In April, our team fielded calls from nonprofits through our virtual office hours. Over the last several weeks, we highlighted some of the questions posed to us along with our answers. Our hope is to help your organization, as these may be questions you are pondering, too.
Q: Do we launch our campaign now?
A: Not yet.
There is a distinct difference between navigating through this pandemic to meet your campaign goal on a revised timeline and beginning a campaign during a pandemic.
If you are in a campaign, keep going. If you are not yet in a campaign, hold on.
The first part of any campaign is a feasibility study, which Mollard Consulting refers to as a clarity process. Your organization’s leadership needs to get clear on two things: external feasibility (will donors support this effort) and internal readiness (do you have what you need to succeed).
We cannot imagine a scenario right now where donors will be able to reliably answer feasibility questions about their potential support of your proposed campaign. There is simply too much volatility and uncertainty in the economy and with the health and welfare of the community. It would be challenging for donors to make commitments and for leadership to have validity in the findings. This advice may change in a few months, as just four months ago we would have had a different answer. Our counsel is to wait until after Labor Day when we will all know more.
This scenario is different if you are currently in a campaign. Under those circumstances, you already have lead gifts, a case for support was communicated prior to the coronavirus, and you are moving toward groundbreaking or ribbon cutting. Your campaign timeline may be longer than expected because of the volatility and uncertainty, but you are out of the gate — not at the starting line.
A big part of understanding your organization’s ability to manage and succeed at a campaign is your human resource capacity — both professional and volunteer.
Given the furloughs, layoffs, and hiring freezes, your organization may not have the same staffing structure it normally has for operations. And, campaigns are extraordinary. We often recommend adding staff capacity, such as hiring a campaign coordinator to manage the workload. That simply may not be possible because of the economic impact of COVID.
Your volunteer leadership on the board and on the Campaign Committee may not be able to commit the additional time and financial resources needed right now. Some of your board members may be facing tremendous financial losses at their companies and most are managing disrupted operations with remote workforces. Asking more of your volunteer leadership may be absolutely necessary but balance the urgency of now with what’s most critical today.
Today vs. Tomorrow
Lastly, there is a tension with many of the organizations that we spoke with. Many asked, “How do we balance the needs of today with the needs we know we will have tomorrow”?
There are organizations who see what’s coming. Many are on the front lines and their services will continue to be needed at higher rates, even after an economic recovery begins. There are nonprofits who are managing through social distancing measures that create dramatically low ratios, keeping their staff costs high but their revenue low because they are only allowed to serve a certain number within their space. A campaign to address these issues may be what is needed to secure more resources to meet the increased need and create sustainability.
For those organizations, we hear you. While we will continue to advise to wait on starting a feasibility study until after Labor Day, you can begin talking to your key donors and stakeholders privately to gain counsel and insight. Keep the lines of communication open with all your major supporters. They care about your mission, and your mission matters.
Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO