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Harness the Power of Wave Campaigns

Wave Campaignsᵀᴹ are transformative philanthropy in action. They allow for alignment among leadership, volunteers, strategic priorities and the community. They provide philanthropy teams flexibility for staffing and resources, and they always have the donors’ goals at the heart of each strategy. The following checklist will help you tap into the power of wave campaigning:

  • Assess your past campaigns. Are you finishing a campaign or completed one in the past?Work to ensure all files and data are in order and all donors received appropriate gratitude and stewardship around the impact of their gifts. Learn More: Are You Ready to Campaign?

  • Participate in a planning study or analysis. After reviewing past campaigns, analyze current infrastructure, staff, data and goals. Learn More: Is Your Gift Planning Program Campaign Ready?

  • Identify the top strategic priorities for your health system. Through strategic exercises, such as Strategically Aligned Project Selectionᵀᴹ, confirm with executive leadership what are the most impactful projects. Work internally to determine runway and timelines. With wave campaigning, all initiatives do not start at once. Some initiatives result in a wider umbrella, such as advancing health equity. In these cases, top projects that fit under that umbrella may be selected to allocate resources and raise dollars. Learn More: Fostering Strategic Alignment in Philanthropy

  • Align and engage your executive team. As projects are selected, ensure regular conversations with the executive team to avoid developing strategies in isolation. Health care priorities change frequently. Include regular updates and requests for information about the case to ensure the campaign does not put the cart before the horse. Be prepared to adjust timelines and deliverables to show alignment and solidarity with the executive team to execute the organization’s vision. Learn More: Meaningful Board Engagement in Wave Campaignsᵀᴹ

  • Create a draft for philanthropic case statements. Create high-level case statement drafts that close prospects, volunteers and leaders can react to and help further develop. Gone are the days of pristine case books frozen in time. Develop a case statement for each initiative, including a leadership voice and shared impact around patient stories, and quantifiable numbers that demonstrate success. Start gift discussions with a case draft, moving to a direct proposal after incorporating feedback. Learn More: Create Beautiful Philanthropy Stories—Simply

  • Recruit allies. For each initiative, recruit an internal ally—a physician, nurse or administrator—to champion the initiative within the organization and the community. Learn More: A Fresh Look at Our Clinician Ally Relationships; This Year’s Top Partnership Goal: Physicians and Clinicians

  • Build volunteer engagement. For the overall campaign and each initiative, consider a task force or Affinity Council. The volunteer board or committee’s first step may be voting to proceed with the campaign. Their endorsement is always critical. Recruit individuals to support initiatives that align with their personal philanthropic priorities. Create opportunities for short terms of service to vet volunteers for multiple roles. When engaging volunteers, honor their CoreCentric® profile. Do they find the most joy in being a champion, connector, closer or caretaker? Assign tasks within those duties to provide volunteers with maximum engagement and joyful experiences. Engage individuals through hosted events, encourage gift invitations that align with initiatives and show ongoing gratitude and stewardship.

  • Draft, manage and update a campaign plan. A campaign is for specific projects, over a specific time and for a specific goal. Make sure not to “boil the ocean” and lose track of your campaign, initiatives and timing of those initiatives. After planning studies, the majority of campaign time is spent pacesetting—identifying and soliciting top prospects. Once 80–90% of the goal is achieved, move towards the more public phase. Create a simple campaign plan, involve volunteers and update as needed. Make the plan work for you and your organization, adapting when necessary.

  • Practice progressive portfolio and pipeline management. Have a clear process for vetting potential prospects through databases, patient lists or volunteers. Ensure gift officers have manageable portfolios and are quickly qualifying or disqualifying prospects. Plan the next two potential steps with each prospect, including an ally to help with engagement. The most significant and longest campaign phase is the pacesetting phase, also known as the friends and family phase. During this time when the goal is not yet public, work to secure significant gifts from each constituent group. Progressive portfolio and pipeline management addresses this phase most effectively. Learn More: Getting the Most from Your Database

  • Create an engagement and solicitation plan for each constituent group. As philanthropy officers vet individuals and build strategy with laser focus, it is important to include broader strategy development. Ensure plans include corporations, foundations and former board members. Regardless of how potential donors’ lists are segmented, engage prospects individually and in groups by offering engagement through onsite events, virtual events or meetings with allies. If they are momentarily disqualified, they may engage through larger group outreach if their interest or capacity changes. Learn More: Rethinking Donor Qualification; Advancing Donor and Prospect Engagement with Virtual Visits

Campaigns can be overwhelming and all-consuming for unprepared philanthropy teams. By staying focused, connecting your community to your organization’s top philanthropic priorities and following this checklist, your campaigns can be successful and flexible. Wave Campaignsᵀᴹ not only support executive and philanthropy teams but also offer volunteers meaningful and joyful opportunities to engage and improve the health of their communities.

Accordant Checklist_Power of Wave Campaigns
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About the Authors:

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.

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.


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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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