Campaigns are like Marathons – Part 2

Categories: Capital Campaigns, News

Think of a capital or comprehensive campaign like running a marathon. You wouldn’t show up at the starting line without training, or start celebrating success at mile 17 when there’s still a long way to go. The second installment of this five-part series builds the endurance you’ll need to succeed.

Assessment: the final preparation

Before you start a campaign, you’ll need to know that it’s likely you can reach the final goal. And you’ll want to identify the obstacles that might slow your pace. That’s the role of pre-campaign assessment.

Test your limits
Every marathoner knows the value of the 20-mile run. For most, this is the longest practice run: the final test. If you can endure that 20-mile route—your knees don’t give out, your energy gels last, your gym shoes stay intact—you’ll be ready to take the starting line.

A campaign assessment, like the infamous 20-mile run, answers long-anticipated questions: are you really ready? can you reach the goal? It typically includes interviews with the donors and leaders who will be counted on most—usually conducted by an objective outsider (i.e. consulting firm). It may also involve analysis of your donor data. You can learn more about campaign assessments here.

Know the course
Where are the “heartbreak hills” that will test your will? When will you turn a corner and find a strong headwind?

It’s impossible to know everything that you’ll encounter. After all, the typical campaign lasts more than four years, so there will be economic ups and downs, new philanthropic players, emerging fundraising technologies.

Knowledge of the philanthropic landscape will help you take these obstacles in stride. Consult with experts like Giving USA® and the Fundraising Effectiveness Project so that you can anticipate changes. Keep your teammates (especially key volunteers) informed so that they will stay the course—not overreact—when those inevitable speedbumps occur.

Warm up
If you’ve done everything right, then you’ll have a cadre of eager supporters. They’ve been engaged throughout the planning and assessment process and they believe in the campaign’s goals.

Some can’t wait for that starter’s pistol to sound—and that’s o.k. If donors want to show their support by making an early pledge, they can be recognized for a “qualifying reach-back gift”, which can be counted toward the campaign goal, recognize the donor’s zeal, and ensure the campaign gets off to a fast start. It’s a clear indication that you are warmed up and ready to go.


Up next: The Early Phase: Setting the Pace