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Is Your Campaign Stuck? Four Secret Tunnels to Your Campaign Goal

This article was written by JeeYoung Dobbs. She is no longer with Ostara, but we want to preserve this piece so that you can learn from her and from the work she did while part of the Ostara team.

If you have ever undertaken a campaign, you know there are many points along the way where you feel like you’re in a maze or escape room and you’re at a dead end.

  • The top prospect you thought was the linchpin to confirming the goal decided not to give.

  • Your relationships beyond your top prospects were not as warm as you had anticipated.

  • Volunteer leaders lost momentum midway towards the goal.

  • The Executive Director unexpectedly departed from the organization early in the campaign.

In my experience with campaigns, the main difference between successful and failed efforts is that a group of dedicated staff, volunteers, or donors kept pushing against the wall when others thought all was lost. They were able to find that secret tunnel that others had overlooked leading to the goal.If you’re staring at that dead end now, how do you keep pushing forward to unlock the secret tunnel?

Here are a few tips from the team at Ostara to help you feel your way through the campaign darkness.

  1. Make Campaign Leader Roles More Manageable:  Campaigns are long—often several years or more in the making. Even the most dedicated campaign volunteer can lose interest or burn out over the course of the campaign. If you have a campaign committee that is losing momentum, it could be a good time to launch more focused task forces to work on specific phases of the campaign or donor constituencies. Volunteers can feel successful with more time-limited, shorter commitments and choose to re-up their involvement in other task forces. This feels better than petering out of a large committee a few years into a campaign.

  2. Identify a Challenge Gift: It can help to focus a campaign with urgent, time-sensitive opportunities like a challenge gift. This can spur donors to make a giving decision if they know their funds will help unlock even more dollars for the campaign. This strategy can be especially effective if the challenge gift also helps the campaign to reach a significant milestone like groundbreaking.

  3. Modify Campaign Timeline or Project Scope: Sometimes donors are hesitant to give if they feel a timeline or project is unachievable. Maybe organizational leadership or the community has changed since the campaign was originally conceived. Revisiting the project scope or timeline, in consultation with the community, to see if there are better ways to reach the campaign vision can reinvigorate giving—and build ownership.

  4. Launch a Peer-to-Peer Campaign: While we know online campaigns like GoFundMe or Give Lively don’t often result in the large gifts, they are good at building momentum and buzz through number of gifts, especially near the end of a campaign. Sometimes, this renewed energy from online fundraising efforts can inspire significant “topping off” gifts from previous or new significant campaign donors.

There are many more ways to get unstuck in a campaign effort. Most of all, keep celebrating the successes—big and small—and appreciating what everyone is contributing—big and small—to the effort. Sometimes, for Board, staff, and volunteers hearing “Nice work. We appreciate you,” is the push they need to keep going forward towards the vision.

Let’s keep this conversation going. We want to hear your questions and ideas about campaigns. We’re here to connect.


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