Recently, I gave a 20-minute presentation designed to address the question, “when should you go public with your campaign?”
The core of my response to this important question was (I admit unsatisfyingly), “it depends.”
Simply put, there are no specific points of progress, no formula, nor definitive alignment of variables which would consistently forecast, for every nonprofit, the exact right timing to publicly announce a campaign.
Instead, I offered the following 3 statements to explore in order to identify the best possible answer for each institution. You should go public with your campaign when you:
- have a clear sense that your responses to the most basic campaign questions will evoke a strong sense of momentum, early campaign success, and enthusiasm (i.e., how much is the dollar goal? how much progress toward that goal have you made? and, for what, exactly, will these gifts support?);
- have a public phase volunteer structure in place along with a communications plan to invite all of your constituencies to give;
- know you can achieve your announced dollar goal.
If institutional leaders have done their homework, robustly done the good major donor work during the quiet phase, and, therefore, feel good about their responses to these 3 statements, they are, most likely, in a favorable position to announce a campaign publicly.
As I reviewed the audience evaluations from this session, a comment jumped out at me:
“He never answered ‘when.'”
Of course, I could do a better job of communicating (we all can improve in this way). And I take that to heart. But, this comment is also a reminder that we can, and should, work more purposefully to seek better understanding.
Especially, when the answer is not what we think it should be.