Season 3, Episode 20
If you’re curious about what goes into a campaign plan, this episode is for you. Amy Eisenstein and Andrea Kihlstedt go through each of the 10 elements of a campaign plan one at a time.
Are you and your board members raring to go, dying to ask people for gifts? That’s fantastic. But if you don’t have a campaign plan, you’re not ready.
Hi, I’m Amy Eisenstein, and I’m with my colleague and co-founder, Andrea Kihlstedt, and today we are going to talk about the 10 elements that you need in a campaign plan before you start asking for gifts.
What is a Campaign Plan? Key Components
Andrea, let’s talk about campaign plans and why they’re so important. What’s in a campaign plan? What’s a campaign plan anyways?
What is a campaign plan? I’ll bet you don’t know. Amy, I know you know, but if you listen to this podcast, chances are good you don’t know because a lot of people don’t know all the elements of a campaign plan. Amy and I have spent a lot of time clarifying and figuring out what those elements are.
The very first piece of a campaign plan is a statement of your campaign objectives. What do we mean by that? Well, what are you raising the money for?
Sometimes it’s two or three or four, even five things you’re raising money for. You need a clear simple outline or a statement of what you’re raising money for. That is the first and the most important element of your campaign plan.
It sounds simple, but it actually can be quite complicated. Because frequently people come to us and say:
“It’s our big anniversary, it’s our 50th anniversary, so we want to do a campaign!”
“We just want to have more money in the bank and we want to grow the endowment.”
Well, that’s not specific enough. Neither of those things are exciting or even part of your programs.
It’s not specific enough in terms of how you’re going to grow your organization or what you’re going to do. Maybe I’m not explaining it right, but campaign objectives do need to be specific and tell how you’re going to expand your programs and services and serve the community better. Maybe that’s your case for support.
What Are You Raising Money For: Be Specific!
What you’re going to raise money for. In fact, that’s what they are, they’re what you’re going to raise money for, and each one of them should have a dollar figure attached to it:
- We’re going to buy a piece of land.
- We’re going to build a building.
- We’re going to renovate a building.
- We’re going to start a new program.
Each one of those should have a cost estimate. Because when you add up those cost estimates, that’s going to be the working goal of your campaign. When you have campaign objectives and a working goal, that brings you to the second element of your campaign plan, which is a gift range chart. Amy, tell us what that is.
Your Gift Range Chart: A Central Piece of Your Campaign Plan
Yes — your gift range chart is how many gifts you need at what levels to accomplish your goal.
As Andrea just said, your campaign objectives, you’re going to add price tags to the best of your ability for each one and total them up. That’s your working goal. And then you need to figure out how many gifts at what levels you need in order to accomplish that goal. And that is your gift range chart. That’s the second element of your campaign plan.
Amy, I often think that those first two elements of the campaign plan underpin everything. When you really know what you’re going to raise money for and how much those are going to cost or estimates for that and you have a gift range chart, your campaign begins to come into some kind of clarity and shape.
Answer the Question: Why Are You Raising Money?
But the next piece, which is really important, is that you need to take those things — your campaign objectives — and you need to be able to answer the question, why does it matter?
- What is the case for someone to give to this campaign?
- What are the benefits?
- If we spend this money on these objectives, what difference is it going to make?
You need to be able to write and articulate a clear case for supporting your project.
Use a Donor Discussion Guide in Liu of a Brochure
Just to make it clear, in this early stage of your campaign, that is not a fancy brochure. It is a Word document that really outlines why this is important, why people should care, and that’s the case for support.
As a companion piece, I don’t know if you would explain it that way, we have the next element, which is a donor discussion guide. We like to think about that as a graphic illustration. What’s the word I’m looking for?
An infographic. That’s the word I was looking for, an infographic about your campaign. It tells the story of the case for support in a slightly different way, that you can sit down with a donor and quickly review the key elements of the campaign
Your Donor Recognition Plan
Those are the first four elements of your campaign plan. Now, the next element of your campaign plan takes us in a slightly different direction, and that’s your recognition plan, your donor recognition plan. When donors start making gifts to your campaign, what is your plan for recognizing and appreciating them?
- Are you going to name rooms?
- Are you going to put their names on plaques?
- How are you going to acknowledge their gifts?
Your donor recognition plan needs to be organized in a way that reflects the giving levels that are shown on your gift range chart.
If you have a couple of very high gifts on your gift range chart, which you will have, you need to say donors at those top levels will be recognized in such and such a way. Donors in the mid-level are going to be recognized in a different way, and donors at the bottom level are going to be recognized in yet another way. You use your gift range chart, which was the second piece of your campaign plan, as a way of thinking about and coming up with a donor recognition plan for your campaign.
Capital Campaign Policies
Alright, what’s next? Campaign policies. These are so important and really outline to your audience, your board, your staff, your community, your donors what kind of gifts you will and won’t accept when you’re starting to count gifts towards the campaign.
There’s lots of things that go into your campaign policies that help clarify any potential confusion and help answer questions that might come up during the campaign. It’s so important to really think through what those might be.
Of course, we have samples and templates inside the Online Toolkit that members of Capital Campaign Pro have access to, but you can certainly ask colleagues and friends and even search on the web probably to find samples of campaign policies. But it does take some careful thought and effort so that you don’t end up in a pickle later in terms of what you will allow, what you won’t allow, what the pledge period is, and what gifts you accept.
If somebody wants to give you an old gas station and you don’t have a campaign policy about what you will and won’t accept, you might end up in a little tangle in the middle of your campaign and you want to try and do everything you can to prevent that at the outset.
Campaign policies will also keep you from making ad hoc decisions. It’s a set of policies that you can go back to, to the donor say, “I want to do something in this way or that way.” A donor, for example, might say:
“Well, I’ll give you a million dollars, but I want to give it over 10 years.”
Well, your campaign policies should outline the pledge period that will be acceptable for your campaign.
If you have those policies established initially right in the beginning as a part of your campaign plan, then you can go back to that donor and say:
“In our campaign policies, which have been approved by the board, we show that we have a three-year pledge period. For higher gifts, a donor might go to five years, but no more than that.”
That would be something that would be in your campaign policies, among many other things. But that kind of thinking gives you a way to then head off problems as they might surface during your campaign.
Your Campaign Timeline
The next piece of your campaign plan is your timeline. Now, your timeline may change as you go forward it. You may decide you have a three-year campaign. It may go longer than that, but you want in your campaign plan to have a preliminary timeline that you can then go back to the board to change if need be.
The campaign timeline often is outlined according to the phases of the campaign, but what’s important in it is that you have:
- a start date
- and an end date
I.e., that you want to begin the campaign in September of 2023 and your anticipation is that it will end by the end of the year in 2026. It gets very clear. It puts a little pressure on everybody to make that happen if you actually outline it in your campaign plan.
What’s the next piece of the campaign plan, Amy?
Committees, Volunteers, and Staffing
We want a committee structure, a volunteer structure, a staffing structure.
At Capital Campaign Pro, we think about campaign committees as ad hoc committees that come and go throughout the duration of the campaign. You don’t necessarily need a humongous campaign committee that you recruit right at the beginning. Often those committees don’t function well because there’s not specific roles for people. They don’t know what they’re doing. They become report out meetings. Everybody feels kind of useless.
You really want to think through how you’re going to use your staff and your volunteers and your committees as you go through each phase of the campaign. We do it really, I think, in a strategic, thoughtful way at Capital Campaign Pro where in each phase of the campaign we think about having a different subcommittee, like a campaign planning committee. We’re talking about the campaign plans, so you might recruit a handful of key potential volunteers and donors to review your campaign plans and give you feedback before you bring it to the board.
It’s a great role for campaign volunteers and a little campaign committee that they don’t necessarily need to commit to three years of the campaign, but they play an important role in your campaign. You’ll want to outline your campaign committees as part of your campaign plan.
Campaign Communications Plan
The next piece that of your campaign plan is going to be a communications plan, a campaign communications plan. We actually suggest that your communications plan be organized in keeping with the phases of a campaign. Because for each of the phases of your campaign, you’re going to have different messages, different audiences, and the different ways in which you communicate.
If you look at each phase of your campaign and map out a simple plan, it doesn’t have to be complicated, but a simple plan that spells out:
- what messages are you going to be using in that part of your campaign
- how are you going to be getting the messages out
- who are you going to be talking to
Then you’re not winging it as you go. You have a sense of what it is you’re trying to do. Just that to me when I first learned it was such an aha. I never thought about a communications plan that changed as we went through the campaign phases.
It clarified things for me when we came up with that.
Your Campaign Budget
Finally, and this is the 10th piece of your campaign plan and is so important, maybe it should be the first, I don’t know, and that is that you need to have a campaign budget and it should be in your campaign plan.
Amy, why don’t you talk about the budget?
This is something that’s so important to a campaign, right? Unfortunately, I think lots of staff and board members don’t think about budgeting for the campaign, but it does cost money to raise money.
The rule of thumb and how we like to think about it is that your campaign budget initially should be approximately 10% of your campaign working goal. If you have a $10 million campaign that you’re planning for, you should have a budget of 10% or a million dollars over the life of the campaign, so over three years. And that means ultimately that your goal is going to be $11 million.
You build it into the price of the campaign or the amount you’re raising because you will need to potentially hire additional staff, hire expertise and consulting. You will need to pay for donor recognition, probably some receptions or ribbon cuttings, materials.
There are expenses that go into running a successful campaign. And the reality is that if you are able to raise money for 10 cents on the dollar, it’s a fantastic return on investment, but you do need a campaign budget.
If you have a campaign budget as a part of your plan and that’s all approved by your board, then you’re not having to nickel-and-dime in every expenditure as you go through your campaign. It will have been approved. It’s so important to do that right up to have your board understanding that the campaign is going to cost money.
Include Everything Toward Your Campaign Goal
Now, you can include and should include the amount of money that it’s going to cost you to do this campaign in the campaign itself. Your organization might front-end some of that money, but it will be paid back from the money that you raised during the campaign.
Recap: 10 Things in Your Capital Campaign Plan
Now, Amy, we’ve gone through 10 items of a campaign plan and 10 is a big list.
Here’s what I’d like to do, because people are just listening to this while they’re driving their cars and they didn’t know they were going to encounter a list of 10 things, but I’d like to give people a chance to maybe pause the recording, get out a piece of paper or their cell phone or something that they can do that, and let’s just make a list for them to capture all 10 elements of a campaign plan. And then they can begin thinking about what they already have in place, what they need to do, and start getting information about all the pieces. Let’s just list. I’ll do one and you do the next, Amy.
Alright, sounds good. Go ahead.
1. Statement of Campaign Objectives
Number one, campaign objectives, a statement of campaign objectives.
2. Gift Range Chart
And with campaign objectives comes the working goal. We’re going to count that as number one. How much do those campaign objectives cost? That’s your initial campaign goal. All right, number two is gift range chart.
3. Draft of Your Case for Support
Yes. It’s so important, how to break down that working goal, so you see how many gifts you’re going to need at what level. Number three, a case for support, a draft of the case for support, not a final fancy brochure, but the arguments of why someone should give to your campaign. That’s what your case for support is. That’s number three.
4. Donor Discussion Guide
Excellent. Number four is a donor discussion guide. That is an infographic of a campaign that you are going to talk through with donors.
5. Donor Recognition Plan
Number five, a donor recognition plan. You need to start that right up front in your campaign plan.
6. Campaign Policies
Yes. Number six is campaign policies, so how you’re going to count gifts, how you’re going to accept gifts when you’re going to start and stop the campaign, all sorts of things to help prevent you from making those ad hoc decisions as you go through the campaign.
7. Campaign Timeline
Number seven, your campaign timeline, when is it going to start, when is it going to finish, and what are the phases as you go through that.
8. Committee Structure
Number eight is your committee structure. How are you going to think about different committees through the phases of the campaign?
9. Campaign Communications Plan
Number nine, a campaign communications plan. Not communications for everything, but specific plan for the communications you’re going to use for your campaign.
10. Campaign Budget
And number 10, last but not least, is your campaign budget. So important to make sure that everybody understands what the expenses related to the campaign are right up front.
Now, Amy, there’s one more thing to note. Two more things actually:
- One is that once you have your campaign plan together in the campaign planning phase of your campaign, you will be taking it to your board for approval. It is a real document that you’re going to pull all these things together.
You’re going to put a title page that says campaign plan on it, and you’re going to give that to your board. You’re going to ask them to review it, and you’re going to ask them to approve it. That’s so important.
- And number two, you need to have your campaign plan in place and approved by your board before you start asking for gifts.
Yeah. I think it’s so interesting, people are, I think, often confused about what goes into a campaign plan, and the reality is that it’s a series of documents. We’ve just gone through the documents. It’s not one big plan. Its elements broken up into and combined to make a campaign plan.
Of course, we have samples and templates of each of these documents in the Toolkit, which is part of Capital Campaign Pro.
If you’re curious about how to put this together and would love to see samples, I encourage you to come on over to the Capital Campaign Pro website and see what we have to offer. We would love to help you develop your campaign plan.
Alright, Andrea, I think this was hopefully helpful to our listeners and really concrete and specific, which you know I love.
Yes, excellent. Amy, it’s always fun to do this with you. Goodbye, everybody. We’ll see you again next week.
Thanks for joining us.