Tag Archives: campaign accounting

Three Steps to launch a comprehensive campaign

Part two of a two part series….Read part One: Four Benefits of a Comprehensive Fundraising Campaign

Three Steps to comprehensive Campaign, an acquaintance blurted out, “comprehensive campaigns are nothing but a con game.” Three steps to ensure your campaign meets its goals

We were taken aback when, in casual conversation, an acquaintance blurted out, “comprehensive campaigns are nothing but a con game.” We listened as he shared his experience of institutions that report campaign success but don’t have the money needed to implement projects laid out as campaign priorities.

While we wouldn’t be so blunt in our assessment, we do agree that a lot can happen in a comprehensive campaign that leaves donors and the community confused and feeling misled. But, comprehensive campaigns don’t have to end that way. We present the following example to share three steps you can take to ensure your campaign meets its goals and has the money to implement priorities.

Let’s say a nonprofit provides healthcare for children ages birth to three years old. It launches a three year $20 million comprehensive campaign for the following: $9 million for annual operations for three years ($3 million a year), $6 million for capital costs for a new medical facility, and $5 million to endow future costs for pediatric services. During the campaign a local philanthropist wants to donate $15 million to provide healthcare services to uninsured local residents regardless of age, and a foundation wants to donate $6 million for childcare services. If the nonprofit accepts these gifts it will raise $21 million but there will be no money for annual operations, the medical facility or endowment of pediatric services. Would this be campaign success?

Consider these three steps before launching your campaign. First, be clear on what you are raising money for. Define your priorities and how much you need to raise for each.

Second, determine which gifts will be counted towards the campaign goal, and which will be counted as what we refer to as “over and above” gifts. For example, when you accept gifts that are outside campaign priorities record them, publicize them, but don’t count these towards your campaign goal as they cannot be used to finance campaign priorities. When you do raise the funds for your campaign priorities be sure to declare success and communicate that you met goal and raised funds for additional projects as well.

The third step is to establish a reporting system that can track how much has been raised towards each priority. Gifts should be appropriately recorded and tied to a priority. Management reports should clearly communicate this information so everyone is aware of overall campaign progress, and progress towards each specific priority.

Here’s our bottom line: Make sure your comprehensive campaign raises money for its stated priorities. Don’t be derailed by an abundance of non-priority related gifts. Be clear and transparent about how you account for gifts received. Decide how you define campaign success and communicate it clearly: don’t leave your community asking “where’s the money?”

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

How do you count your money?

MoneyA cornerstone of successful nonprofit fundraising is trust. While there are many reasons to give, there are also reasons why people, foundations and corporations do not give. One reason is a lack of trust: donors and funders don’t trust the nonprofit to use the funds for the stated purpose. Here are some suggestions to help ensure your institution or organization retains a high level of trust from current and prospective donors.

Whether you are raising funds for an annual campaign or for a capital, endowment or other campaign the process of building trust begins with how you define what you are raising money for. Gain consensus amongst leadership (board and executive) regarding how much money you seek to raise and how the funds will be used. Be specific. Measure your progress against the agreed upon goal.

Work with the development committee of the board to develop gift acceptance policies. These can help avoid future confusion. For example, how long are your pledge periods, and when do you write off uncollected pledges? How do you account for gifts of real estate?

Be specific when talking about fundraising progress. A donor may have given a verbal commitment for a large gift, but you can’t include it in your fundraising total until it has been received or until you have a signed pledge agreement in place. The gift may not materialize.

Develop standardized fundraising reports that clearly communicate how much has been raised and for what purposes. Differentiate between pledges and actual funds received. When in the midst of a major fundraising campaign you are sure to receive multi-year pledges. These are vital, but they are also typically difficult to spend until the funds are received. Develop reports that show when pledge payments are expected to be received. These should match the terms of each pledge agreement.

When conducting a comprehensive campaign, list your fundraising priorities, and how much has been raised towards each. You may be able to reach or exceed your overall fundraising goal but may not have the funds you need to implement all stated priorities. This can occur when donors are inspired by a campaign and choose to make a restricted gift to a non-campaign priority. You should celebrate such gifts – but be careful how you include them in campaign accounting.

Remember – different people have different foci when it comes to counting money. Bring in the CFO, the CEO and your fundraising team and agree on how you will record and report on your fundraising. Be sure to reconcile fundraising reports with those produced by the finance office. Do this on a monthly basis.

If it sounds like we are focusing on small details, you are right. Don’t claim a fundraising success you cannot substantiate – it can come back to haunt you.

Picture credit: 401(K)2012 via Flickr

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.