Well begun is half done: campaigns and planning

By December 15, 2017December 18th, 2017Benchmarking Survey, Return on Investment

The IDPE Benchmarking Report shows that those schools in a campaign raised more money than those that were not. A campaign can focus your activity, clearly demonstrate where philanthropy has an impact on your school’s future, and galvanise your supporters to give, give more, and keep on giving.

If it is done right, that is. And by right, I mean if it is well thought through, strategic, and supported by your school leadership. Campaigns take time to plan, and they require data to form the right level of an ambitious, but achievable campaign.

You need to understand which fundraising activities (major gifts, regular giving, telethons, etc.) are going to be the most effective for you.

Rushing into a campaign without having these priorities in place can be disastrous. It can damage confidence in development internally, be hugely disheartening for fundraisers, and, at worst, can damage relationships with your prospects and donors.

Take the time before a campaign to run a planning study or full assessment of your fundraising and engagement activity.

That way, you’ll better understand the potential in your supporter community and to ascertain which projects have most traction with prospects. It will pay dividends in the long run. It will provide you with an even platform from which to build a campaign, to clearly see which fundraising activities will bring the best results, and to use the data from your database and giving records to form a realistic and evidence-based campaign goal.

Campaigns typically fall in to three stages – the planning, the private, and the public stages. Do not underestimate the importance of the planning stage.

Use this time to run a planning study/feasibility study to fully understand what would be realistic for your campaign plan. During this time, analyse your fundraising practices, database and potential wealth therein, to current donor income and your case for support and call to action.

The IDPE Benchmarking Report maintains, “on average, the Grammar Schools in a campaign raised 2.6 times as much per year compared to those that were not. For the Independent Schools, those in a campaign raised 2.9 times more than those which were not.”

Supporters can have differing or multiple interests, so to encourage as many individuals to donate as possible, it can be helpful to have a broad case for support.

Taking a draft case for support out to some of your closest supporters and stakeholders is an effective way of testing affinity and understanding which projects have most appeal. It also acts as incredibly powerful engagement tool. By involving supporters at such an early stage and seeking their feedback to help form the campaign, they will have a more invested interest.

Use hard data to inform your strategic plans.

Not all fundraising activities are created equal but each serves a purpose; measuring prospects’ inclination to give through differing methods will be worthwhile in deciding which fundraising activities on which to focus your precious time. Understanding the make-up of your database and various audiences’ giving preferences and potentials will allow you to ascertain how much could be raised and the resource and structure required to deliver that greater potential.

Campaigns can feel like stepping into the unknown and can risk becoming unwieldy and difficult to manage.

Working with consultants can often help overcome some of these challenges. They can provide the external perspective and sector-wide expertise to help assess your campaign potential. The Benchmarking Report revealed, “Schools utilizing consultants to assist with planning studies, prospect research, or telephone campaigns are raising more on average than schools which are not. 66% of the schools in a campaign used consultants at some point during their campaigns.”

Rachael Magee is a Consultant at Graham-Pelton. Click here for more insights about the IDPE and Graham-Pelton Benchmarking Survey results, and the way your organisation may benefit from our findings.

All Services

Fundraising Strategy

  • Annual giving
  • Planned giving
  • Principal and major gifts
  • Risk assessment


  • Planning studies
  • Campaign strategy and counsel
  • Campaign assessments and audits
  • Communications
  • Coaching

Attraction and Retention

  • Donor relations
  • Alumni relations
  • Grateful patient programs
  • International scoping
  • Member relations

Organizational Effectiveness

  • Operational assessments
  • Talent assessments and development
  • Training and engagement
  • Interim staffing

Business Intelligence

  • Prospect profiling
  • Database optimization
  • Wealth screening and analysis
  • Fundraising metrics


By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.