Considering a campaign? Four signs you’re ready.

Whether focused on capital (a building) or comprehensive (organization-wide) funding needs, campaigns provide the central cycle of fundraising that keeps nonprofits building, growing, and fulfilling their missions.

But campaigns are also a complex and intensive undertaking. How do you know when your nonprofit is "campaign ready?" Here are four surefire signs that you’re on the right track:

1. You have strong support from your leadership, including board members, lead donors, and all key constituencies within your organization. A successful campaign extends well beyond the Development team—it’s an organization-wide commitment. As you begin to explore the feasibility of campaign planning, it’s important to meet with representatives from all key constituencies within your organization. What are their thoughts regarding campaign planning at this time? Are they enthusiastic, or do they have concerns? What are their top priorities? How are they willing to be engaged in this effort? Their feedback will be critical to your planning process.

2. You have access to historical data to guide your projections and planning.
Although your campaign will undoubtedly unleash new funding opportunities, your historical data presents a critical benchmark against which to establish your goals. Begin with real numbers, based on your organization’s fundraising history, and then develop ambitious yet achievable targets to measure your campaign’s success. Don’t forget that you always have the opportunity to raise or lower your goal over time, based on progress.

3. You are able to articulate compelling, urgent organizational needs—and how increased philanthropy will help to move the needle. Effective fundraising is always driven by impact. Campaigns can serve as powerful opportunities to create new excitement and urgency, but they must first begin with tangible and visionary needs that can be articulated in a compelling case for support. Remember that most campaigns span 5-7 years (including a quiet phase), and you will need robust funding opportunities to engage your supporters throughout the campaign timeframe.

4. Your Development team is appropriately staffed and resourced to launch a successful campaign. From capital projects to signature fundraising events, campaigns represent a period of elevated Development activity across your nonprofit. Your current Development team may be adequately resourced to manage the projected workflow, but many organizations find that they need to hire additional staff in order to execute a successful campaign. Since the hiring process can take several months, be sure to allow enough lead time to fill your campaign fundraising team.

If you've checked YES to all four, congratulations! You are ready to begin the campaign planning process.

--Lauren Hall

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