For Impact


To Be In A Campaign Or Not To Be In A Campaign – That Is NOT The Question

Vision & Entrepreneurial Strategy, Campaigns (Funding the Vision) | | Nick Fellers

“When should we start the campaign?”

I spent Wednesday morning with the board and leadership from an 11-year old private school. They had asked me to help them facilitate the answer to this question. Some of the board members wanted to start months ago and others wanted to wait – for the economy, for planning, for a variety of reasons.

More than a ‘timing thing’ it was a ‘perspective thing’. Some leadership said, “We need to be having conversations NOW.” Other leaders didn’t want to budge until all the stars were aligned.

The debate is not unique. “When do we pull the trigger?”

I think this is the WRONG question and so it’s going to be hard getting consensus on an answer. So, for you and for this board, I want to RE-FRAME the issue.

Some more about this school:

    • K-12 Catholic – on East Coast.
    • About 200 students – enrollment steady.
    • Tuition @ $12,500 (just raised 10%).
    • Gifted 100 acres on which to build a new school. Currently have something of a duct-taped campus that spans the creative use of three church spaces.
    • A ‘phased-approach’ to the building would require about $6M to functionally move all students to the new location.

I started out the morning with the board by simply listening. I heard things like:

    “I think this year we should just focus on an annual fund and a campaign at a later time.”
    [Doesn’t compute. Not about annual fund v. campaign… about relationships… sharing vision… sharing priorities.] • “We can’t do a campaign after just raising tuition.”
    [Could be a messaging issues and/or a strategy issue.] • “If we were to start a campaign we can’t talk to anyone until we have all the numbers – people are going to want to know.” [Was some uncertainty as to whether would be $6M or $7M. – You already know I think this is flat wrong – need a different perspective.] • “But if we don’t start now, we lose momentum. The school is pumped up. We have the property.” [Again, a matter of perspective. Think in terms of vision of the school – it’s all one continuous stream… not a bunch of start/stop functions. I don’t care WHEN you put the shovel in the ground.]

For all intents and purposes the group was debating about whether or not to be doing development. They were mistaking the biggest sized funding priority (new school) for whether or not they should be getting serious about building and maximizing relationships… whether or not they should be fully engaged and committed to the activities that will advance the school!

We needed to make some leaps at a group – at the highest level all these great people, great leaders were on the same page.

Here are my follow-up notes to the board – redacted – I hope they help others RE-FRAME the debate. It’s not about to-be or not-to-be in a campaign… it should be about Advancing the Vision – Always.

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