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Addressing Unanticipated Campaign Challenges and Changes: A Guide to Pivoting

Campaigns are intricate endeavors that require careful planning and alignment. However, unanticipated challenges are bound to arise, especially in health care’s dynamic environment. As health care philanthropy leaders, it is crucial to be prepared and adaptable. To maintain campaign momentum through unanticipated challenges and changes, it is important to know how to leverage the power of the pivot.

In the context of campaigns, “pivot” refers to the ability to move through challenges quickly and manage change effectively. Pivoting involves recognizing when a particular strategy or approach is not yielding the desired results and making a strategic shift to adapt to new circumstances. Pivoting allows campaign leaders to seize opportunities for success.

It is essential to have strategies in advance to address any type of fire swiftly and effectively.

Just like in any endeavor, unexpected challenges can arise in campaigns. These challenges resemble fires that threaten the campaign’s progress. Some fires are urgent, while other fires remain as embers requiring considerable time and monitoring to fully address. It is essential to have strategies in advance to address any type of fire swiftly and effectively.

Campaign challenges will always fall within the four elements of campaign excellence: campaign team, infrastructure, case and communications and constituent strategies. By recognizing challenges in advance and leveraging the pivot, proactive measures can be taken to minimize impact. Whether it’s a five-alarm blaze or just a campfire, here are some key tactics to help you pivot within the four elements of campaign excellence:

  • INFRASTRUCTURE: Accordant’s Wave Campaignᵀᴹ model supports and provides the campaign infrastructure needed to focus on one set of priorities while other priorities are further developed. The Wave Campaignᵀᴹ model also allows for focus on a sub-set of donors with interest in a particular campaign priority. Pivoting to follow a Wave Campaignᵀᴹ approach allows for flexibility, multiple initiatives and scalability. Additionally, budgets are a critical aspect of infrastructure. Connecting with finance to regularly review and update budgets and align with campaign goals is essential in minimizing challenges. Even if you are not around the table for C-Suite meetings or in the overall organization’s budget meetings, your allies in finance will be able to guide and advise you.

  • CAMPAIGN TEAM: The campaign team, including volunteers and allies, plays a crucial role in the success of a campaign. Plan for the growth you anticipate during the campaign and secure necessary resources by engaging executives and decision-makers in ongoing conversations. For example, while you plan the financial forecast, concurrently create benchmarks and the rationale to dictate additional staffing. To avoid challenges within the campaign team, plan for ongoing education and investment in resources to both support and show volunteer leaders you value and trust them to effectively co-lead the campaign efforts. Even with proper team support, the campaign will need to pivot to those who are most passionate and effective.

  • CASE and COMMUNICATIONS: The case is the core of any campaign, showcasing the impact of philanthropic dollars. Avoid getting caught up in old, highly polished case books that are costly and become outdated within the first month. Create case materials that allow for easy edits and continuous improvement. It is also important to engage donors in meaningful communication. By actively listening to their needs and interests, you’ll uncover valuable opportunities for the campaign. Maintain transparency, avoid overpromising and consistently cultivate donor relationships. Many campaigns start strong but then run into issues when they fail to steward past donors properly. Pivoting to focus on transparent and frequent communication from the start helps to avoid unnecessary challenges.

  • CONSTITUENT STRATEGIES: Philanthropy is based on trust, and campaigns put this trust to the test. Campaign strategies focused on strong stewardship, donor engagement and multiple priorities allow donors to support their preferred causes and provide flexibility to pivot. For example, if one project isn’t moving forward, it will only impact a portion of your prospect pool and will not halt all activity. Additionally, when a specific project falters, which often occurs in campaigns, requesting a change in investment in a different priority will be better received if consistent and transparent donor communication is in place.

Campaigns are complex endeavors that require careful planning and adaptability. By leveraging the power of the pivot, organizations can more effectively navigate unanticipated challenges, maintain momentum, proceed with joy and achieve their campaign goals.


Use the Mastering the Power of the PIVOT in Wave Campaigning worksheet on page four of the following PDF to practice and enhance your campaign pivoting skills.

Accordant Perspectives_Campaign Guide to Pivoting
Download PDF • 287KB

About the Authors:

Heather Wiley Starankovic, CFRE, CAP, is a Principal Consultant with Accordant, with a dedication to supporting staff members and creating programs that keep talented and dedicated servant leaders within the field. She can be reached at or through LinkedIn.

John F. Donovan, CFRE, is a Principal Consultant with Accordant. He specializes in campaign strategies and implementation. John can be reached by email at or through LinkedIn.


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The Accordant Team has published a number of books to advance the efforts of health care philanthropy and help development leaders everywhere. 

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Accordant is honored to collaborate with American Hospital Association Trustee Services to provide issue papers, templates and webinars to support the involvement of healthcare trustees and foundation board members in advancing philanthropy. These resources can also be found on the AHA Trustee website.

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