for 25 years. Currently, Sean is a principal in the Aspire Consulting Group providing solutions and training for arts, events and non-profit marketing professionals and their organizations. Clients include Youth Education in the Arts (YEA!) and a growing list of satisfied organizations. Sean speaks regularly throughout the U.S. including at the IFEA Annual Conference, Arts Reach Conference, AFP, 92Y, CiviCRM User Summit, PA Council on the Arts, Michigan Festivals & Event Annual Conference. Sean serves as the Marketing Chairperson for the Hamilton District Main Street, a program of the Allentown Chamber of Commerce in Allentown and is a Co-Chair of the Arts & Culture Committee for the Upside Allentown initiative. You can follow Sean on Twitter @skingaspire or email him anytime at sking.aspire@gmail.com

Posted in Content Marketing, Fundraising, Marketing, Motivation
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  1. […] of this three-part series. We are posting excerpts and encourage you to read the full posts on Sean’s blog. […]

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About Sean King
Sean King has been consulting with small businesses and non-profit organizations for 25 years.  Currently, Sean is a principle in the Aspire Consulting Group providing solutions and training for arts, events and non-profit marketing professionals and their organizations. Clients include Youth Education in the Arts (YEA!) and a growing list of satisfied organizations. Sean speaks regularly throughout the United States including at the IFEA Annual Conference, Arts Reach Conference, AFP, 92Y, CiviCRM User Summit, PA Council on the Arts, Michigan Festivals & Event Annual Conference.  Sean serves as the Marketing Chairperson for the Hamilton District Main Street program in Allentown and is a Co-Chair of the Arts & Culture Committee for the Upside Allentown initiative. He also blogs a artsmarketingblog.org.  You can follow Sean on Twitter @skingaspire. Sean resides with his wife Natalie and son Haydn in the global crossroads of Fogelsville, Pa.