The Advancement Team

by Robert K. Lewis, Jr. of member firm Global Advancement

We’ve all heard the expression “There’s no ‘I’ in team.” Cliché or not, it happens to be true, especially when it comes to forming and directing an advancement team to guide a comprehensive campaign.

No one or two consultants, despite their years of experience, can push a campaign along by themselves. We have a roster of talented associates and always assign members to a project based upon their specific skills and expertise. We also designate a project Team Leader from among our associates with approval from the client.

The most important part of any campaign is the planning process. The type of planning required will depend upon whether you are working on a campaign of a specific length or providing ongoing counsel to a client.

One of the key early steps in the planning process is the development of a compelling case for support, an essential ingredient that effectively communicates to its constituents the organization’s needs, vision, values and potential impact upon the community.

In a campaign, we recommend the formation of a strong leadership council, a team made up of board members and friends of the organization who will be the day-to-day leaders of the campaign. This group normally meets quarterly, or more often by conference call, to help keep the campaign on track. Leadership council members are expected to make leadership gifts and to link the campaign to corporate and foundation contacts as well as major gift prospects. Selecting a strong chair for this leadership council is also vital.

Next is the campaign plan, a detailed road map that guides the campaign through the months or years of work on behalf of the cause. The campaign plan includes essentials such as a timeline, roles and responsibilities of campaign leaders, volunteers and staff, phases and tracks of activity, as well as lead and major gift efforts.

During the quiet phase the leadership council, staff and our team work to raise 40 to 50 percent of the campaign goal. Challenge gifts are important here. When the time is right, we then recommend a public phase in which we cast a wider net to secure the remaining 40 to 50 percent of the needed funds. This is the time at which we make the public well aware of the campaign and its importance to the organization and community.

As Gregg Carlson so aptly explained in an earlier Giving Institute blog entry, the most money raised in a capital campaign won’t necessarily come from the likes of major corporate donors such as Wal-Mart, AT&T and Bank of America (combined giving in 2009: $737 million), but from individuals, wealthy individuals, mind you, but people who decided to give a piece of their personal fortunes to your campaign because it was worth supporting. And each campaign gift is the result of an “ask” by members of the campaign team working together, from which all positive results flow.

There literally are hundreds of quotes by famous and successful business leaders and coaches about the qualities and traits of successful teams. The Global Advancement Team effort applies individual talents and experiences to a group effort. We understand that every campaign requires a team effort in order to achieve the greatest success.

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