3. Measure Your Weakness

We have seen many failed campaigns over the years that were launched without feasibility studies. A pre-campaign study is crucial for a successful comprehensive capital campaign to address annual, capital, and endowment funding needs. This vital research will help you avoid campaign conundrums by revealing your organization’s strengths and weaknesses. A study will discover factors supporting your success, and any challenges you should focus on before launching your campaign.

A pre-campaign study is like taking your car to your mechanic for an inspection before leaving on vacation. No one wants to breakdown in the middle of nowhere with your family. Sadly, some campaigns that launched with enthusiasm have stalled on the side of the road waiting for a tow. Unaddressed weaknesses are the little sounds coming from under the hood that could blow up your campaign. What you don’t know can and will hurt you. If you neglect to address these issues before you start the quiet phase—be afraid, be very afraid!

Your board needs answers to key questions. Does your constituency understand your campaign? Are the right team members in the right positions? Do you have the appropriate number of staff to manage a campaign? Can your donor software track a multi-faceted, multi-year campaign? Does your existing donor base have the capacity to fulfill your campaign without impacting your annual/operational campaign? Are there are any public relations/branding issues that could negatively impact your organization?

Let me share a real-life example of what a study can reveal. We just completed a pre-campaign study for a national organization with local and regional ministry centers. Study participants identified several weaknesses that might limit a successful campaign. Few in the community could identify the mission, vision, and core values of this seventy-five-year-old organization. Their board lacked influence and affluence. Volunteers were unwilling to invest their time, talent, and treasure, and the most telling data point—the organization had limited major-donor relationships.

We did not believe a campaign was the right next step for this organization and encouraged them to push pause. Instead of moving ahead, we recommended they take twelve months to strengthen their board, cultivate major donors, and increase their public awareness. As this organization tackled its weaknesses, their strengths began to emerge.

A pre-campaign study will test your assumptions about your case, capacity, and likelihood for success. Your data might flash a red light of caution and reveal some significate changes you must make before moving forward. Perhaps you’ll get a yellow light that will cause you to tap your brakes for a moment before launching a campaign. When your research gives you a green light, you can move forward with confidence. Turn your weakness into strengths and lay the foundation for a successful campaign!


About the Author: Pat McLaughlin President/Founder – Pat started The Timothy Group in 1990 to serve Christian ministries as they raise money to advance their missions. TTG has assisted more 1,800 Christian organizations around the world with capital, annual, and endowment campaigns. More than 25,000 of Pat’s books, Major Donor Game Plan, The C Factor: The Common Cure for your Capital Campaign Conundrums, and Haggai & Friends have helped fundraisers understand the art and science of major donor engagement. Pat makes more than one hundred major donor visits annually and provides counsel to multiple capital campaigns.

1 Comment
  • Mark W Miller
    Posted at 08:42h, 20 May Reply

    Thanks for the excellent article. Look forward to meeting you when you make your way towards KS. We are working through the logistics of our pre-campaign right now.

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