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Injecting Energy Into The Last Phases Of A Campaign

So your campaign is not over yet. But you begin to fantasize about when it will be completed and you can relax a little...the scene above is a quiet pastoral scene from the islands in Greece. It is quiet, by day the sunlight is brilliant, at night the stars are shining brightly, the food is fresh from the farms, the tides are lapping at the shore, the life is quiet and much slower than your life has been in past months. It is so nice to dream and no better place to visit.

Now come back to reality.

When you are more than halfway through your campaign, many times all of your established friends have given--your board, your volunteers, your key donors, your staff...local foundations and corporations who have supported you in the past. So, it takes even more energy to bring your campaign to a close. You need to be thinking about this and preparing for it, even if you have not yet made a public announcement about your campaign.

The following are three examples of strategies I have employed to help me finalize a campaign or add energy at different moments towards a completion timetable. Stay in front of your wave and think about these issues as early as possible in the life of the campaign.

A Gift Table Approach

Sometimes when I am involved in a campaign, maybe I am halfway to the goal, I break down the number and level of gifts that I will need to complete the campaign and create a traditional campaign gift table. From that I understand that I will need 50 $10,000 gifts and 25 $25,000 gifts, etc. I might launch a mini-campaign within the campaign and set out to get those 50 $10,000 gifts as a next step, hoping that some of the prospects might just give a $25,000 gift in the process. I enlist board members and other staff members to help, of course. On an approach like this, you can say: We have 20 $10,000 gifts so far, we are hopeful that you will be one of the people who will take us to the next step. This approach makes the campaign a little more accessible for some people and certainly provides assurance that their gift is impactful. Sometimes it makes it a little more accessible even for the staff.

A Small Challenge Grant Approach

Sometimes I might convey that Mr. Jones just gave a $100,000 challenge grant--conditional on our organization finding someone to match it with a gift of $100,000...or with two gifts of $50,000 each. This is particularly a good technique if there is one part of the campaign that may be languishing. I used this once during a campaign geared to lawyers and it worked perfectly. Someone had, indeed, given $100,000 and lawyers from the community answered the challenge and then challenged other lawyers once again. This campaign ended up raising $300,000, but then continued the following year when another $200,000 was raised for a total of $500,000. That was reinforcing.

Such a campaign can take many forms, it all depends on what opportunities emerge in your own campaign and with your own donor base.

A Large Challenge Grant

And, of course, for the overall campaign, sometimes you may need to do something more dramatic. If you are in a campaign to raise $5.5 million you may need something to bring you over the top if you still have to raise $2 million. It is very exciting when a foundation or an individual closes out the campaign with such a gift, but you can't rely on that happening--lightening does not usually strike this way, unfortunately.

Campaigns rely on having exciting news in the community:

  • We are launching a campaign and we are already halfway to the goal...

  • We are more than halfway to the goal and someone has given us a wonderful challenge grant to help top the campaign--here are the details.

Such announcements help to create momentum in the campaign, they arouse donor interest...people who may want to participate step forward...board members have a story to tell when they are out with prospects.

  • Perhaps there is a donor who would issue a challenge grant--a gift of $500,000 if the community could contribute $1.5 million more to close the campaign. This always brings urgency at a slower time in the campaign life-cycle.

  • Publicity around the project could cite this major milestone, talk about the challenger, his or her interest in the project, why they thought this was important. It can be a great media story. It is great for publicity if the donor is someone known in the community, someone who people respect...such a step surely provides a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for the campaign and draws others in. And the thought of such publicity does attract the attention of that possible donor who appreciates this type of community attention and ability to add his/her public style of leadership.

  • Perhaps the person who issues the challenge grant also has two or three other prospects that they could involve--another sign of energy.

  • Such a challenge grant allows you to go back to people who may not have agreed to a meeting before, but might agree now; it allows you to go back to a donor who may have said no in an outright manner; it allows you to go back to a donor who made a one year gift and talk with them about extending their gift to three to five years to help you meet the challenge; it allows you to more easily open other new doors; and it may allow you to ask even more boldly for contributions.

  • Where do you want to be over the final months in concluding the campaign and the project? Such a challenge grant also allows you to incorporate other terms into the challenge and keep the campaign and the project on a timetable. Think of construction milestones (we would like to be 3/4 of the way to completion by such and such a date). Think of campaign milestones (we would like to be at $4.5 million towards the goal by such a such a date). Think of such milestones as ensuring that you have philanthropic representation from a group of lawyers, or a group of CEOs...something that enables you to open new doors to prospects and secure some new gifts.

There is so much more that can be said about the value of challenge grants. I have used them throughout my career and they truly are an effective strategy in so many different ways.

Think about that Greek island scene above...what fun it will be to celebrate the conclusion of the campaign. Oompah!


Great things are not done by impulse but by a series of small things brought together.

Vincent van Gogh


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