If any of these three alarm bells start ringing when contemplating a major campaign, it could be time to rethink your fundraising plans.

major campaign

If you don’t immediately have four prospects in mind for that one gift level – given a 1:4 success rate projected for major gift asks – then you are already in a bit of trouble.

Everyone is doing it. Major campaigns are where it is at. Millions, actually almost billions, are being raised through major campaigns across Australia right now.

So you think it is time that your organisation gets a slice of the pie. But are you ready?…

I have worked with many organisations as they plan a major campaign, working through the feasibility in assessing the organisational readiness and the likelihood of donations and support from those closest to the organisation. Sometimes the timing is just right, and other times alarm bells start ringing loud and clear.


The first alarm bell often rings when speaking with the CEO, chairperson or other person of high influence in the organisation. Why? Because they don’t understand the reason for the campaign, except to raise more money.

I recently spoke with a chairperson who, when asked directly why the campaign was important and urgent, said, “Well it isn’t really… it is important to us because we want more money to do more things, but it is not really urgent to others”

Argh! That comment was not only concerning, but it was not true. The campaign was urgent. In fact it would affect tens of thousands of people across the country if successful, potentially improving health outcomes and social inclusion in communities everywhere. But the chairperson didn’t understand that, and instead focused on the economic benefit to the organisation and not the cause itself. They did not hold the vision.

If one of the main influencers of your organisation is not on board, then it is time to reassess your readiness for a major campaign.


So Alarm Bell 1 didn’t sound for you? Great! But are they willing to put their money where their mouth is? There are two things I want to highlight here:

1. Not only should the highest level influencers in your organisation (I mean your board/CEO/trustees/patrons) be on board with your vision, understanding the urgency and importance of your campaign, they should also be willing to donate. I have always advocated that in order to ask someone to make their most significant gift to a cause, you should do the same. The CEO and the board are not exempt from this, they should lead by example. In fact, I once worked with an organisation where 100% of staff from the Foundation gave to their cause personally. This was a powerful statement when discussing a gift with prospective donors.

2. The campaign needs to be backed with the financial resources it will need to succeed. Additional budget will be required for staffing, marketing, events and meetings and so much more. It costs money to make money and a campaign cannot be successful if no additional resources are supplied.


Alarm Bell 3 sounds when we pull out the gift chart. Let’s say we want to raise $1 million though our major campaign. To do that ideally we need to secure at least one gift of $100,000 and a number of gifts above $25,000.

So who are your supporters? Do you have current networks, donors or influencers who are going to introduce you to the people you need to be speaking to to raise that level of donation. If you don’t immediately have four prospects in mind for that one gift level – given a 1:4 success rate projected for major gift asks – then you are already in a bit of trouble.

If this is the case, it may be time to dig deeper into your database, build up your appeals and community engagement program, or consider some marketing activities to build profile before launching a major campaign.

Campaigns are exciting, challenging and can be world changing. But they can also be a disaster if due process is not followed. So my advice? Take your time. Plan, plan and plan. Talk to your stakeholders, internally and externally, until you get your messaging right and grow your networks.


Teisha Archer is a fundraising coach and consultant specialising in major gifts and campaigns and Director of Teisha Archer Consulting. Teisha is also a Specialist Consultant Member of The Xfactor Collective – Australia’s first network of social impact consultants and coaches across 300 areas of specialisation that exists to support social changemakers to achieve their social mission. The Xfactor Collective has the sector’s first CONCIERGE service to help you get your projects off to a flying start, and a sector-first video library THE X-CHANGE, comprising 140 helpful videos for changemakers such as the links above in this article.

Read more…

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