Annual Campaign Boot Camp?

As many of you know, I opened my non-profit consulting practice a few weeks ago after Labor Day. It was a “soft open,” which means I am actively pursuing and accepting work, but I’m still frantically developing business infrastructure like my website, menu of services, etc. In fact, I am running out the door in just a few minutes to meet with my marketing friends at Marketplace Media Group.

Part of the “opening the doors” process has been identifying services and trying to price them according to what the marketplace of non-profit organizations allegedly demands. One of the services I plan to offer is something I’m naming “Annual Campaign Boot Camp“.

I got this idea from my personal trainer, Kathy Bruno, who runs a weekly “Fit Camp Challenge” at The Centre, which is my gym in Elgin, IL. In this program, Kathy is a coach and consultant focused on teaching participants best practices around exercise and diet. She is the accountability queen, and I think she enjoys beating the living life out of me every Wednesday.

So, it was a few weeks ago as I slugged around the track I started thinking: “Hey, I wonder if non-profit leaders and resource development professions would participant in a similar program focused around annual campaign planning and implementation? And if so, what would it look like?”

Every since that epiphany, I’ve had this scene from Stripes playing over and over in my head as I trudge around the track. Click this link if you want to enjoy a trip down memory lane with Bill Murray.

However, my challenge is that I need to add some flesh to the bones of this concept, and I would like some help from YOU (which means I am asking all of you shy subscribers to this blog to please take a moment to write a comment or drop me a note via email or social media . . . PLEASE . . . I really do need your help)

Here are some of the random (and incomplete) ideas and questions rolling around my head:

  • Bi-weekly coaching sessions by phone with participants (resource development staff only or campaign chairperson included?)
  • Just coaching or are there some online “trainings” also offered?
  • Is there a benchmarking component to the program for post-campaign comparative purposes?
  • Is there a “group component” to this program? For example, should there be opportunities for all organizations that sign-up to periodically assemble in the same online chatroom (or Tweet-up) to discuss challenges and learn from each other (and collectively share solutions with each other)? If so, how often?

I normally use my blog bully pulpit to talk about your challenges and provide subscribers with my expertise and advice. Today, I’m turning the tables and asking for your expertise and advice. PLEASE take one minute out of your day and help me with some of these questions.

Any comments and feedback would be very much appreciated! What else do you think should be included in this Boot Camp product? What issues do you have with your organization’s annual campaign that you think could be helped with a service like this? What price do you think organizations your size might be willing to pay for this service?

I normally end my blog posts by saying “We can learn from each other” . . . however, today I’m going to emphasize that “I can learn from you.” I look forward to your input and appreciate your time. Thank you!!!

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


  1. Hi Erik – I like the idea. Its a very targeted offering. I’m wondering if annual campaigns are widely recognized and understood among board members? Thus, you may want to add a module that targets board members and provides education on why annual campaigns are important. I think a topic that may resonate with staff is how to effectively use social media to advance the annual campaign. I like the peer convenings idea. Thats a solid offering. I also think that any offerings that focus on proven case studies would be extremely helpful.

    Specific to implementation, I really believe the boot camp offering will need to be tailored to the life cycle of the each organization. Thus, onsites will work better for some and online will work better for others.

    I believe organizations retain consultants for two main reasons:
    1. to gain knowledge / expertise that they do not have
    2. to gain staff “horsepower” that the organization lacks
    If you buy that, one of your boot camp add on services may be to simply run part or all of the annual campaign for the client.

    In capacity building, readiness is critical. Thus, you may want to add a readiness assessment to the boot camp.

    Lastly, the post campaign benchmarking is a FANTASTIC idea. And if you could build some data based on the various campaigns from client engagements, the data would be extremely impactful.

    1. Hey Mark . . . It is great to see you commenting on the blog!!! Thank you. You comments are all right on target and I appreciate every single one of them. However, as for the “onsite” suggestion . . . I struggle with this a little bit. One of the services I am offering is called “Full-Service Annual Campaign Consulting”. It is a blend of onsite, online, and phone consulting focused on annual campaign planning, implementation and evaluation. As I recall, I priced that service at $4,000 (does not include travel costs). My thinking with this boot camp concept was to get away from consulting and focus on “coaching” for those organization who don’t want or need a consultant but are looking for an expert to act as a guide in the wilderness and someone who might bring some sense of urgency and accountability. My other line of thinking with this service product was to create something less expensive that a $4,000 product . . . I was actually looking at pricing an annual campaign coaching service in the neighborhood of $400 or $500, which means working via telephone and tech with no physical travel (in order to keep costs down).

      I am not sold on any of this yet. I am still brainstorming, which is why I so very much appreciate blog comments like yours and the emails coming in from old friends who do this for a living.

      Other than the travel suggestion, I think you’re insights are keen and right on target. I know this product will be better thanks to your input.

      If you’re available, let’s get together for another cup of coffee inmid-October. I’ve love to pick your brain a little more about food pantries and their organizational needs. 😉


  2. I like the idea of bi-weekly check-in phone conferences. Some people really need to be held to it. Although that ticks off certain personality types as well. LOL But I like the idea. I think bi-weekly with the RD professional and a different schedule for the campaign chair. The campaign chair has different needs than the RD professional. The RD Professional will be running this campaing year after year, whereas the chair has a different buy in. They want to make THIS campaign the best ever and “hopefully” give feedback for next year, but it’s a different viewpoint. Also, the RD professional needs a venue to discuss and process how their chair is doing, what to look for in the next chair or what NOT to look for in the next chair.

    Coaching vs training. It really depends on their background. New RD professionals need the training to learn the science, whereas seasoned (I’m 37 now so getting sensitive about the word OLD!) RD professionals need the coaching to mold their art and merge it with the science.

    I like the idea of interacting with other RD folks via technology. We are fortunate in the BGC realm because this is already built in and encouraged. I have thought a LOT about other non-profits without a large national network with regional and local support. How in the world do they not feel like a teeny island in a huge ocean? Learning from each other is important and feeling supportive and like you’re NOT the only one going through pitfalls and having a group to celebrate with is important.

    Those are my thoughts 🙂 Have a great weekend Erik.

    1. Thanks, Sarah! Awesome ideas and I’ve often had the same thoughts about NFPs who don’t have a national organization to rely upon for technical assistance. Of course, they now have The Healthy Non-Profit LLC. 🙂

      I know you and your husband are huge Packer fans. So, I will wish you a great weekend and say: “GO BEARS!!!” 😉

  3. YEA! YEA! YEA!!! I think this is a great idea and I believe that many new and challenged (read: frustrated) RD professionals will love it, too. Your sales pitch, however, needs to be focused on the campaign chairperson/Board volunteers. Good news for non-profits is that your services will likely be MUCH cheaper than trying to ship an entire Board and staff to a conference for similar information. I believe that the accountability/coaching piece is what will make all the difference.

    My suggestions from 30,000 feet:
    1. The bi-weekly phone calls are PRICELESS! I would ensure that they are held with RD professionals and campaign volunteers at the same time. What you are essentially teaching them to do (much like your personal trainer) is to hone their skills and develop good habits so that they can be successful on their own in the future. The key part of that, as you well know, is the ability to work TOGETHER AS A TEAM. Take full advantage of the opportunity to create a culture of “how it oughta be.” 🙂
    2. If I were hiring you, I would desperately hope for a follow-up at six months and one year as well. So we can make sure that our application of those lessons is still on track as we write the next RD plan without you.
    3. I would list the trainings as “a la carte” above and beyond the coaching sessions. Organizations that are local subsidiaries of larger entities will already be buried in such workshops and small, independent organizations in desperation mode won’t have the time, resources or attention span for them.
    4. Benchmarking component is a great idea, too. If we would have called you in at my last non-profit gig, it would have been helpful to have you show us some standard benchmarks as well as guide us through the difficult process of creating of identifying a few of our own.
    5. The group chats will be an invaluable service for those organizations that are willing to take advantage of it. I would limit those to quarterly, but offer them two or three times on the respective dates. It’s a great opportunity to share best practices, “borrow” tools that really work, etc. What often frustrates me as a participant in such forums is the One-Man (or Woman) Wolf Pack that sucks all of the oxygen out of the room with their tragic story/hopeless situation and limits the amount of genuine engagement that could happen. It should be a technology-driven venue for synergy, not comisserating. If you need an online chatroom bouncer, give me a call!

    In your cheering section with pom-poms ready…

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