The Sounds of Annual Campaign Planning: Part 2

For those of you following along, you know that I am dedicating all of this week’s blog posts to the 2012 annual campaign planning process, and I’m putting it all to music just for the fun of it. Today’s post focuses on prospect identification & evaluation and campaign goal setting.

Cue the music . . . click here for your first musical selection then start reading.  🙂

For many of you, this is budget season and you’re sitting around your computers plugging numbers into spreadsheets. Finance committee and board volunteers are poking and prodding, which results in revisions and more meetings. “Lather-Rinse-Repeat“.

As you go through this mind-numbing process, I know many of you are projecting your annual campaign revenue all alone in your locked office. Even more likely, you’re probably pulling numbers out of the air, plugging them into spreadsheet cells that previously held smaller numbers, and are muttering things under your breath like:

  • “Well, we just don’t have a choice. The annual campaign simply needs to bring that in.”
  • “We raised $X last year … surely our volunteers and staff can increase that by 10%.”
  • “Once we make the case to our annual campaign donors, they will see things for what they actually are and everyone will increase their gift a little bit.”

If this picture describes you, then stop what you’re doing. Put down the Häagen-Dazs ice cream. And push away from the spreadsheet. Click here for your next musical selection because we need to take a good hard look in the mirror.

As I posted yesterday, I really encourage you to sit down with volunteers to do your 2012 annual campaign planning. Before tossing numbers around and rationalizing a new goal, I urge you to dig into your donor database and start with real numbers.

I’ve always liked involving volunteers first and starting with donor identification & evaluation exercises, then using that data/analysis to back into a campaign goal. For some reason it just feels more real to me. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Look at who gave last year. Determine who is likely to make another contribution. Set a ‘suggested ask amount’ based on past giving history and what the people around the table are saying about that donor’s capacity and willingness to contribute in 2012.  (Always remember — people’s lives change)
  • Look for new prospective donors. Ask volunteers to review donor lists from your special events (or any other fundraiser for that matter). Also ask them to review donor honor rolls from other non-profits and service club membership rosters. Many of these are ‘cold leads,’ but with the right person making the solicitation they might just turn into a supporter. Be very conservative when assigning suggested ask amounts to these prospects.
  • Look at your agency’s ‘prospect cultivation list’ for the last year. Add any names from that list if you think they’re ready to take that next step from ‘prospect’ to ‘donor’. Again, be very conservative when assigning suggested ask amounts to these prospects.
  • After you and your volunteers have agreed upon a complete list of prospects and assigned each of them an ask amount, sum the column and divide by two (or divide by three if you want to be very conservative). Congratulations . . . you now have your first draft annual campaign goal that can be inserted into the agency’s 2012 budget spreadsheet.

The truth is that this is probably just a starting point. Many fundraising professionals and executive directors like to start tweaking the numbers from here.

  • Some people pull out the donors with giving history and only applying the “divide by two” or “divide by three” rule to new campaign prospects.
  • Some people use a Range of Gifts chart to do this analysis, and instead of dividing anything, they add two or three prospects for every gift required.
  • Some people have these discussions with volunteers around a table, and others use a paper or digital process to take personalities out of it and inject an air of confidentiality.

There is no science to this process, but the hard truth is that you need to develop a process that instills a sense of confidence in the numbers for your volunteers. I believe starting with prospect identification and evaluation exercises that lead into a discussion around goal setting keeps things realistic. Of course, there will be talk about “what needs to be raised,” but the work you do on the front-end will help balance the urge to use ‘plug numbers’ in your agency’s budget spreadsheet on the back-end.

If you start down this path now, then you might just find yourself humming this song from R. Kelly when sitting in front of your spreadsheet plugging in revenue numbers for your annual campaign.

How does your agency set its annual campaign goals? What ‘science’ do you bring to the table with your volunteers? Too many of us pull numbers of the air. So, please step up and share how you do things because we can all learn from each other.

Here is to your health!

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

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