“At what point during our campaign should our Quiet Phase end and our Public Phase begin?”
The universal answer to this common question is some percentage of the total campaign fundraising goal. For instance, “you should never go public before hitting 60 or 70% of your goal.”
But, this type of cookie-cutter response isn’t a good fit for most institutions. There are many institution-specific variables that must be considered before responding to this important timing question.
Consider: How sophisticated and effective is the current advancement program? What is the longevity of advancement leaders and personnel? Does the institution have a recent history of successful campaigns? Is the emerging major donor pipeline robust and engaged? These, and other questions will help any individual institution better refine its answer to the “when to go public” question.
But there is another way to frame a response to this question.
Simply stated, a campaign is ready to move from the Quiet Phase to the Public Phase when the pool of identified major donor prospects has been saturated.
In qualitative research, the “point of saturation” is reached when the researcher begins to hear or notice the same themes repeatedly. Despite interviewing or observing more study participants, there are no new understandings, no new patterns, no new perspectives or ideas emerging. Basically, saturation is the point of diminishing (or no) returns.
If the Quiet Phase is the period of time during a campaign to educate, engage, and invite gifts from our most capable and generous donors, it makes sense that the Quiet Phase is concluded when that work is completed. When we saturate our known pool of major gifts prospects and donors with thoughtful invitations to give and they have responded, we can confidently move to the campaign’s Public Phase.
Do the Quiet Phase work and our major donors will tell us when it’s time to go public. It’s the point of diminishing returns – the major gifts’ saturation point.