The Sounds of Annual Campaign Planning: Part 4

As most of you already know, 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 constructing your campaign’s policies.

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

First, let me admit that I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to skipping the policy writing part of the annual campaign planning process. For some reason, I always saw this exercise as a harmless corner that could be cut without too much damage being done. For this reason, it is important to address this question first: “Why should you write policies pertaining specifically to your annual campaign?”

When in doubt, I always say “Google It!!!” … so I did and found this great little blurb straight out of a U.S. Department of Agriculture manual:

“Policies give direction to plans. They are a road map [that] management can follow to reach goals and attain objectives. Well written policy facilitates delegation of authority to the lowest feasible level . . . “

Let me use an example to help illustrate the importance of this wonderful little blurb and put it into context for a volunteer-driven fundraising campaign. So, let’s say I am sitting with a donor and just asked her to consider making a pledge of $1,000 to our annual campaign. The donor seems agreeable, but has some questions. I handle the first few questions flawlessly, but then we start getting into territory where I don’t have the slightest idea of what the answer might be (e.g. can the gift be paid for in stock, how much time does the donor have to pay-off their pledge, etc). Uh-oh! Maybe I shouldn’t “close the deal” right now because I need to find some answers to this donors questions.

Volunteers are already super reluctant to participate in face-to-face solicitations. One of their many fears is being unable to answer a donor’s question (or providing inaccurate answers to their questions).

From a staff perspective, written policies are your friend because they keep volunteers from calling you every other time with questions about whether or not something can be done. When your volunteer solicitors are empowered with that kind of knowledge, they are more successful at “closing the gift” and have fewer prospects to follow-up with after the original solicitation call.

Overall, writing campaign policies saves both staff and volunteers time and increases a volunteer’s confidence heading into a solicitation call.

Writing policies does not need to be a difficult or time-consuming part of your annual campaign planning process. I encourage staff and campaign volunteers to sit down and make a list of commonly asked questions. I suspect the following questions might be found on most lists:

  • How often can the non-profit send me a pledge reminder (e.g. how many payments can I slice my pledge into)? Or can you bill me on an irregular schedule of May, August, November and December?
  • By when do I need to have my pledge paid?
  • Do you accept stock as a form of payment? Or can I pay my contribution with a credit card?
  • Do you accept in-kind contributions, too? (e.g. cars, computer equipment, etc)
  • Will you send me an acknowledgement letter that I can give to my accountant for tax purposes? How soon will I get that documentation?
  • Will you share my name and contract information with other companies?
  • Can I make this contribution anonymously?
  • I hate receiving all that junk mail from charities . . . can I opt out of those mailings (e.g. newsletter, etc)?
  • I don’t like public recognition, can you keep my name off of donor honor rolls, newsletter recognition and the website?
  • May I designate my annual campaign contribution to a specific program or to a future building fund?

This list can go on and on and on, which can make this step in the planning process look time-consuming. So, I encourage you to not get carried away. If you haven’t ever written campaign policies, then start small. You can always add written policies in the future.

If you already have written resource development policies as part of your organization’s written resource development plan, then you may not have to re-invent the wheel. However, staff and volunteers should still take a moment to review those policies to ensure there isn’t anything missing from an annual campaign perspective.

If you are a “googling fool” like me, it will be a challenge to find samples if you try searching “annual campaign policies”. I suggest searching on phrases such as: “donor recognition policies” or “fundraising policies”. You’ll have a little more success. Or you can just facilitate an organic exercise and ask questions like the ones I pose above.

The biggest thing to remember is: involve your volunteers in this process. This is NOT a staff-only activity. Don’t forget that these written policies exist to help your volunteer solicitors feel more confident and get “The Question Song” out of their head before/during/after a solicitation call. So, excluding them from this process would be counter-productive.

ALSO … don’t forget that only the board of directors has the ability to bring written policies to life. So, whatever the annual campaign committee decides needs to be reviewed and approved by the board.

Does your organization have written policies that help guide your annual campaign? If so, are you willing to share them with others? How did you develop your policies? How and when do you educate volunteer solicitors on these policies before sending them out to talk to donors?

Please use the comment box below to answer some of these questions. As I always say, we can all learn from each other.

Here is to your health!

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


  1. After research a couple of of the blog posts in your website now, and I really like your approach of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website list and might be checking back soon. Pls check out my web page as well and let me know what you think.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.