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Building fundraising campaigns from the ground up

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Before deploying resources for a fundraising campaign, your institution must properly scope the campaign. Start by defining your purpose, objectives, strategies, goals and estimated timeline. Incorporate any key milestone dates into the campaign timeline, as well as the revenue, anticipated cash receipts, and the expenses related to the project.

After your institution has determined the campaign’s purpose, meetings should take place to discuss several critical facets. These include fundraising targets, the development plan, intended purpose and use restrictions, tax-exempt bonds, and other financing considerations, including accounting for donor-advised funds. During these meetings, you must set realistic goals, and determine how you will communicate with donors and stakeholders, and how to effectively manage and evaluate financing.

In addition, you must also develop a donor framework, leveraging the draft statement of gift intent (SOGI) to ensure it reflects your campaign’s purpose. Your framework should detail the planned use, addressing all different scenarios (a letter of intent, a donor pledge or a donor advised fund) and allowable modifications to the SOGI to accept a contribution. Establish a process to redirect gifts that don’t meet the campaign’s purpose so non-campaign opportunities are not overlooked. In addition, the donor response process should be analyzed to ensure proper coordination between development and accounting, and effective acceptance communications to donors with IRS information for tax returns.

Finally, your institution must determine the fundraising campaign’s necessary reporting requirements, including for internal management, the development team, campaign chairs and committees, the board and any external stakeholders. After understanding the reporting needs, evaluate the capabilities of current systems and detail general ledger requirements, with new accounts and subaccounts, new report formats and interaction with donor software. Donor software must also have the ability to interface with accounting software and seamlessly manage new demands and requirements.

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