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Your Running Start to a Strong Campaign

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.

Everyone dwells on the end of a campaign. That sweet moment is made of champagne, Co-Chairs cutting ribbons for new buildings, and applause. It’s a celebration for the people, families, the organization, and community that are stronger thanks to the campaign.  

You will hear the mantra to begin a campaign with the end in mind. This advice is golden. Equally as important, but often overlooked, is a strong start to the campaign. Many organizations get excited about a great idea and fundraise first, plan later. This leads to half-baked visions, scant prospect lists, and lackluster leadership. Many of these campaigns stall midway or fail altogether.

To avoid this fate, I suggest another mantra for your campaign office inspiration wall. Try: By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

If you are thinking about launching a campaign soon, here’s a checklist of milestones you will want to complete before you raise your first dollar (caveat: campaigns are messy. Sometimes you raise dollars from your closest supporters before all these pieces are perfectly in place).

If your organization can check these boxes, you are in a strong place to start campaign fundraising:

Campaign Vision: You have distilled a powerful vision for how the campaign will transform the community. Equally as important, you have articulated how the campaign fits into your overall organizational mission.    

Campaign Plans: While plenty of details will be in flux, you at least have a general sense of the project scope, timeline, and budget.

Site Specific: If your campaign involves acquiring a new property or space, you have a long-term lease, own it, or have firm plans to purchase the property early in the campaign. *Plenty of campaigns launch before they are site-specific, but many of these campaigns take longer than anticipated or stall due to property challenges. Donors often don’t feel comfortable giving or pledging until the plans are firm.

Board Leaders: All Board members are prepared to serve as campaign ambassadors and are clear about their campaign role.  

Donors: You have two or three times the number of prospects you need in order to complete your goal. The campaign will be spent working your way through this long list to determine who has connections, interest, and capacity to invest significant gifts.    

Core Assets: You are making investments in staffing and systems to support the additional workload and complexity created by a campaign. This could look like adding additional staff, gift policies, enhancing your database procedures, or developing donor stewardship plans.


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