How Do You Measure Success?

dking 225By David King, President & CEO

Several times a year, we are called on to take over campaigns already underway that we did not help plan nor were we involved during the early execution. Often these are campaigns that have (or are perceived to have) “stalled.” Sometimes these campaigns are victims of changes beyond the organization’s control. Sometimes the plans were poorly crafted from the outset, giving the campaign little chance of success. Sometimes good plans were not well executed. Usually, we can get these campaigns back on the path to success.

However, there is another kind of problem that we see from time to time, and it has nothing to do not with a campaign being stalled, but with an improper barometer of success. One such campaign had set a goal to raise $50 million dollars to be used for construction projects, endowment and program enhancements. When our firm became involved, the campaign had nearly reached that goal. Great, you say, why bother switching counsel when you’ve already succeeded in the campaign? Well, because there was no money for the buildings, endowments or program expansions. You see, getting to the campaign goal is only one measure of success-granted a very important one-but it is still only one. Equally-if not more-important is actually raising the money, in the right proportions, to be able to accomplish the objectives that lead you into a campaign to begin with.

In the case of this organization, deferred gifts had been significantly over subscribed in the campaign and several large gifts had been accepted and counted in the campaign for projects that were not part of the original $50 million. Additionally, as is now commonplace, annual giving over the campaign period was being counted as part of a “comprehensive goal.” So, while $50 million had been counted, there was no cash to spend on campaign priorities.

It is important as you plan and execute a campaign to keep one eye on the goal and one eye on the “buckets” of money, making sure that you are raising money in the right proportions to actually accomplish the campaign projects. Set a discrete goal for deferred and annual gifts, and once you reach those goals, stop counting so that you can keep organizational leadership focused on the projects that still need to be funded. Be careful about counting gifts in the campaign that are designated for items that don’t accomplish campaign priorities-unless you add those items to the campaign. You can always add these into your total at the end of the campaign, once you know you have the resources to accomplish campaign priorities.

The bottom line is that campaign success is more than just reaching the goal. Reaching the goal without having the resources to accomplish the stated campaign objectives is a very hollow victory and can be very damaging to morale when people perceive that there was a lot of effort put into the campaign, with very little progress to show for it. This can, in fact, be more damaging to an organization’s credibility than not reaching the goal at all.