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Which Came First—the Campaign or the Case?

Louis Sullivan’s famous axiom, “form follows function,” and Frank Lloyd Wright’s extension of it, “form and function are one,” have significantly impacted architectural design throughout the years. Their principle asserts that the purpose of a building should be the foundation of its design, emphasizing that form and function are inherently interconnected. In philanthropy, foundations often struggle to move into the campaign stage when they feel they do not have a compelling case upon which to build the campaign. In this piece, we explore the case for support as the form and the campaign as the function, illustrating how they work together to drive success.

Campaigns play a crucial role in elevating giving and program performance for organizations. Philanthropy without campaigning is akin to training for a marathon but never running the race. However, the traditional approach of waiting for a fully articulated strategic plan before constructing a case can lead to missed opportunities. Instead, adopting an organic approach, inspired by Wright’s philosophy of unity between form and function can lead to more effective campaigning.

By aligning the form and function of philanthropic efforts, organizations can avoid common objections and challenges in campaign planning. It is essential to recognize that campaigns should not be solely driven by a finalized strategic plan but should adapt and evolve organically to meet the needs of the organization and its donors.

There are three key strategies and several key partners needed to break down the case into actionable priorities and a compelling vision that justify a campaign classification. These strategies and partners help to navigate uncertainties in case development, utilize the campaign case as an engagement tool and enhance the campaign form through effective function.

KEY Strategy 1: Flipping the Script

Utilizing an organic approach inspired by Wright’s philosophy allows organizations to move towards a more integrated and effective campaign strategy. By flipping the script and building priorities from the bottom up, organizations can engage key stakeholders and clinical leaders to create impactful campaigns that resonate with donors.

KEY Strategy 2: Engagement as a Process

Viewing the campaign case as an engagement tool rather than a solicitation tool can foster meaningful relationships with donors. By inviting input and collaboration, organizations can position themselves as facilitators of donors’ philanthropic goals, building trust and advancing philanthropy. Additionally, donor feedback can serve as a catalyst to accelerated planning.

Key Strategy 3: Harnessing Existing Priorities

Harnessing function to enhance form enables organizations to address broader goals such as access, health equity and innovation through philanthropy. By aligning the case with the campaign and involving key stakeholders in the process, organizations can create a cohesive and impactful philanthropic strategy. Access, health equity and innovation are newer concepts to many donors; however, the campaign serves as the mechanism for these priorities to be more widely communicated and embraced.

Key Partners:

Philanthropy is too big and important to be pursued alone in a conference room several blocks from the hospital. As philanthropy leaders, we must engage both internal and external partners to develop a compelling case and enhance donor engagement effectively.

Key internal partners include the C-suite, who shape the strategic plan; physicians, who share the vision; and clinicians, who highlight departmental needs. Additionally, collaboration with communication peers, who craft stories and gauge community needs, and community impact and outreach teams, who intimately understand daily challenges, is crucial.

Working in philanthropy is a half internal, half external role. Consider your external stakeholders as partners in developing your campaign case for support. Your foundation board leaders are influencers and advocates within your community. Affinity council members are passionate champions for specific service lines and clinical areas. Key donors and partners are early investors and catalysts who believe in the impact of your organization and want to be part of transformational change.

Much like the age-old question of which came first—the chicken or the egg, in the world of communications, we often find ourselves pondering a similar conundrum. However, at the heart of every successful campaign, it’s neither the product (the chicken) nor the strategy (the egg) that comes first; it’s the idea and the commitment behind it. The most innovative products and the most strategic cases for support are mere shells without the driving force of a powerful idea and unwavering commitment to change the health of the community. It’s the spark of creativity and the dedication to see it through that truly hatches success in our field. Michael J. Beall Principal Consultant and Communications Practice Leader Accordant

In conclusion, the relationship between the campaign and the case is symbiotic, with each informing and enhancing the other, embodying the balance between form and function. By embracing an organic and integrated approach, organizations can navigate the complexities of campaign planning and achieve greater success in philanthropic endeavors.

Accordant Perspectives_Which Came First
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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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