Branding is essential to marketing the campaign. The campaign’s name, a logo, and slogan may be the first thing a potential donor learns about the institution’s needs. These tools must convey the core message immediately in a succinct, strikingly visual way. A successful identity mark will be unique, telling your audiences who you are and what you believe.
Because the I.D. reveals so much about the institution, the process of creating one is often highly charged. Coming to a decision can reveal rifts within the leadership. Careful thinking about how to achieve a smooth approval process will stand you in good stead throughout the campaign.
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The case statement is the main public document of the campaign. The case, tested and clarified through the white paper process, is presented in a thorough and confident way to the institution’s constituents. The argument is made personal and appealing. It may be enhanced with testimonials by donors and interviews with beneficiaries, such as faculty and students. Thus the case statement gives a more complete pictureboth rational and emotionalof why to give.
The case statement uses visual as well as written persuasion. It is professionally designed, with photography and charts. It is well printed, often using full color. Therefore, it can be quite expensive on a unit-cost basis. For that reason, case statements are used in conjunction with major gift cultivation. Campaigns vary in how they distribute case statements. Some introduce them early in the cultivation process; others wait for closure. Linking the design and format of the case statement to its function within a specific campaign is one of the most important nuances of campaign communications strategy.
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The mini-case is a less expensive vehicle used to solicit gifts of a modest dollar level, for example from young alumni. It usually is well-designed and visually appealing (a companion piece to the case statement) but smaller, condensing the arguments and testimonials of the case statement to their bare essentials. Since it is targeted to a particular segment of the institution’s constituency, the mini-case may also emphasize certain aspects of the overall case. Or, the campaign may need several distinct mini-cases.
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Certain groups who areor whom you wish to bringclose to the institution require special treatment and information. Typically, these include trustees, volunteer leadership, and major donors. The list may extend to major gifts prospects, staff and faculty, press, and community leaders. The insider’s newsletter, often mailed on an irregular schedule, offers advance notice of campaign events, committee activities, and successful solicitations. It may include thoughtful essays by the institution’s CEO or campaign leadership.
Generally, the insider’s newsletter is an attractively designed, but straightforward and inexpensive publication. A cost-effective choice is to give it a campaign family look by preprinting paper with the insider’s newsletter logo. That way, it can have a splash of color while being produced quickly in house.
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Newsletter or Magazine
The campaign newsletter is mailed to everyone; its mailing list defines the campaign constituency. It chronicles the campaign’s progress and successes, sets the stage for special events, reports on personalities, and delves into detail on the case for specific goals. It has departments with news summaries, in-depth reports, editorials, and soft features. Each issue has lots of photos of donors and leadership. In short, the campaign newsletter is the community newspaper of the campaign.
Its editorial tone is upbeat and informative. It restates the case from a personal point-of-view, perhaps through the experiences of a donor or volunteer or beneficiary. Its stories on gifts and givers encourage others to empathize, to follow suit. It is above all motivational.
The campaign newsletter is usually published only two to four times per year. Nevertheless, since it is time intensive for both editorial content and design, it can be expensive to produce. Many campaigns choose to issue the newsletter as a dedicated section of an ongoing institutional publication with an overlapping constituency, such as the alumni magazine. This reduces mailing and printing costs, sends the message that the campaign is a part of the whole, and avoids too many consecutive mailings.
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The campaign video brings the case alive: your institution in action, seen through the eyes of those who love it most and whom it has helped in life-affirming ways. It’s emotional and stirring. What could be more compelling?
The major issues are cost and functionality. A video will easily run $10,000 per minute and often much, much more ($100,000 for five to six minutes is not unheard of). As a vehicle to reach large groups, for example as part of the program in a series of events hosted during a national alumni campaign, videos can be cost effective.
Yet, videos seldom work well in off-site, major gifts solicitation. You can’t depend on a prospect having a VCR at hand. Setting up equipment in his or her home is awkward. Stopping to watch can interrupt the free flow of conversation and relationship-building. Since major gifts will raise the vast majority of your goal, be very clear on cultivation strategy before creating a campaign video. If video will play an important role, consider burning yours on CD-ROM, for presentation on your gift officers’ laptops.
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Very new to the field, the campaign web site is still evolving as a communication vehicle. It generally functions in parallel with the institution’s main web site, delivering a similar level of information and access to resources. The planned giving officers are often first to develop a web presence, with information on bequests, charitable remainder trusts, and the like. Annual fund appeals quickly follow. More and more sites are offering encryption for gifts via credit card. A campaign main page links to presentations on campaign goals, profiles of the leadership, etc. It is the mini-case and newsletter compressed into sound-bytes.
Still to come are exciting interactive and community-building uses of the web for campaigns. Volunteers and donors are already asking for correspondence via email. Alumni groups are offering lost-alumni searches and email forwarding. Sites are incorporating online sign-up for rallies and fund-raising activities. Virtual campaign special events are on the horizon: web-linked campaign kickoffs, with participating mirror events across the country and around the world.
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Pledge cards, of course. Consider also invitations, save-the-date cards, and thank you notes. Additional possibilities include buckslips (quick information sheets); tote bags, ties, or other gifts; and posters.
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Strategy, Timing, and New Directions
This glossary covers the usual campaign publications, but there are many variations among campaigns. Communication vehicles must integrate with the overall campaign strategy. Who needs to be part of building and refining the case? Who are the key donors; how will they be cultivated? What do they need to know? When should they receive the information? An essential and often overlooked issue for the case statement is how will solicitors actually use it. Should it be mailed in advance or delivered in person? Will it be discussed together at the meeting or simply left behind? The answers to these and similar questions should shape your communications program.
For example, many campaigns today substitute a president’s letter for the insider’s newsletter. The letter format lends itself to think-pieces and position papers. This can be tremendously effective if there is a perceived need either to strengthen the sense of presidential credibility and leadership or to pave the way for a thorough understanding of the institutional need. Letters also keep communication on a more personal level between leadership and donor.
Some campaigns produce more than one case statement. It is common to create a brochure that presents a specific goal, such as a new campus center. Other campaigns tailor the case statement to distinct constituencies. If your potential donors segment because of product loyalty (e.g., law school vs. medical school) or age or geographyor for any other reason that identifies them as an affinity groupyou may want to revise the style of presentation or the choice of goals featured in their case statement.
The campaign timeframe is equally crucial. When is what publication needed?
In the past, a typical campaign (if there ever was such a thing) would raise about one-third of the goal before a public announcement. This nucleus fund generally came from trustees and a few longtime donors. The white paper was the key publication for this effort. Next, the case statement launched the public phase, which sought about one-half the goal from a wider group of (mostly) pre-identified major gifts prospects. Finally, the mini-case supported the wrap-up phase, which sought the remaining 15 percent or so of the goal from the grassrootssmaller donations from young alumni and newly found constituents.
Today, more and more campaigns seek one-half or even two-thirds of the goal before going public. They will reach beyond their trustees almost immediately. The white paper may not be enough, yet a fully designed case statement too much. Something new will have to be devised that is unique to their strategic timeframe.
Finally, can you bring your communications strategy in line with your moves management? You raise money one-on-one. Your publications should reflect that essential fact about effective fund-raising. For thisthe heart of campaigninga flexible format is essential. The future of campaign communications lies in innovative uses of desktop/laptop publishing in both print and electronic media.
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