Thursday, June 23, 2016

Donor Relations and Campaigns

It's common for most organizations to be in one of the three phases of campaign at all times. Silent, public, and post/close. But when during the campaign should donor relations be in the spotlight. The selfish answer is all of the time. The reality is campaigns are changing and so is donor relations. Campaign staffing used to ramp up pre campaign and then fall off sharply post campaign with experienced staff scattering and new portfolios built and culled. But the reality is that most organizations are no longer "staffing down" anymore after a campaign concludes because retention of skilled staff is so important and crucial to future success. 

When I first started consulting I would receive calls and emails saying, "we've launched a campaign, we should probably think about donor relations now". That paradigm has shifted. Now, more and more calls are coming at the silent phase and also at the conclusion of the campaign. Let me state this clearly for those of you grappling with donor relations staffing and efficacy during a campaign: staff up early and ramp up as the campaign goes along. By the time a successful campaign closes, you should have many new donors and tons of new funds to care for. That's where an effective donor relations team excels. Many donors will be in 5 year pledge commitments for their campaign gifts and one of the missions and metrics of donor relations is pledge payment completion. 

There isn't much gap time anymore between campaigns, usually when one closes the organization is silent into another one. Fundraisers are constantly pushed to cultivate new donors for the next major gift. That's where good donor relations strategy shines. We can excel at maintaining those existing relationships, stewarding funds and engaging donors with their generosity. In addition a campaign allows us to examine our policies and procedures in a new way with a clear focus.

 Some of the activities I take on with my clients in order to prepare for a campaign are:
Comprehensive fund audit including criteria and financial/unspent fund review 
  • Naming and recognition guideline review or creation including his minimum amounts to name funds
  • Gift agreement template review
  • Acknowledgment level review and realignment
  • Event effectiveness evaluation
  • Giving society realignment

These are just some of the things that can demonstrate that a donor relations shop has its house in order and is ready for a campaign. Don't forget at the close of a successful campaign, the heavy lifting for donor relations begins! 

What else did you add to prepare for your last campaign? What needs are you seeing from staff and resources?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.



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