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Why a Comprehensive Campaign Should be in Your Future

Historically, fundraising campaigns were to support a periodic, capital-intensive organizational priority. It was often run as a parallel effort of the annual fund initiatives—events, mailings, etc., with a focus on a limited number of organizational donors who have the capacity to make major multi-year pledges. As organizations became more reliant on ongoing philanthropy, the frequency of campaigns accelerated. While helping to elevate total philanthropy, this also resulted in negative consequences including donor and volunteer fatigue.

While the philanthropic industry has not established a formal definition or framework of a comprehensive campaign, it is commonly known as an inclusive initiative that looks to raise support for a number of organizational priorities—capital, program and endowment—through a variety of sources—annual, major gift, planned giving, federal and state grants and more. In doing so, all or the majority of philanthropic revenues are counted toward the comprehensive campaign goal, allowing the organization the opportunity to engage its entire donor base and new prospects as part of the comprehensive campaign effort. Why should a comprehensive campaign be part of your future initiatives? Let’s dig a little deeper.

There are a number of benefits of pursuing a comprehensive campaign approach:

  1. Organization-wide investment – A comprehensive campaign allows for focus on operating, capital and endowment priorities that advance the strategic plan. Each investment needs to have a philanthropy goal. For example, if two service lines require capital investment, each one should have a defined philanthropy goal.

  2. Fungibility of revenues received – While it is important for each area to have specific philanthropy goals, gifts that are given to the overarching goals of the comprehensive campaign can be used to fill the buckets of multiple campaign priorities. Of course, every specific donor restriction is honored and used for the purposes as directed.

  3. Engagement of all current and prospective donors – Every current and prospective donor can participate in advancing the campaign, not just major gift prospects. For example, donors who support the annual fund are participating in the campaign to ensure long-term sustained philanthropy for the organization’s mission.

  4. Sustained focus on annual fund revenues – Conventional wisdom has always said annual fund efforts are negatively impacted during the duration of a campaign, but comprehensive campaigns allow for integration of asks which maintain or even grow the annual fund support. Additionally, securing multi-year commitments, with proper stewardship, allows for sustained foundational support.

  5. Engagement of all staff – All staff members are in alignment supporting the overarching goals of the campaign. For example, their work is aligned to reach common goals, not adversarial, allowing them to work in greater concert with major gift officer staff.

  6. Blended gift requests – Just as campaign requests can be integrated with annual fund support, a blended gift—involving a campaign pledge along with a planned gift intention—allows for the achievement of multiple campaign priorities (capital and endowment) and can give the donor a more significant recognition opportunity. The integration and constant promotion of blended and planned gifts during the campaign raises the awareness of these options.

  7. A larger goal raises sights and entices larger principal and lead gifts – Some very generous donors give in relation to the overall goal; therefore, a larger campaign goal increases the likeliness of principal level—and largest ever—organizational support.

Clarifying Issues

There are a number of areas that need to be clarified so gifts are booked and accounted for properly. There are gift acceptance, recognition, finance, accounting and other items that need to be in place to properly support a comprehensive campaign including the following:

  • Ensuring sufficient cash from gifts and pledges that need to fund capital priorities

  • Gift acceptance policies that describe what is and is not an acceptable gift

  • Campaign counting guidelines that outline how campaign revenues will be counted, valued and credited (recognized)

  • Reporting standards for revenue and expenses that support finance and accounting needs

Next Steps

Are you considering a comprehensive campaign in your future? If so, the following steps should be pursued:

  1. The foundation office and finance team should meet to identify the specific items that need to be reviewed and agreed upon for booking and accounting of gifts.

  2. The development of the gift acceptance policy, campaign counting guidelines and the reporting standards should be drafted and reflective of the issues that have been identified.

  3. The foundation should evaluate the potential campaign priorities based off the organization’s strategic plan.

  4. Annual fund performance will need to be evaluated so the proper revenue is reflected in the comprehensive campaign goal.

  5. The planned giving goal should be based off past performance and an estimate of future potential based on the existing planned giving prospective portfolio. The planned giving goal will have both a cash component and booked gifts that will be realized in future years.

  6. Evaluating the current staffing needs, identifying respective staff roles in this model and additional staff support are essential to properly supporting the comprehensive campaign.

  7. Setting the comprehensive campaign goal, individual program component and staff goals will prepare the program to raise donor sights and secure unprecedented organizational support.

A comprehensive campaign approach can serve your organization, your donors and your community well, not only by elevating philanthropy but also by eliminating donor, staff and volunteer fatigue. Let’s get started.

Accordant Perspectives_Comprehensive Campaign
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About the Author: John F. Donovan, CFRE, is a Principal Consultant with Accordant. He specializes in campaign strategies and implementation. He 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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