Post-campaign planning is a critical phase in the fundraising cycle, yet often it is undertaken with too little commitment to make it effective. It’s understandable. There are numerous realities that can get in the way. Planning ahead – about 18-24 months before the end of your campaign – can mitigate these obstacles and allow you to reap the benefits of a well-executed post-campaign plan.
The risks of waiting are material. If you aren’t engaging your donors, they may well move on. Often an institution’s best talent leaves for another institution, fearing they will either not be challenged or that they may even be let go in the wake of a reduced workload. Combine these possibilities with the loss of momentum, and you put at risk your fundraising program as well as your next campaign.
Why do we fall into a pattern that we know is not best for our institution and for our vision for a sustained culture of philanthropy?
Timing and Exhaustion
When you are coming to the end of a long campaign, the last thing you want to think about is intense work over and above achieving the campaign’s financial objectives. Acknowledging the toll that a campaign can take on staff and volunteers is important, but this should not mean a loss of forward momentum.
We use this phrase often, but is it more a reflection of the fundraiser’s perception than the actual feelings of a donor? Donors will continue to make money, accumulate wealth and perform philanthropic acts. They are going to continue to give to somewhere, so why not put strategies in place to ensure your institution continues to be their priority?
The Joy of Victory
There is reason to fully engage in celebrations of a successful campaign and to hit the refresh button. Doing so at the expense of implementing post-campaign strategies, however, won’t cultivate future reasons to celebrate.
These are the very realities that make it crucial to begin post-campaign planning at least 18 months from the campaign’s conclusion. Staff and volunteers are still fully engaged in the campaign, so secure dedicated resources outside of the existing campaign team. An internal oversight committee and a written action plan will ensure that the course is set and resources are aligned.
I suggest that there are six absolutes to implementing a successful post-campaign plan:
Deep commitment from leadership
A dedicated project manager
Consistent and clear updates
Integrity and trust
If you subscribe to running a marathon as a metaphor for running campaigns, then we can borrow from what marathon runners are advised to do between races: build strength, run in a few 5K speed races and then begin the pre-marathon running schedule. In your post-campaign plans, remind your staff and volunteers that the time between campaigns is the ideal time to develop talent, be strategic and stay fully engaged in laying the groundwork for running the next campaign with even greater success.