Oooops! I forgot my annual campaign plan

The holidays are behind us and a new year is here. While this is obviously a time of renewal and fresh starts for some people, it is most likely annual campaign season for many non-profit organizations. I see Boys & Girls Clubs gearing up for their “It Just Takes One” campaign. The Boy Scouts are powering up their “Friends of Scouting” campaign. I also see many YMCAs hitting the streets with pledge cards in hand.

So, why would so many well established charities hit the streets with pledge cards in hand this close to the holiday season?

  • This seems to be a time (January through April) of the year when donors have a little more time to sit down and talk. Don’t believe me? Think about what your summer look like (e.g. vacations, etc). Now think about your fall (e.g. back to school, United Way blackout period, third quarter sales projects accompanied by planning for fourth quarter initiatives, etc) Now think about the holiday season that we just exited (e.g. shopping, holiday parties, etc).
  • Pledge drives are wonderful in the sense that non-profits aren’t asking for cash . . . they only want you to sign an IOU. This means that every month you wait to ask a donor to sign their pledge card there is that much less time for the donor to stretch out their pledge payments. Let’s do the math on a $500 pledge. Asking in January means the donor can make up to 12 payments of $41.66. Making the same ask mid-year translates into approximately six payments of $70 – $80. Waiting until September only gives the donor a few months to pay their pledge and results in payments in the neighborhood of $125.

The first bullet point is the bigger reason for planning a January through May campaign unless your annual campaign is direct mail driven. The second bullet point is more relevant to non-profits whose fiscal year ends on December 31st. While it is true that pledges can be dragged over into a new calendar (and fiscal) year, many non-profits like to keep their books clean as they prepare for their year-end audit.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen non-profit friends get into early January with first and second quarter revenue budgeted for an annual campaign, but no written plan in place on how to move forward. If you find yourself in this situation, you’re in good company. However, you may want to reach for your “To Do List” and add the following things to it for this week :

  • Develop your Range of Gifts chart. (Click here to read a really good article on this from Joanne Fritz at
  • Engage a few volunteers and start brainstorming names of prospective donors who fit into various gift ranges.
  • Build a prospect list of potential volunteer solicitors who you think possess the skill sets and experiences to do a nice job with a personal solicitation model (e.g. face-to-face asks)
  • Start recruiting from your volunteer solicitor prospect list.

If the end of 2011 was a blur and you find yourself at the beginning of 2012 without a written annual campaign plan, these simple four bullet points are a great place to start. However, you can’t afford to dilly dally. These four things are your tasks for this week. There is still a mountain to climb. If you want to get a preview of your impending journey, you might want to read this very thorough article by Henry Rosso and Robert Schwartzberg that I found online at The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Are you one of those non-profits who find themselves without a plan? If so, what do you find on your “To Do List” this week and next week? If you are one of those well-planned agencies, what advice or suggestions do you have for those who aren’t as fortunate? Please use the comment box below to weigh-in with your thoughts because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


  1. If an organization is adding to their to-do list for their annual campaign THIS WEEK…they should probably have and check off this one:

    Make sure you ask your snowbirds before they head south for the winter. They won’t be back, most of them, until April or May…and as Erik talks about here, that doesn’t give them a lot of time to spread out payments.

    Get that checked off your list this week, if it isn’t already too late to catch them! My two cents on the matter (and what’s on my checklist too). 🙂

    1. Thanks, Susan! You are totally right, and I’m glad you brought this up. Snowbirds are a tough segment in most NFP’s donor database. This Midwestern RD professional sometimes wondered what it was like to fundraise in Florida or Arizona. 😉

      Hear that everyone . . . quick . . . call your snowbirds and get on their calendars before you loose them for a few months.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.