Thursday, September 11, 2008

Be Political, For Philanthropy's Sake

If you want to run a smart, strategic, successful fund-raising campaign, think of it as a political campaign.

Think of your CEO as the candidate. He or she has a limited time to secure enough votes (think dollars) to win the election (a chance for his or her administration to implement a new vision).

Think of your organization as a cause. What do you stand for? What societal improvement do you aspire to bring about? How can you help donors to get caught up in the cause?

Deploy the candidate strategically to make the best use of his time and talents. If your candidate can't be everywhere, which cities, regions or areas have the largest concentrations of potential support.

Develop the candidate’s biography. I’m not talking about sharing a CV but shaping a narrative that tells potential donors where the candidate came from and what shaped her outlook and values. Contributors want to know the personal story of the leaders they support.

Think about how the candidate can articulate the message in a highly believable, differentiating and motivating way. Stay on message; it takes a long time before it sinks into the electorate.

Develop position papers in advance of the campaign. Your candidate should not only articulate what she wants to achieve but where she or your organization stands on important issues. Having position papers on-line will demonstrate that yours is a well thought out effort.

Think about the way your campaign stops are staged. Don’t get hokey but don’t put your candidate in a setting that diminishes the stature of the office.

Rapidly respond to donations with on-line messaging and reinforce how the contribution has helped advance the cause.

Remember that the campaign has to fit the candidate. Don’t put your candidates in situations and venues that make them uncomfortable or require them to be what they are not. For instance, if your candidate is not a great orator, emphasize smaller venues that allow for more conversational exchanges.

Don’t try to be all things to all people. Figure out who and what your “base” is. Run on a “platform” (think core values) and demonstrate a willingness to make a decision. Mealy-mouthed candidates with ho-hum platforms excite no one’s attention, passion or support.

Don’t expect loyalty. Make your case on the issues. Remember that you can’t perpetuate the cause if you don’t serve the interests of the voters.

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