Before the Campaign Planning Study There’s the Business Plan

By: Keith Curtis, President, The Curtis Group (member firm)

As part of our annual webinar series, The Curtis Group hosted a discussion on “What Makes an Effective Campaign.”  During the forum, a question was posed by a participant asking us to further explain the need for a business plan.  A business plan is something our firm always recommends a client develops before moving into any type of campaign and we found this to be the perfect opportunity to elaborate on its importance during our webinar.

The simple answer is this: a campaign should be considered a new line of business for an organization; therefore a strategic plan for the particular project should be developed.  Just as a company wouldn’t launch a new product without a financial plan and marketing strategy, a capital project should be treated in a similar way.

While the feasibility or planning study is the first formal phase of a campaign and is certainly imperative to its success, before this, it is important to develop a business plan for the project itself.  This entails a thorough analysis of all aspects of your project, including: the community need, the total cost, how it will be managed, how it will be sustained (operated and expenses covered), how it fits into the organization’s mission and if your organization has the ability to execute the project simultaneously with existing programs.  It is crucial that your board thinks through these questions and outlines the answers before entering into a planning study, much less a campaign.  Going through this exercise will not only help refine your plans, but it will address any deficiencies.

Establishing a business plan helps an organization ensure that their project is credible and well founded. This is particularly important when talking to potential donors about their gift to a campaign because it presents the project as a sound investment.  Now more than ever, donors view charitable gifts as investments.  They want to not only feel confident about the feasibility of a campaign, but they want to see the metrics that ensures the campaign has been well planned and is destined to succeed, ensuring a philanthropic return on their charitable gift.

Before you consider proceeding with a campaign, no matter what the goal amount, ensure that you’ve done the proper planning and developed a road map not only for how the campaign will be orchestrated, but how the project will be self-sustaining.  Doing this will increase the confidence your campaign leadership has in the project, it will lay a solid foundation for executing the campaign, and your donors will be more responsive to your requests for support knowing there is a plan in place once the money has been raised.

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