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Campaigns & Stewardship: 4 Survival Tips

The first rule of managing a campaign stewardship plan? Forget the campaign stewardship plan, say two CASE speakers.

Donor relations professionals should know that as a campaign launches, you "will be asked for your campaign stewardship plan," warned Maureen Donnelly, senior director of development and donor relations at Massachusetts General Hospital. "Relax. It's what you're already doing."

Campaign stewardship, explained Donnelly at CASE's Annual Conference for Donor Relations Professionals, is about preparedness: understanding how campaign priorities impact donor relations. At the conference, co-chair Donnelly and speaker Paige Eubanks-Barrow, former associate vice president of donor relations at the LSU Foundation, explored 10 tactics for managing the campaign experience. Here are a few of their survival strategies.

Understand the campaign cycle. Campaigns follow the same trajectory: first, there's a planning phase, followed by the quiet preparation phase and a kickoff event. The public phase begins, culminating with a goal event and concluding with the wrap-up phase.

Eubanks-Barrow and Donnelly suggested donor relations professionals consider these three questions about an individual campaign's cycle:

  • What experiences characterize each phase?
  • What happens to people (donors, volunteers, campus stakeholders) during each phase?
  • What are donor relations professionals and donors likely to experience during each phase?

Plan for the end at the beginning. At the onset of a three- or five-year campaign, the end can seem distant. But from the very start, know how it will close, stressed Eubanks-Barrow.

"Always be thinking about your theme," she said. "If you're going to be looking for talent [alumni speakers, for instance], be the person thinking about that in advance."

Along with planning for the end at the beginning, remember to craft a vision for your post-campaign engagement, she added.

Capitalize on opportunities. Campaign cycles, Eubanks-Barrow pointed out, are tied to career trajectories. Fundraisers may move on to new positions when a campaign wraps up, but donor relations professionals can "be the bridge" to keep supporters in mind during these transitions.

"Keep those volunteers engaged," she said. "This is an opportunity to say, ‘I get that everyone is leaving for their new job, but who's paying attention to the donors?'"

Transitions during or after a campaign can give professionals an opportunity to carve out a new role or try new skills, she pointed out.

Stay true to your culture and follow the brand. Along with thinking through the campaign cycle, consider how your culture may dovetail with the campaign, advised Donnelly and Eubanks-Barrow. How can you harness culture to maximize the impact of your messages? What's unique about it?

When you're in campaign mode, it is especially important to follow the brand strategy (including messaging, design and themes), advised Donnelly. Campaigns are, she acknowledged, a "made-up structure," but they often dictate advancement's ebb and flow. Adere to the brand to keep momentum going.

This article is from the July 2017 BriefCASE issue of BriefCASE.